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In his zeal to impress foreigners on how efficiently and smoothly he can run the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has been quite happy to sacrifice the daily necessities of Singaporeans.
Take, for example, the temporary closure of bus-stops. The Land Transport Authority has ordered that buses cannot stop outside the YOG venues such as the one at the Toa Payoh Stadium. Two SBS bus inspectors are stationed at the stop to wave buses on and prevent commuters from getting off. Is such a measure necessary?
Could security concerns be the reason that the LTA is doing this? The answer is no because anyone can walk into the vicinity of the stadium and competition halls. There is no security personnel to check visitors.
A likelier reason is that the organisers don’t want the entrance of the carpark jammed by vehicular traffic which would prevent YOG athletes and officials from coming and going with ease.
But how can this be? Buses typically stop for no more than a minute or two to allow passengers to alight. Can the YOG coaches ferrying the young athletes not wait momentarily for the SBS buses to pull clear before proceeding?
Alternatively, could the traffic wardens on duty not halt the SBS buses to let the YOG coaches leave the vicinity first? Why the need to shutdown down the bus-stop for two weeks?
Has Dr Balakrishnan considered that there are elderly persons and pregnant women who might have difficulty walking from the next bus-stop back down the road to their destinations? What about parents with infants and toddlers?
Grandparents escorting their young charges to take the bus to school were seen arguing with officials at the bus-stop.
Were alternative arrangements made to ensure that they are helped?
Were residents given adequate notice that the stops would be closed? Apparently not because even the bus drivers had to be cued not to stop. If the drivers don’t know that the bus-stops are closed, how would residents be expected to know? The LTA couldn’t even be bothered to explain why the bus-stops needed to be closed.
Such callousness is unacceptable especially in light of the fact that the minister spent $7 million on chartering an executive jet just to ferry the YOG flame and $9 million to publicise the Games. Could he not allocate a tiny portion of the budget to ensure that bus passengers, especially the elderly and the young, are taken care of?
Then there are reports that students who were “selected” to attend the games were not given refreshments and were instructed to bring their own money to buy their own food and drinks.
The Government can build elaborate stage sets which cost millions of dollars to set up to hold concerts that attracted hardly any audience, concerts that were not even central to the Games. And yet it cannot even buy our students drinks?
And while the athletes were treated to buffet spreads, our local volunteers were given meagre portions of rice, fish and green beans. Why such a gulf in treatment? Because they are talent and we are not?
To add injury to insult, volunteers now find themselves suffering from food poisoning. Thirty volunteers were reported to have come down with diarrhea and abdominal pain after they ate the food provided during the triathalon competition at East Coast Park last Sunday.
(The incident happened on 15 Aug 10 but was not reported by the Government media until three days later. Even then, the news first broke on the Internet. Were the journalists asleep? Probably not.)
Recently, Mr Goh Chok Tong took another swipe at Singaporeans, saying that they liked to gripe, that is, to complain about things trivial. It’s another indication how removed from the real world PAP ministers are.
The YOG failings which Singaporeans are pointing out are not gripes. They are serious shortcomings of a Government that has long ceased to pay attention to the grievances of the people.
Singaporeans are not an unreasonable lot. They will put up with and suffer inconveniences if they know that these inconveniences benefit our nation. But many know that the YOG was staged as a PAP-glorification exercise – one, it must be added, that has gone horribly awry.
Dr Balakrishnan wants to show the world how well he takes care of an international sporting event. While he is at it he should perhaps think about taking care of Singaporeans too.