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Thread: Foreign workers? Not in my backyard

  1. #1
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    Default Foreign workers? Not in my backyard

    http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapor...ry_274600.html

    Sep 3, 2008 Wednesday

    Foreign workers? Not in my backyard

    Residents of Serangoon Gardens sign petition against converting an unused school in private estate into foreign workers' quarters

    By Melissa Sim



    FOREIGN workers? Not in our neighbourhood.

    More than 600 residents of Serangoon Gardens, a private estate in the north-east, have signed a petition against converting an unused school there into a dormitory for foreign workers.

    The Ministry of National Development (MND) confirmed that it is assessing whether Serangoon Gardens Technical School can be converted into quarters for foreign workers, although no decision has been made yet.

    The school in Burghley Drive has been vacant for about four years and can possibly house 1,000 workers.

    When residents of the estate, which has more than 2,000 homes, heard about the news earlier this week, a petition was started by the residents' committee asking the authorities to reconsider.

    The one-page petition said the move would 'create security and social problems and spoil the ambience of the estate'.

    'I signed the petition immediately and got 80 of my friends to sign it too,' said retired teacher S. Raja, 69.

    MP for Aljunied GRC Lim Hwee Hua said it is 'good that residents are speaking out with an interest' on the issue and encouraged them to give their feedback, which she would convey to MND.

    The residents will be meeting Mrs Lim and fellow MP George Yeo, who is also the Foreign Minister, today as part of a dialogue series and will raise the issue.

    Especially concerned are the residents who live opposite the former school.

    They said that security was their main worry. Many were afraid that their maids might befriend the foreign workers and invite them into their houses while they are out.

    Already, with a few construction sites and a small number of workers in the area, there have been problems, they said.

    Housewife S.K. Lim, 70, said her sister, who also lives in the neighbourhood, had forgotten to lock her car one evening. A foreign worker was caught trying to steal her CashCard and other items in the car.

    Sales executive Josephine Ng, 46, said she has also seen her neighbour's maid letting a man out of the house when her neighbours were on holiday.

    'My husband tried to confront the stranger but he ran away,' she said.

    Residents were also concerned about loitering, alcoholism and congestion problems along Burghley Drive.

    Mrs Raja noted how residents in Little India complained about workers sitting in the void decks drinking and making noise.

    'I hope it will not happen in Serangoon Gardens,' she said.

    Another retired teacher, Mrs L. Raja, 69, was concerned about taking the bus on Sundays.

    'Sometimes, I take the bus to the food centre. With 1,000 workers living here, there would be so many of us using the buses,' she said.

    Other residents expected weekday congestion to increase. They pointed out how the narrow roads in the estate are currently packed with parents sending their children to the CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel in Burghley Drive.

    'During peak hours, the jam is bad already. Can you imagine if there are lorries picking up and dropping off workers?' said Ms Ng.

    MND told The Straits Times that while 11 new dormitory sites providing 65,000 additional bed spaces for foreign workers had been released, these will take time to build, so existing buildings will be converted into temporary quarters. The school is one such building being considered.

    The ministry is at a preliminary stage of assessing all available properties, and will consider factors like the site, competing uses for the property and residents' feedback.

    It said that it sought residents' understanding if they find more foreign workers living in their midst and added that employers and dormitory operators also had to educate the foreigners on the Singapore way of life.

    Said Mrs L. Raja: 'It is not that we are not grateful to foreign workers. It is just that we do not want any problems.'

    [email protected]

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    Its a sad truth, but we don't want the associated fallout from having foreign workers effectively living in our backyard. It more than depreciates the land, it lowers security and lessens the joy of living in an exclusive estate.

    Its a shame our zoning has not yet found a good site to house them in a decent environment with suitable social support and amenities yet away from the districts where they would be seen as undesirable.

    By the way, does anyone know anything about SingKong Hall in Minbu road? I was looking at a number of projects there but there is this HUGE EYESORE which is Singkong Hall... seems its leased out by SLA, and is currently being used as a foreign hostel
    Have you met my more successful sibling 'Super Potato'?

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    http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking...ry_275042.html

    Sep 4, 2008

    Residents air dorm fears

    Serangoon Gardens folk get assurance their worries will be looked into

    By Melissa Sim


    FOR some time now, Serangoon Gardens resident Kelvin - he did not want his full name used - has been trying to find housing for his firm's foreign workers, with little luck.

    So when he found out that the former Serangoon Gardens Technical School might be converted into a foreign worker dormitory, the 38-year-old, who is in the construction business, went into a tizzy.

    The reason: The proposed dorm is next to his home, and there is no way, he says, he is willing to accept 'half-naked men' sitting in his neck of the woods.

    Last night, Kelvin and about 250 other indignant residents of the firmly middle-class neighbourhood trudged through the rain to make their views known to their Members of Parliament from Aljunied GRC, Mr George Yeo and Ms Lim Hwee Hua.

    At a two-hour dialogue, held under a marquee at a park along Chartwell Drive, the residents listed their objections to the proposed move, with some barely able to disguise their anger over it.

    Their key worries: Security, traffic congestion caused by vehicles which will ferry the foreign workers to their worksites, and insufficient infrastructure in the area to support over 1,000 new residents.

    Madam Lim Chor Yeow, 71, a retired teacher, echoed a view of many when she asked: 'If we have workers coming in here, is it safe for old people?'

    Administrative manager Rose Koh, 52, said she would worry about leaving her ageing mother and two young children at home when she left for work.

    Others said parks might be overrun by foreign workers. As would buses.

    One resident, Mr E.T. Mohan Dass, 60, a programme manager, feared that as foreign workers flood in, the estate's value would go south.

    Assuming there were 1,400 households, each worth $1 million, in the estate, he said 'even a 1 per cent drop in asset value (because of the workers' presence) would mean a $14-million loss'. Another, Ms L.S. Lim, 70, urged the authorities to 'think of Singaporeans first'.

    Feelings against the dorm plan run high in the estate: A petition against the idea has been started by residents, and has been signed by about 1,400 households so far. There are about 7,000 households in the area.

    After hearing their complaints and trying to temper some of their concerns, Mr Yeo and Mrs Lim said they would pass the feedback and petition to the Ministry of National Development.

    At the meeting, Mr Yeo said he could understand the residents' position, adding that Serangoon Gardens is a place where 'people feel a lot for the heritage, and we should not upset that'.

    But he also asked them not to cast aspersions on foreign workers, as they have 'come to Singapore, and benefit Singapore'. Mrs Lim added that residents' security will be taken into account in the plan.

    However, after the dialogue, she admitted to reporters that those living in the estate should have been informed about the plan first-hand, instead of having to read about it in newspapers or get the news from neighbours.

    She added that she has been in touch with MND, and is trying to 'bring home the points, the valid concerns that residents have to the minister...'

    Mr Yeo also told residents: 'We are not just postmen and women transmitting your views. URA and MND have the final decision, but I assure you we are not doing nothing.'

    [email protected]

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