By The Way

Catching up with old colleagues, tackling hoarding: What politicians are up to this week

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: TEO SER LUCK, LEE BEE WAH, PRITAM SINGH/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we catch up with some former MPs who have stayed in touch with those still in the House, and some thoughts from Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on the issue of hoarding and workplace deaths.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

Any advice?

Former People's Action Party MP Teo Ser Luck has been keeping his Facebook followers updated on his eldest son's graduation backpacking trip overseas.

Among those tracking the younger Mr Teo's exploits are current MPs Sun Xueling (Punggol West) and Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC).

In a post on Tuesday (Aug 23), Mr Teo, who served for three terms before retiring from politics in 2020, said his son had backpacked for more than 60 days, travelled to 16 countries and made 87 stops.

Given his limited budget, he would take trains over planes, walk rather than take public transport, and would take an overnight train or pitch a tent where possible to save on accommodation.

True enough, the photo showed a tent and sleeping roll strapped to a backpack, set against the iconic Gdansk Crane in Poland.

"How do you wash up or take a bath? Public toilets need to pay, so if possible, you find a lake, river, stream to wash up and even have your bath," he said.

Ms Sun, who is Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Home Affairs, asked in the post: "I have daughters. Any advice?"

Mr Teo said his daughter would likely follow in her brother's footsteps.

"I will tell her to reverse what the brother does. Take plane, stay in hotel, mummy, daddy follow you," he said.

"If it doesn't work, both of us go seek advice from someone else," he quipped.

The light-hearted exchanges belie Mr Teo's deep pride in his son's independent streak. In an earlier post, he revealed that his son had paid his own way through university.

"It's never about his academic results but his approach to life and independence," said Mr Teo. "We put him through such a journey and he has made our journey so fulfilling."

Dr Lim commented: "You are so blessed to have such sensible children who actually pay for their tertiary education with their own savings."

Emotional meet-up

Another former PAP MP who has left a mark on her former colleagues and residents is Ms Lee Bee Wah, who served for three terms in the Nee Soon South ward from 2006 and retired from politics in 2020.

Ms Lee had in June launched her biography titled Plantation To Parliament, which chronicles her growing-up years living on rubber plantations in Malaysia, to her time in the House.

In the foreword to the book, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that as an MP, Ms Lee was a ball of fire, indefatigable and resourceful.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (Aug 21), Ms Lee said many residents in Goodlink Park in Yishun had bought her book. They organised a gathering and invited the former MP to autograph their copies.

"It was an emotional meet-up as we had not seen each other for the past two years," she said.

Her post included many photos with residents, some of whom were seen close to tears, while others smiled widely.

Ms Lee, of course, kept up her wide cheery grin, posing with two thumbs up in some photos.

Among those who dropped in were Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who anchors Nee Soon GRC and fought two elections alongside Ms Lee.

Complexities behind hoarding

Following a block visit in his constituency, Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh penned a slightly longer-than-usual post on Thursday (Aug 25) tackling two difficult topics - hoarding and workplace deaths.

He noted that Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's Eunos Property team had successfully followed up on a hoarding case after he met the resident in question last week.

Mr Singh had asked the woman if the town council could help her to dispose of some of the items in her flat, given the real risk of a fire hazard, and she was agreeable.

A 48-year-old man died earlier this month after his flat in Jurong East caught fire. A neighbour had said that the residents of the flat had a habit of keeping things, such as household appliances and bags, in the common corridor.

Three days later, a fire broke out in an Aljunied flat that was filled with piles of bags and stacks of newspapers.

Mr Singh said: "The individual reality behind hoarding is complex. Some residents have a deep sense of ownership to their items, while others want to retain keepsakes that connect them to their past... So we move carefully and thoughtfully, and to the best of our ability since each case can be very different."

On the topic of workplace deaths, Mr Singh said he spoke to six South Indian foreign workers from the construction industry who were living in one of the units in the block.

"They all hold jobs in a supervisory capacity and it was reassuring to realise they take workplace safety very seriously," he said. "I really wish we see the back of this unfortunate spate of workplace fatalities soon."

The death of a Bangladeshi worker this week after falling into the sea off Tuas means there has been at least 34 work-related deaths this year, compared with 37 for the whole of last year.

Mr Singh said: "Behind each accident is a person with loved ones back home. And they want to see their husband and/or daddy come back home safe."

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