A petition seeking an alternative location for the historic Sungei Road market was submitted to Parliament yesterday - a week before Singapore's last free hawking zone is to close for good.
Presented by Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun on behalf of individuals such as the market's association chairman Koh Eng Khoon, the petition - signed by 792 people - also proposes that the market's fate and relocation be referred to a committee "for further public consultations and deliberation".
The authorities announced in February that the market's last day of operations will be next Monday. It is making way for future residential developments.
Mr Kok said the petitioners believe that the Sungei Road market, being the only living remnant of the grassroots tradition of free hawking in Singapore, "is an invaluable and irreplaceable element of the organic, intangible heritage and communal identity of our country".
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"It is also an indispensable means of livelihood for many dozens of elderly vendors," he said.
The petition will be considered by Parliament's public petitions committee.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked whether the Government will reconsider its stand, and provide a replacement site for the market. She also asked if further help will be provided to vendors who have reported a decline in earnings after moving to hawker centres and flea markets - alternatives offered by the authorities.
29 Number of vendors so far that have been allocated lock-up stalls, mostly at Chinatown Market and the Golden Mile Food Centre.
60 At least this number of vendors are receiving some form of government assistance, including those allocated stalls.
While noting the petition, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor reiterated the Government's plan to redevelop the area.
She added that through the years, many have used the market as a free venue to peddle their goods, resulting in "disamenities" such as the obstruction of roads and the storage of goods in surrounding areas, including the nearby drains, posing risks to public health and incurring additional public resources to maintain the public areas.
Dr Khor then gave an update on the Government's efforts to help displaced vendors.
She said that the National Environment Agency has set aside more than 40 lock-up stalls at hawker centres for vendors who want to continue their trade.
The market's 11 original permit holders have been offered a full rental rebate for the first year and a 50 per cent rebate for the second year. Other vendors who take up the lock-up stall option have been offered a 50 per cent rental rebate for their first two years provided that they meet certain criteria.
So far, 29 vendors have been allocated lock-up stalls, said Dr Khor, mostly at Chinatown Market and the Golden Mile Food Centre.
Some 18 vendors have received financial assistance so far, with the official agencies having reached out to about 200 vendors. In all, more than 60 vendors are now receiving some form of government assistance, including those allocated stalls, she said.
More than 80 vendors said that they do not require any assistance, citing reasons such as the ability to support themselves.
Another 70 or so vendors, who had indicated an interest in receiving assistance, have yet to apply for aid as they said they would decide on their future plans only after the market's closure.
Mr Koh said he is still hoping that the authorities will relocate the market. He added that he is working with the Save Sungei Road Market group to explore alternatives, such as renting a private carpark for vendors to sell their wares.