It has been a long time since I last traveled to Singapore, a place where I had onces served. Back in the 60's when Singapore was still part of Malaya and subsequently Malaysia, I think the army had a Brigade HQ located at Fort Canning, two SIR Infantry Battalions at Ulu Pandan, a RMR Battalion at Temasek Camp, Logistics Units at Bukit Timah, and an Independent Recce Squadron at Tanah Merah.
Sembawang Camp to which the 6th Battalion RMR was to be located as a non family station, was built around the mid 60's. The battalion was initially accommodated in tents, while a semi-permanent camp was being constructed. I remembered that besides the camp was a pig farm that emits an unbearable smell that caused a lot of discomfort to most of us. The smell becomes even more unbearable during the rainy season. Besides the smell, the rains would also cause a nuisance to all of us, as some of the tents would leak, and the walk ways flooded. Living under tents for more than 6 months was a misery to most of us, for we had to bear the blistering afternoon heat, dust and with no proper lighting, bathing and toilet facilities.
The Sembawang landscape has now changed tremendously, and one could no longer recognize the existence formerly of an old army camp in that vicinity. Traveling along Holland Road and the neighboring areas, I could still see some old double storey bungalows that I believe were built as quarters for senior British military officers. These bungalows resembled those built at Port Dickson military camps that still exist till this day.
What strikes me most about Singapore is the cleanliness of the city center and the disciplined society, especially of its bus and taxi drivers. Traveling around the city keeps me wondering as to how could the local authorities up-keep the maintenance of all the buildings (HDB Flats in particular) and structures in such a perfect state. I could not see a single dilapidated and unkempt building. All are well painted and most HDB Flats have huge numbers painted high up on its walls that can be viewed from afar by impending visitors.
I could not see cars being parked indiscriminately besides roads in the city center, and this makes traveling in the city center easy, despite the heavy traffic and with no policemen to monitor the traffic flow. I decided to hitch a taxi ride back to my place of residence, and I do not have to wait long at the taxi stand for a taxi. I was greeted by the driver even before I could get into the taxi, and the ride was in a comfortable and clean Korean built Hyundai blue colored taxi. This is in vast contrast to the taxis that we get in this country that are small, and the rude treatment that passengers sometimes get from its drivers. Now, with the introduction of the Proton Saga, our taxis are getting even smaller and less comfortable. Passengers comfort, seems the last in the minds of our taxi service providers.
There are many more things that I saw in Singapore city that could serve a useful lesson to our local authorities, especially to the local councils, as well as KL City Hall. I believe the difference lies in the attitude, training, professionalism and dedication of the people involved that is severely lacking in our people and if such attitude does not changed, we will soon see our cities being in league with some of the worse among the underdeveloped countries.
I believe, we have been sending a number of our officers from the local authorities and City Hall for study visits abroad. I am told too that even parliamentarians and state councilors are send abroad on study tours, but what happened upon their return is everyone guess. Was it really a meaningful study tour, or was it merely a leisure tour? But I suppose, having been a fully paid overseas tour at public expense, it does not really matter whether it was to be a study tour or a leisure tour. Both are one and the same thing.
And having seen the latest of Singapore, one does not need to go to Europe, USA, Japan or Korea to do a study tour. The thing that needs to be learned by our local authorities in the management of a city is just a few miles south of Johore Bahru.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION