8 residents tell us what it's really like to live in the WP-held Aljunied GRC

The ward has now been under the opposition for 9 years. Has it been left behind?

Andrew Koay | July 08, 2020, 11:45 PM

Aljunied GRC was the most closely fought GRC in the last General Election (GE), with the Workers' Party (WP) winning a 50.95 per cent vote share in 2015.

With a twinkling of an eye, it has been nearly a decade and two terms under Opposition hands.

The residents of Aljunied GRC have previously heard remarks about weaker property prices in Opposition wards.

So how has Aljunied GRC fared after almost nine years in the hands of WP?

We talked to some residents to find out what their lived experiences are.

Has Aljunied GRC has been left behind in terms of upgrading since it became an opposition ward?

"That's true lah," said Mr Tan* who is middle-aged and has lived in Aljunied GRC since he was a little boy.

"I'm sure we have less upgrading," he conceded. However, Tan insisted that he was satisfied telling Mothership that the "amenities were good".

"We're living in quite a clean environment. I don't see any difference between living here and living in a PAP ward."

"A lot of people say that we're dirty, nobody cleans our place. I think that's not true. I always tell people that my street looks cleaner under the opposition," he said with hearty laughter.

19-year-old Munirah told us that while she can't remember what life was like when her constituency was held by the PAP, she had no complaints about life now.

"I just feel good living (here).

We are slowly upgrading like developing the playgrounds, having new buildings etc. I think we are still developing the same as (PAP wards)."

One resident didn't feel any difference at all.

"Not at all," said Mrs Lim*, a resident of 36 years.

"It’s fast. Whatever you tell them to do, they will do."

Not everyone agrees, though

Mr Kumar*, who appeared to be in his seventies, said that the difference was clear.

"To be honest with you, I think the PAP is doing a better job than the WP," said Kumar.

An Aljunied resident since 1983, he pointed out that other constituencies had received infrastructure upgrading.

"And also they have helped the old folks in many ways."

Yet, he acknowledged the efforts of WP, saying that they had "tried their best".

Mr Tay*, a polytechnic student, compared his current estate to his previous one. He had just moved into Aljunied GRC two years ago.

"There's not much money," he said.

"Last time, my area I have two lifts, but right now I have one lift. So its quite a hassle having to wait for the lift."

So how do they feel about their MP?

Residents mostly reported that they were satisfied with their MP.

40-year-old Sean told Mothership that responses from volunteers at his meet-the-people sessions were "slightly faster".

He also said he was happy that immediately after taking over, WP had set up various district offices.

"It saves us a lot of time to apply for licences for community events," he explained, referring to when his family had to organise his father's funeral.

Sean added that should the GRC return to the PAP in GE2020, he hopes that the district offices would be maintained.

However, Tan had a slightly more cynical view of things.

"I mean when it's PAP, I don't see them. When its opposition I also don't see them. So, it doesn't make any difference to me.

When I used to have some problems, my PAP MP used to tell me 'Hey, you're so well educated, probably you can write better than me. Why do I need to write for you?'"

Maybe the joy of living in Aljunied goes beyond the physical environment

Mdm Yeo, 60, has lived in Aljunied GRC for more than 25 years.

She also operates a coffeeshop in the area. She told us that despite her urging of her children, she can't bear to leave the area.

The jovial auntie spends most of her time at the coffeeshop and calls it her "second home" where she feels "very safe".

"No need to worry about getting robbed, security is good. I’ve many friends here. It’s very safe here."

Sean revels in his identity as a resident of an opposition-held ward, drawing parallels with Americans who live in the famously independent "Lonestar" state of Texas.

"People in Singapore when you start to identify yourself as someone who lives in Aljunied GRC, they'll say 'Oh, Aljunied GRC'. In the future if Aljunied GRC goes back to the [PAP] and gets dismantled, that sense of rootedness...that sense of being part of the Aljunied GRC thing will not go away."

Munirah told us about the intangible sense of community she experienced with others in her neighbourhood.

"When I walk around — even when I know (someone I see) is not from my block — I feel like we can vibe with each other, we can smile to each other. We can have like that instant communication.

We know that we are people from the same neighbourhood, so we will just tend to greet each other despite their ages or their race."

*These interviewees did not want their names published. Quotes edited for clarity.

Top image by Mothership