Pointing to the recent fire hose reel saga, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan in a recent Facebook post, accused the ruling People’s Action Party of prioritising money over people’s lives.
In a Facebook post published yesterday (Nov 19), Dr Chee asserted that the padlocking of the fire hose reels shows the PAP prioritises money over people’s lives. Highlighting the plight of the three flat occupants who were caught in the blaze, he wrote:
“Go up to the 13th floor of an HDB block and look down. I did. It’s high. Very high. And very scary. Now imagine that you have to climb over the parapet and balance precariously on the ledge outside. The word terrifying doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.
“Yet, that’s exactly what father and son did when the fire broke out. They must have found the heat and the smoke so unbearable that they would risk their lives doing such a thing. If they had been overcome by the smoke, they would have plunged to their deaths – there was no safety net below. The elder Mr Goh was 60-years old.
“According to some of the residents, they balanced on the ledge for several minutes before rescuers came to their aid. Mdm Goh was presumably too fearful or unable to climb out and barricaded herself in the toilet.
“Reports say they suffered burn injuries and smoke inhalation. We don’t know the extent of their injuries except that Mdm Goh is still in the Intensive Care Unit. Our prayers go out to her, and we wish her a speedy recovery.
“But here’s what gets Singaporeans angry. It was found that the fire hose reels were padlocked because the town council wanted to prevent it from being vandalised.”
Branding the act of padlocking the fire hose reels as callous, Dr Chee asked whether the PAP treats Singaporean lives so cheaply that it is more concerned about the potential vandalism to the equipment over the lives of residents:
“Quite separate from the sheer callousness of the act, the incident raises a bigger question: Does the PAP treat Singaporean lives so cheaply? So what if a few fire hose reels are vandalised (which the authorities have not provided any data on: How many were vandalised, what’s the frequency, how much to repair them, etc?)
“Are the authorities saying that it would cost more to repair the vandalised equipment than the lives of the Goh family or, for that matter, the average Singaporean?”
Calling the act of locking up fire hose cabinets to prevent vandalism “inexcusable,” Dr Chee said: “The matter reveals the mindset of the PAP, one that is all about the cold calculation of dollars and cents even when the people’s lives are literally at stake.
“How else can you explain the inexcusable act of locking up fire hose cabinets to prevent vandalism? To the PAP, it’s all about what saves (or makes) money, the people’s lives be damned. It took a real fire and the near loss of life to expose the depravity.”
Earlier this month, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters’ efforts to put out a raging blaze at a 13th-storey unit at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21 were stalled because the fire hose reel cabinets were padlocked.
They also found there was no water supply for the hose reel when they broke one padlock.
Dr Chee, who has been walking the ground at Bukit Batok SMC after losing the 2016 by-election to the PAP’s Murali Pillai, continuously hounded Mr Pillai to provide answers to Bukit Batok residents why there were padlocks on the hose reels and why there was no water supply.
Dr Chee contacted the SCDF and asked them to investigate the issue and wrote an open letter to Mr Pillai asking him to be transparent about the incident.
Mr Pillai did not respond to Dr Chee’s letter but two weeks after the incident he apologised and said two town council staff who had padlocked the hose reel will face disciplinary action brought on by the town council management.
Referring those who think he is exaggerating or being too harsh, he reminded them of the words of ex-PAP Minister George Yeo, who called on PAP leaders to treat Singaporeans “like human beings” after he lost his seat at Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party.
Dr Chee said that the PAP’s approach in prioritising money is reflected in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system and the foreign talent policy:
“Now think of the myriad of issues that plague Singaporeans today. Take, for instance, the withholding of the CPF savings of retirees. Because the government, ostensibly, wants to prevent older folks from squandering their retirement funds (again, it has provided no data to support this claim), they retain the money of all elderly Singaporeans.
“Even when confronted with statistics of increasing poverty and suicide among our elderly poor, the PAP remains unmoved. All it has regard for is the amount of money amassed in our reserves (reported to be $1 trillion by some experts) and, of course, the salaries of the ministers. Again, how much is the Singaporean life worth to them?
“So it is with the foreign talent policy. As long as it gets to import cheap foreign labour to buttress its profit-margins of its Statutory Boards and Government-linked companies, it cares little about how younger Singaporeans are being deprived of jobs and desperately turning to driving Grab taxis and delivering food.
“Money first. That’s priority. The people’s lives…well, they always suddenly become important just before an election.”
Dr Chee asserted that his party is one that puts people before profits and that this is a principle that should provide the foundation for how a party should govern:
“This is why in the SDP’s manifesto we print prominently and unmistakably: “People before profit, rights before riches, and wisdom before wealth”. It is not just a nice-sounding slogan but a foundational principle upon which a government should govern.
“I repeat: PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT. It’s a simple principle really, one that if observed, would have meant that the town council would not have padlocked the fire hose cabinet and placed the lives of the Goh family in danger.”
Go up to the 13th floor of an HDB block and look down. I did. It’s high. Very high. And very scary.Now imagine that…