My mission to find Chiam See Tong's makeshift cubicle at Potong Pasir Blk 108 led to an unexpected surprise. Not surprisingly, the first person I saw at the void deck was shooting away - he was probably conscious of Chiam's fast disappearing legacy like me - and after I whipped out my camera to do likewise, a lady approached me, "do you know when Chiam See Tong will arrive?" I was taken back.
I am not a Potong Pasir resident and neither did I expect to see him at the void deck that day. So I told the lady, "maybe you can ask the SPP folks at the void deck," pointing to the folks clad in SPP polo-tee sitting on the bench. There was a loose gathering of people, supporters and SPP members, and I had no doubts Chiam would be visiting his beloved MPS void deck.
Having failed to find the makeshift cubicle (it was there; I missed it but not my camera), I left the MPS block somewhat disappointingly and reluctantly for my next destination - Chiam's Town Council at Blk 121 - a short walk and across the street. The Town Council did not look shabby as I imagined, a far cry from the makeshift cubicle where Chiam conducted his MPS, though I did not have the chance to peek inside.
* According to the latest news, Chiam built an office for his MPS at Blk 108 but it was removed by the government citing rule changes after his party won an unprecedented three seats in the 1991 elections.
Here the crowd was larger, spilled over to the car park. The size and a lorry decorated with SPP flags confirmed one thing, that Chiam See Tong would soon appear, or why would they not gather under the comfort of the void deck?
The crowd (man's best friend included) at Blk 121, anticipating the arrival of their hero.
Election rallies and the aftermath are good business for the ice-cream seller, he would sorely miss the once-in-five-years event. Gradually, Chiam's Bishan-Toa Payoh team mates made their way up the lorry but their commander was nowhere in sight. A few hearts must have beat faster. The hero could appear anytime. And appear he did!
Chiam led by wife Loh Woon Lee making their way (slowly) to the lorry. It was like magic, from where did they come from?
Slowly he got up the lorry, helped by those around him. Stooped and feeble these days, he must have cut a pathetic figure to those who do not know him. Now that he was on top, he faced the reporters below ... and raised his fist!
Never one to acknowledge defeat, Chiam in defiant victory. His lieutenant doing likewise.
He gave an interview. Actually he was murmuring and I could not hear him from three meters away. The reporters had it better; they were right in front and spellbound. At that moment, they must be very eager to know what Chiam had to say, after losing both his seat and his bid.
What did Chiam tell the reporters? He will continue to fight for change in Singapore.
The hero signed autographs and shook many hands. I was at a mere three meters from him but decided to give up my chance to the more deserving Potong Pasir residents. There was a girl who asked me to take a photo of her and her idol. It was not a photo op yet I did it twice, the first time somebody's arms was blocking. She was clutching sheets of paper with photos of Chiam and a signature. Hardcore supporter.
On that day, I witnessed the respect Singaporeans hold for Chiam, the longest-serving opposition MP. During the brief handshaking session, I realized how his fighting for Potong Pasir residents and Singaporeans must have touched the different ethnic, gender and age groups.
A minority thanking Chiam for his work all these years. A touching moment.
The lorry then went around Potong Pasir SMC to thank the residents for their support. It was the SPP's Thank-You Parade held the day after Polling Day. I continued my way to find another of Chiam's legacy located across the Kallang River and the CTE (you have to cross this uber-low clearance under the CTE). Many people forget Potong Pasir SMC includes a very small part of Toa Payoh where Chiam would have his MPS every fortnight.
Chiam's "territory" included the small neighborhood at Lorong 8. Across the road is PAP's "territory" (see the boundary map) where not surprisingly you find the old Toa Payoh flats upgraded. But the flats in this small neighborhood are not bad either, just a little less upgraded. Blk 213 was where Chiam held his MPS, unfortunately I didn't get to check the void deck for any makeshift cubicle.
The neighborhood center is this Market and Food Center (Blk 210) currently under upgrading. Sadly, the upgrading has killed many of the kampong sights blogged by Victor here and here. With the nostalgic market out of bounds, I ordered a drink in the coffee shop to quench my thirst. A surprise was in store for me just as I was about to leave the neighborhood.
A loudhailer announced the arrival of the lorries ... and their hero Chiam See Tong!
Many people stood up and cheered as the lorries made their way to thank the residents.