Forum Letter of the week: To make S'pore cleaner and more gracious, start with yourself

Two passers-by looking at some litter left on the Alexandra Arch bridge, on Jan 31, 2015.
Two passers-by looking at some litter left on the Alexandra Arch bridge, on Jan 31, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

Last year, veteran diplomat Tommy Koh and a few Forum writers expressed the view that Singaporeans in general are not as civic-minded and gracious as they should be. I wish to offer another perspective.

I, too, felt that certain pockets of Singapore could be cleaner, so I decided to be a volunteer with the National Environment Agency.

This helps me to be a part of the solution. Even when I am unable to pick up litter in drains or engage with litterbugs, I report the situation via the OneService app to the relevant authorities for them to take action.

It is quite pointless to merely complain, which will not yield any positive result on the ground. There are many ways in which Singaporeans can play their part to keep the country clean.

Another common view is that people from certain countries are more gracious than Singaporeans.

Singaporeans who have experienced such positive behavioural traits should bring home the traits.

In October, I visited Auckland and used its bus services several times. I noticed that bus drivers greet every commuter, and the commuters in turn thank them loudly when alighting from the exit door.

I have not plucked up enough courage to thank bus drivers in Singapore when I am a distance away at the exit door. But now when I board the bus, I say "hello" or "good morning" to the driver. I am not sure if others will follow suit, but I know I have made the driver happy because he gives a nice smile in return.

In contrast to complaints about commuters being inconsiderate, I have seen many kind acts in trains and buses in Singapore.

I have seen the young and the old willingly offer their seats to others who are more in need. Last week, before I could offer my seat to a mother carrying a toddler, a man who had sat down for not more than a minute gave up his seat to them.

If Singaporeans want the country to be cleaner and its people to be more gracious, they need to start with themselves and not focus on what others should and should not do. They have the power to create a ripple effect.

Koh Swee Keow