Serving with Passion

September 26, 2015

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Min Khaw giving awardsModern Singapore was built by many pioneers who had selflessly toiled in the background. Mr Tan Lian Ker, who turned 86 this year, is one. He is one of MND’s longest serving board members, having served as President of the Strata Titles Board (STB) for 22 years. He has asked to retire, and we cannot say no.

Until his retirement in 1984, Mr Tan served in various appointments including as the Head of the Legal Department of the SAF, and as a District Judge. Not content to just sit back and enjoy his retirement, he set up a law firm to continue helping others. When STB was set up in 1988 to handle strata-titled property disputes, Mr Tan volunteered to be on the Board, despite his busy schedule.

STB news articles1Under his leadership, STB resolved over 1,400 cases, of which 85 per cent were mediated without trial. His motto is to resolve disputes amicably whenever possible, so that residents can live in harmony.  Even if it meant going down personally to homes to review the evidence, he was ever ready. His landmark decision in 2005 to abandon the then practice of sharing costs between the upper and lower units involved in disputes on inter-floor leakage led to a legislative change and we now see speedier resolution of such disputes. Mr Tan was also involved in the major legislative changes to the Land Titles (Strata) Act relating to en bloc sales. Over the years, he has effectively determined some 200 en bloc sales.

Thank you Mr Tan for years of sterling service!

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A Little Competition, While Building Our Garden City

April 3, 2015

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Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s clean and green Garden City vision is to help promote equality among all.  Fifty years on, we have internalised this aspiration.  NParks’ Community in Bloom has further brought the green movement to the community level, via our successful community gardens.

Last year, my Sembawang residents grew 250kg worth of fresh vegetables, such as kai lan, chye sim and lettuce, at the community garden and sold them for charity.  They raised $6,000 for Man Fut Tong Nursing Home. Over at Mayor Teo Ho Pin’s ward, his residents’ harvests were also outstanding.  The same is observed elsewhere.  For instance, MP Foo Mee Har harvested a giant winter melon with her residents that weighed 14kg!

Tomorrow, NParks will take this movement further by launching the Community Garden Edibles Competition at HortPark.  It is a competition, but a friendly one, with fun and good knowledge sharing.

Our founding Prime Minister believed that a lush green city would set us apart from the rest of the world. The Community Garden Edibles Competition is a little contribution towards Mr Lee’s vision, involving everyone in the creation of our City in a Garden.

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A special orchid hybrid for our Chief Gardener

March 24, 2015

A special orchid hybrid for our Chief Gardener

Our Founding PM Lee Kuan Yew loved nature and visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens whenever he could. My colleagues in NParks enjoyed taking him around in the buggy. They have a great deal of respect and affection for Mr Lee. Deep in our hearts, we know who the Chief Gardener of Singapore’s Garden City was.

The making of a Garden City was a key element in Mr Lee’s development strategy. It differentiates us from other cities, setting a benchmark for other cities to emulate. None of this would have been possible, if not for Mr Lee’s vision and single-minded commitment to creating the best possible living environment for all Singaporeans to enjoy.

Mr Lee set up the Garden City Action Committee to ensure that different Ministries would work closely together to make greenery an integral part of Singapore’s infrastructure. He created NParks (and its predecessors) because he believed that an agency with staff trained in horticulture, botany and other areas required in maintaining greenery was needed to oversee the Green Campaign, as he called it. As a result of his efforts, our roads and neighbourhoods are filled with lush greenery and birds and butterflies.

For some time, we have been looking out for a suitable orchid hybrid to name after Mr Lee. NParks officers who have staffed him on his many visits to the SBG have a good sense of what he enjoyed and liked amongst the flora and fauna.

We have found a suitable candidate in a vigorous and robust hybrid – Arachnis hookeriana x Vanda Golden Moon. ItOrchid hybrids produces flower sprays that bear up to 10 flowers each, with each bloom measuring about 9.5 cm to 10.5 cm across. The sepals and petals are bright greenish golden yellow with light tessellations and a tinge of white at the base. Each bloom is complemented by a contrasting light brown waxy lip.

The parentage is the Arachnis hookeriana and the Vanda Golden Moon. Arachnis hookeriana is native to Singapore. It grows in full sun and produces lasting scorpion-shaped flowers. Vanda Golden Moon is a large-flowered Hawaiian hybrid that contains the regional species in its lineage; Vanda dearei from Borneo, Vanda sanderiana & Vanda lamellata from the Philippines, and Vanda curvifolia from Thailand.

Ironically, Aranda Lee Kuan Yew has just flowered and will remain in flower for the next 2 to 3 weeks. This new hybrid also matches the orchid hybrid that was named after Mrs Lee, Vanda Kwa Geok Choo.

The match is not only in terms of colour, form and stature, but both hybrids also share a few species in both their lineages.

CEO/NParks, Kenneth Er, presented Aranda Lee Kuan Yew to PM Lee and his family earlier this afternoon at the Istana. It would have been wonderful if we had the opportunity to present the Aranda Lee Kuan Yew to Mr Lee himself. It was not meant to be…I am certain Mr Lee would have loved the flowers.

Orchid presentation at the Istana

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Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

March 23, 2015

Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

Our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew has passed on. My Ministry has lost its greatest mentor and inspiration.

Mr Lee devoted his whole life to Singapore. Singaporeans owe much of what we have in Singapore today to Mr Lee. He was a rare talent and few people could see further ahead than he did. He used his tremendous foresight to position Singapore well and created an endearing home for all.

My Ministry has especially benefited from Mr Lee’s immense foresight and strategic insights. He inspired many policies in MND: HDB, Garden City, Clean & Green, urban planning, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, heritage conservation, Marina Bay, etc.

Homeownership

It was not too long ago, in the early 60s, that Singapore was filthy, disorderly, with slums and squatters and high homelessness. Mr Lee set up the HDB and started on the ambitious task to house a nation. Through the Home Ownership for the People Scheme”, he encouraged families to own their HDB flats, to have a stake in Singapore and its future.

Key handover50 years on, Singapore has achieved one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. Our endearing HDB towns are a lasting imprint of Mr Lee. Today, a third generation of Singaporeans is embarking on their own homeownership journey. The hugely successful story of home ownership in Singapore mirrors the successful story of Singapore as a nation.

The pervasive greenery around us which transforms Singapore into a City in a Garden is another lasting legacy of Mr Lee. In 1963, he planted the first Mempat Tree at Farrer Circus, kickstarting the annual nation-wide tree planting campaign which continues till this day. Even after he retired from the Cabinet, Mr Lee asked to be updated on the work done by the Garden City Action Committee. And whenever Mr Lee was free, he would visit the Botanic Gardens with the late Mrs Lee, and later to Gardens by the Bay after it was completed in 2012.

Tree planting

Mr Lee clearly took pride in what Singapore has achieved as a clean and green city. To him, greenery is not just sound policy that makes sense, but also a personal passion and lifelong commitment. In 2013, in celebration of our 50 years of greening, we invited Mr Lee to plant a rain tree at Holland Village Park. We were so glad that Mr Lee could join us on that momentous occasion.

I know many of you feel a deep sense of loss with Mr Lee’s passing. We all share in this loss. Celebrating 50 years of greening

As we mourn the loss of our Founding PM, let’s reflect on his achievements and be grateful to Mr Lee for starting Singapore on the right footing and building Singapore into what it is today. Mr Lee and his vision put Singapore on the global map of world-class cities. His life and work have touched the lives of generations of Singaporeans. Let us build on his legacy and make Singapore even better for future generations of Singaporeans.

At this time, our prayers and thoughts are with PM Lee and his family. We wish them strength and peace in this time of sorrow.

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Happy Birthday, HDB and Thank You!

January 31, 2015

Tomorrow, HDB turns 55.

A recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) asked Singaporeans to name 10 events that they thought were most important to Singaporeans.  The formation of HDB on 1 Feb 1960 was on the top 10 chart.  I am glad that HDB’s role in nation building has resonated strongly with Singaporeans.

Its early years were exceptionally challenging.  HDB’s first chairman, Mr Lim Kim San, led HDB to break new ground and laid a strong foundation which successive generations of HDB staff were able to build upon.

Working along with Mr Lim were many HDB staff.  Through their hard work, perseverance and personal sacrifices, HDB grew and moved steadfastly towards its mission.

Mr James BongAmong the oldest is Mr James Bong, now aged 89.

He first worked in the Singapore Improvement Trust, and joined HDB when it was formed.  He was a Resettlement Officer.  In those years, squatters were common in Singapore, and living conditions were squalid.  The most immediate and important task then was to resettle and rehouse the squatters in better HDB homes.

While resettlement from slums to modern HDB now seems obviously positive, convincing the people then to move into high-rise flats was an arduous task.  Officers like Mr Bong faced strong resistance from the squatters as it meant changes to where they lived, how they lived and where they worked.  Tremendous patience and a human touch were needed.  Mr Bong did just that!

There are many other HDB pioneers like Mr Bong.  The impact of their contribution will long be remembered.  They laid the solid foundation, from which we can now move public housing to even greater heights.  “My Nice Home Gallery”, the plans for upcoming Bidadari and Tampines North etc show the transformation of HDB towns in the past 55 years.  A transformation that I am sure our HDB pioneers will feel proud of.  I think we have not disappointed them and I hope to continue to build upon their vision, to achieve greater success.

Appreciation tea for HDB pioneers

Thank you HDB Pioneers and Happy Birthday, HDB!

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More than a builder of flats, he raised building productivity

December 29, 2014

The passing of Dr Michael Fam was a sad news as we prepare for SG50.  He was very much a part of the Singapore Story.

Among his many accomplishments, he gave 14 years of his life to HDB and public housing.  He brought his immense expertise from the business community to bear. Dr Fam served on HDB Board from 1969 to 1983, first as a Board Director and later as Chairman, HDB from April 1975 to July 1983.

Under Dr Fam’s leadership, public housing doubled its stock from 200,000 units of flats (in 1975) to 400,000 units (in early 1980s). Many of the flats in Bt Batok, Clementi, Hougang, Jurong, Tampines and Yishun were built during his term of leadership.

For new precincts, Dr Fam steered HDB to improve its planning and design concepts, achieving high design standards comparable to private homes.  For old estates, Dr Fam helped HDB to upgrade their general living environment.

In late 1970s, when many local HDB builders shied away from HDB projects as the construction industry faced rising cost, Dr Fam deftly guided HDB in negotiations with foreign contractors and concluded agreements with international contractors to build over 50,000 units using prefabricated and industrialised methods of construction. He also helped to nurture a group of reliable and skilful local public housing contractors. His efforts swiftly ensured that the HDB building programme stayed on track.

Dr Michael Fam had lived a good and meaningful life, touching the hearts of Singaporeans, including many living in HDB towns.  Thank you, Dr Fam.

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Housing Places of Worship

December 11, 2014

Providing land to house places of worship is an essential part of urban planning.  New HDB precincts are built with land set aside for places of worship.  This has enabled temples, mosques and churches to be situated near housing areas so that they are accessible to worshippers.

With rising demand for worship spaces, we have released sites under the Government Land Sales programme.  We have also allowed some places of worship to redevelop and intensify, if the site context allows, and allowed some limited and non-exclusive use of commercial and industrial premises for religious worship.

But places of worship come in different sizes.  There are many small temples and churches which find the Government Land Sales sites too big for their needs, and hence unaffordable.  Some of the church and temple leaders have asked us for alternative solutions.  Helpfully, they indicated that they were prepared to co-share facilities and to go high-rise.

After extensive consultations with the religious organisations, we are now exploring a new concept – a Multi-User Place of Worship Facility that co-locates multiple places of worship of the same religion in a multi-storey development. Under this arrangement, spaces can be leased or rented by small religious groups which will share common facilities like car parks, prayer halls and classrooms.

To move the concept forward, MND is calling a Request for Information (RFI) to seek ideas on how this concept might work for religious organisations interested in developing such a facility. The RFI will be open to Chinese temples and churches, as they have indicated the need for such a development. We look forward to receiving practical proposals from them, so that we can realise this new idea.

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