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What if keys to Singapore were handed over?

It was just a handing over of keys to new letterboxes for three blocks of HDB flats in Hougang, but chaos reigned despite the presence of five members of the town council staff manning the transaction.
I was among the crowd, in the queue, waiting for my turn to collect new letterbox keys. There were no signboards pointing the way so many of us joined the only meandering queue in the late afternoon last Friday.
Then, a resident who had ventured to the make-shift table in the back of the void deck of my block of flats shouted for those living in his block to come to the front to collect their keys - they needn't join the queue. The meandering queue quivered as some left it and the result was - a long queue on the right of the table and a mess of people crowding around the table on the left.
Fortunately, pandemonium did not break loose. But, I didn't expect such things to happen in orderly Singapore. At least, such things wouldn't have happened if the HDB were still in charge of issuance of letterbox keys.
With the HDB seceding the management of HDB towns to town councils, and with town councils being managed by people appointed by the political parties which win the parliamentary seats in the respective constituencies, the quality of service in each constituency depends largely on how well-run the constituency is.
Unfortunately, in Hougang, I didn't get a good impression of my town council last week. Perhaps, it was a solitary incident and I shouldn't play up a minor glitch. It was then I realised my turn had come. After spending some 45 minutes in the queue, it was finally my turn to be served, I thought. But, the town council staff didn't attend to me. They handed over letterbox keys to a familiar face whom only moments ago I had seen walking into the void deck and placing a form for collection of letterbox keys on the table. And here he was -- being served, without having to queue. Wow!
But, I wasn't impressed. Instead, that riled me. This chap is a neighbour but he didn't have to queue like the rest of us. I expressed my displeasure over this unfair treatment to the town council staff who had just earlier warmly welcomed my neighbour and given the thumbs up for the preferential treatment to my neighbour.
The town council staff glared at me as if I was usurping his right to serve whom he wanted to serve first. "This is Singapore; there are no shortcuts," I retorted in vain.
Alas, I had forgotten, though this was Singapore, I was living in an opposition constituency. My neighbour, whom I had seen moving around with my MP during the last election campaigning, was probably a supporter and he was perhaps just getting what he rightly deserved - preferential treatment.
It's times like this that I am glad our country is not run by the opposition. Incidents such as this point to the lack of transparency. If an MP's minders behave in such manner, responsibility for such lapses in behaviour invariably falls on the MP regardless of whether or not he is in the know. For, as an MP, his first move should always be to make sure his minders know the standards he wants, including that of being transparent and fair, in his constituency.
As a resident, I am not concerned whose constituency I am in. All I know is that I am living in Singapore and I expect fair and equal treatment to be accorded to me. I don't want to be served first. I am willing to wait. I just want to be served when it's my turn to be served. And seeing others given the 'official' green light to jump queue makes me see red.
It was a simple handing over of keys to letterboxes and it was mired in double-standards. What if keys to Singapore were to be handed over? What if?



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18 April 2005