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When will the government listen?




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Fatimah Lateef is one flustered and exasperated politician. The MP for Marine Parade GRC has been crying out loud about the nocturnal activities going on in her Geylang ward since 2012. Nothing much was done.

Then the Police Commissioner went to the Commission of Inquiry on the Little India riot and talked about Geylang as the next tinderbox if nothing was done.
Suddenly, Geylang has become the constituency to watch.

But Fatimah’s constituents have made posts regularly in her Facebook..

“I have been observing the prostitutes for the past six months and this time there is a mix of Chinese and Vietnamese girls loitering around after 10 pm. Can you please help?” wrote Francis Chan in October 2011.

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A similar complaint was posted in Malay by Bujang Teruna in June 2012.

“It is like Vietnam here. The Singapore government, please stop prostitution around the area. There are more and more Chinese and Vietnamese girls. We have children and parents dining here while these girls stand next to them.”

Then this year, the latest complaint came in January  with a picture of Vietnamese prostitutes loitering the streets.

Prostitution was not the only problem.  Some residents complained about paint being splashed. Apparently Shamini Thilarajah, the resident who complained, never heard back from the police after she made a police report.

Fatima went to Parliament in 2012 to get some action. Deputy PM and Home Affairs Ministers responded with a terse line:  “The crime situation has remained stable.”

After the Police Commissioner’s statement, Fatimah took  to Facebook on Tuesday with these words:

“As an action-oriented person who expects results, I have indeed waited very long for higher authorities to effect the change. Hundreds of hours of meeting police, anti-vice agencies and yet I am still waiting for their concrete action plan.

“If prostitution has to continue, keep it systematic, clean, indoors, organised, regulated properly.”

She ended by saying: “I will do what I have to do as the people’s representative even if it takes a long time… I have the stamina.”

Immediately after Fatimah went public with her frustrations, about 50 residents responded.

One commentator on Fatimah’s Facebook page said: “When negotiations and letters fail, going public is the way to go.’’

But why is it that an elected representative and a lawmaker has to resort to a Facebook post to shame the authorities into action, asked film maker and activist Martyn See.

See said the debate about Geylang’s atrocities is not only about crime and prostitution. It is about MPs not having their voices heard in Parliament.

Fatimah is not the only politician who was ignored in Parliament.

In 2006, Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim warned that the police force lacked manpower, but her speech remained, well, a speech. If her words were heeded, maybe, just maybe, the police would not have suffered such a colossal embarrassment in Little India.

It is a scary thought. If MPs are not heard in Parliament, imagine the plight of the ordinary citizen.

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