Article from the Nee Soon Link, a publication of Nee Soon Town Council.
If you live in Nee Soon East or Kebun Baru, you’ve probably heard or seen your new MP. They seem young and energetic, but what are they really like? What plans do they have for your neighbourhood? Nee Soon Link caught up with new MPs Louis Ng Kok Kwang and Kwek Hian Chuan Henry about their first few months in office.
What have you been busy with since getting elected?
Louis: I’ve been building up my team, and drawing up plans for the next few years.
I’ve also been making friends with the residents of Nee Soon East. Every house visit I do, I will ask to step in and chat for a while. I usually stay for five to ten minutes, chatting with the residents. This means I visit much fewer houses, even with two to three house visit sessions a week. But it is worth it. I really enjoy getting to know our residents better and how I can help them. But also, getting them involved in our community programs!
I’m also going around experiencing a different profession every month. I want to better understand the issues different sectors face, and bring them up in Parliament.
Henry: Getting to know the people of Kebun Baru through house visits and small-group dialogues. I’ve made many friends. I had one dialogue recently that was meant to last 90 minutes, but we had such great rapport that we talked for three hours!
There’s genuine concern about helping a few lower-income Kebun Baru residents and those with disabilities, illnesses, family issues, etc. I’m concerned about whether they are getting enough help to lead a full and varied life, and whether everyone who needs help is able to ask for it. My vision is “everyone a social worker”. All our volunteers, PA staff and Town Council staff should be trained to arrange for social welfare assistance if needed. I’m also organising them to go out into the community and actively look for people who need help.
Share with us some plans you have for your constituency.
Louis: The grassroots leaders and I have drawn up 22 areas of focus, like helping lower-income kids, the elderly, animal welfare etc. I believe this plan should not be a “Louis Ng plan”, but a “Nee Soon East plan”. The programs should be run by residents, for other residents. I already have residents who are willing to give free tuition, cooking and music classes.
I feel that the less fortunate can equally contribute to our community, while receiving support. For example, we’re working on a programme for lower-income kids to raise funds for a residents’ corner at the rental blocks. We’ll put in place the infrastructure and support, but empower them to give back as well. We’ll have their names printed on a plaque for everyone to see that they too have the potential to play a meaningful role. I believe that will be far more valuable for their future than any monetary help we can give them.
Henry: I want to bring Kebun Baru residents together to help the needy. We need to look beyond government funding to fight poverty. Mentoring, inspiration and care from the community is what can really break the cycle of poverty. I’m pulling together different groups in Kebun Baru like religious groups, residents, VWOs etc., for a program to befriend and help needy families.
In terms of infrastructure, my priority is to make Kebun Baru more elderly-friendly. I’m working to bring in a free TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) clinic and a centre for active ageing. Kebun Baru is also rather hilly, which makes it difficult for the elderly to get around. I’ll be fighting for more sheltered skybridges and other barrier-free walkways. For example, Mayflower MRT will have lifts in at least six exits.
What do you hope to achieve with the Town Council for your residents?
Louis: I’ve seen how the Town Council staff and cleaners work to improve Nee Soon, rain or shine. They do much more than estate maintenance- they execute HDB’s upgrading plans, build loads of common facilities, and are the front line in resolving residents’ issues. They put the “heart” in the TC’s slogan “home with a heart”. As the new Chairman of the Town Council, I would like to make them feel appreciated, so that they feel proud to come to work every day.
Henry: My first priority is to manage the transition from Ang Mo Kio Town Council to Nee Soon Town Council to minimise any inconvenience for residents. We’ve arranged a collection office at Blk 161 for Town Council payments. We’ll also provided residents with ample time to change their GIRO payment arrangements.
I’ve also been introducing Nee Soon Town Council staff to the residents and shop-owners. If they know and trust one another, they can work together to resolve any issues.
How have you been balancing your family life with work and MP commitments?
Louis: When I started understudying MP Charles Chong, the first thing he said to me was: “You have a two-year-old daughter right? You’ll be very busy with MP work, but just make sure when you get home, she doesn’t call you ‘uncle’!”
I now try to put aside at least one evening a week to spend time with my family. After all, I’ve been advocating better work-life balance in Singapore, so I better practise what I preach!
Henry: The constituency comes first. My wife is very supportive and being a volunteer herself, she understands. She’ll definitely be getting involved in many of our welfare initiatives.