Residents Bring Up ‘White Elephant’ Buangkok MRT During Minister’s Visit

28 August, 2005

In Singapore: Punggol South residents have tried again to get Buangkok MRT Station opened – in not so many words, but the message was just as clear. 

Eight white elephants were erected at the station to indicate just what they thought the MRT station is now. They did this during Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s visit to the area on Sunday. At the start of his visit, Dr Balakrishnan got to see how Punggol South, which used to be a fishing village, has grown to become an urban, modern town. Sungei Serangoon, formerly the lifeline of fishermen here, now sees more water sports such as canoeing and kayaking. Then it was off to four more stops where the minister got to meet residents. 

But along the way was an unexpected sight — eight white cardboard elephants in various poses lined the road that leads to Buangkok MRT station. And the message was not lost on the minister. Said Dr Balakrishnan, “I saw eight white elephants on the roadside leading up to the station. I think there’s a message which some residents wanted to send to me. I thought since I’m there I might as well take a look at the station.” The issue of Buangkok Station was also brought up at a dialogue with residents later. Said Dr Balakrishnan, “Let me say that your message is taken, you don’t need to convince me. I understand your wish to have the station open, I understand your frustration – the thing is ready and yet the gate is not open but the PM has said two or three years, Mr Yeo Cheow Tong has said that once you have 2,000 units. It’s just a matter of time.” 

MP for the area Charles Chong said that complaints from residents tapered off in 2003, but flared up again recently when the transport fare hike was announced. Said Mr Chong, “The bus fare went up, ERP gantries went up – it sort of resurrected a lot of their frustrations … Every day when they see the site and not being able to use it and incurring higher transport costs for a station that’s further away, I think this has irritated quite a lot of them.” 

Mr Chong plans to bring up the issue again when parliament sits next month. He said, “I think the PM has already said when he opened the NE line that the station will be opened within two to three years. This month is already two years. I think that next month when parliament sits I will file a question again on when the station will be opened. And if they can’t give us a firm date of when it will be open, then they should give us reasons that we have not heard before.” Buangkok Station has always been a bone of contention for residents here. 

Completed in 2003, it is still not operational, the reason being that there are not enough commercial or residential developments within 400 metres of the area. Other issues that residents brought up include post-secondary education for all students, under the plan mapped out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally. Dr Balakrishnan said the focus now on polytechnics and ITEs is a signal that there is hope for all Singaporeans to advance in many different ways. Said Dr Balakrishnan, “What we are most worried about is students who drop out of school, and then they have nothing to do, hang around the void decks and get engaged in undesirable activities and their future is lost . Everybody, everybody must go beyond secondary schools. If you have dropped out now, please look for ways to get back into schools and come to the MPs and community and we will get you reintegrate into the education system.” He urged students to seize the various opportunities available to go to university as well.

Original source: Channel News Asia. Original URL: dead link

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