SINGAPORE - The authorities have taken down and apologised for posters that banned residents from playing chess in common areas.
A spokesman for Marine Parade Town Council said the three posters, which it put up at the void deck and covered walkway of Block 11, Haig Road in early January, were a "mistake".
"We acknowledge our oversight for the content of the poster which does not reflect our intention well. As such, we would like to apologise for the wrong context of our poster," said the spokesman.
"We admit that it's a mistake by our side. We do not actually ban chess in common areas. We just wanted to deter people from gathering and blocking the way," she added, referring to the covered walkway between Block 11 and Block 12.
The posters, which read "No playing of chess at common areas", were removed on Monday morning and replaced by new ones with the heading "Please be considerate". The replacement signs also reminded residents to not obstruct the linkway and to keep their volume down after 10pm.
A Facebook picture of the original posters shared online on Sunday (March 13) by a group called Wake Up, Singapore led many netizens to criticise the ban.
Marine Parade Town Council said in a Facebook post on Sunday that some residents had complained about "chess" players, who were actually playing draughts (or checkers), causing a nuisance and inconveniences by obstructing the linkway.
The spokesman said the draughts players, many of whom do not live in the estate, have been gathering regularly at the linkway to play draughts since late 2009. She added that they would sometimes play till the wee hours of the morning.
"When there are onlookers, they tend to clutter up the walkway. Residents have to detour and this deprives them of the space. The problem worsens when it rains," she said, adding that they have roped in the police's help before.
MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef said on Facebook on Sunday (March 13) that she and other agencies have tried various methods to solve the longstanding issue.
She said: "Over the years we have been putting up multiple action plans, with police, town council, HDB, grassroots patrol etc and yet they remain recalcitrant and downright antagonistic to all our interventions."
"I have personally gone down many times to talk to them and explained that they are welcome to join us at the nearby CC or the RC or the senior citizens corners in the estate, but not to block the linkway, as many people from the bus stop and main road use this link, but all have fallen on deaf ears."
Noting that residents nearby are affected, Dr Fatimah added that this was a "longstanding local issue" which needs a "localised solution", and called for ideas.
Draughts players at the block, however, told The Straits Times that they do not feel they are doing anything wrong.
The group of men, which sometimes grows to more than 10, gathers every day to play draughts at the linkway.
"Some of us are kampung friends from the Geylang Serai area. We've known each other for very long," said one of them, a retiree from Bedok who gave his name only as Mr Sharudin, 68.
"Our intention is not to cause trouble. We just want to have fun," said retired police investigator Mohd Salleh, 75, who lives in Aljunied.
"We are all elderly people. We behave ourselves. We don't commit crime. I'm angry that they treat us as though we are hooligans," said Mr Salleh, adding that the police and town council staff have interrupted their games and confiscated their stools and chairs.
A Marine Parade Town Council spokesman said items such as sofas were confiscated if they "obstructed the way" or were "fire hazards".
Block 11 resident Tang Ah Hiang, 73, said she sometimes has to make detours around the group of players when it rains.
"It's occasionally inconvenient. Sometimes there are two or three tables of games and a lot of people gathering around," said the retiree. "There is no space for us to move and I have no choice but to get wet in the rain."
But fellow resident Stanley Chong, 43, who lives in the same block, said he is not bothered by the checkers enthusiasts.
"I think it's harmless. We should let the elderly have their activities, not ban them. If not, what will they do?" said the logistics manager.
Another draughts regular, part-time welder Seow Kok Hua, 65, said the new posters are "fair enough".
Said the Ang Mo Kio resident: "It's better now - as long as they don't keep disturbing us and we have our freedom. We can keep our volume down and not block the way. We also don't want to disturb people."