What an MP’s visit to our condo was like

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Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew delivering a speech. (AFP Photo)

COLUMN

By Mr Miyagi

I received a letter on Friday, 15 April 2011, from our condominium management. I thought it was probably about them fogging the place again and reminding us to close our windows.

The last time they fogged without telling us, some of us chucked a fit and said they should always tell us when something's going down.

It wasn't about fogging that the letter was trying to tell the residents of our small condo, but the impending visit of one of our Members of Parliament (MPs), the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew.

The letter said there would be a "simple tea reception" served while Minister Lui was to speak and listen to the residents from 7:30pm on Saturday, so that he could "get to know the residents better and to seek their views and suggestions on local and national issues".

My wife and I were really excited. The only visit by government agents and officials we ever had were regular ones by the anti-mosquito-breeding squad of the National Environmental Agency (NEA), and that was only because we had informed them two years earlier that our son suffered a bout of dengue.

Also, this was, after all, the Minister who said we did not need Freedom of Information legislation, because "the government already puts up a lot of information on its websites".

This was the Minister whose subordinate body, the National Arts Council, cut local theatre company Wild Rice's annual grant in 2010 by $20,000, because it "promoted alternative lifestyles, were critical of government policies and satirised political leaders". The move is now known in theatre circles as "Gahmen say Tuck Yew to the Arts".

This was the Minister who labelled the discontent and negative opinions regarding Tin Pei Ling's candidacy as "noise".

We had to meet him.

We didn't harbour any unrealistic hopes, of course. Our condo consists of three blocks of three-storey walk-up apartments, and we were never holding out for lifts or covered walkways (though the owners are waiting for the elusive en-bloc offer).

My wife and I spent a few hours thinking of what national and local issues to talk to our Minister about. This was our chance to tell him our troubles, even though we could always just pick up our phones or computers to email him.

The idea of a town hall-like meeting excited me, even if for our condo, the town hall was going to be the al-fresco (read: damn hot) common area by the poolside. What would people say? What did our neighbours worry about? Would anyone heckle the Minister and ask him about his pay, we wondered.

We planned our evening to finish dinner by 7pm, bring the dog down for his pee and poo, and then spruce up a bit (wipe crumbs and other food debris off our son's face) and take a nice walk down to the poolside to meet with Minister Lui.

Hopes dashed

Like many best-laid plans, this was dashed when the Minister and some of his entourage arrived at 7:10 and milled along the driveway to the open car park. They were chatting among themselves, presumably wondering where to begin because our condo's security guard had already gone home for the day, and wasn't able to tell the parliamentarian's people which block was which. They had, to my disappointment, opted for a door-stop visit instead of a townhall-like meeting.

(In case you're wondering, our condo's "security guard" "works" from 7am to 5pm on weekdays and 8am to 4pm on weekends)

I intercepted the group on our stairwell as I brought Mac, our nervous adopted Jack Russell Terrier, to water the plants. I said "hi" assertively, causing a few of what must have been about eight people to scramble through their clipboards, before I volunteered which unit my wife, son, dog, cat and I lived in.

The Minister was then guided to where I was, and he introduced himself as the MP for our area before I politely said I had to bring my dog for his own walkabout before he peed all over the PAP entourage.

The Minister said, "If he has to go, he has to go!"

I was relieved that Mac didn't do what some of our friends are familiar with -- this dog will pee on you just to show how much he loves / hates / is scared by / is in love with you -- and came back in a few minutes, in time to see how much progress the Minister had made in our block. No one else seemed to be at home, so I managed to squeeze in some  conversation with the Minister.

In less than a minute, he asked me how many times a day I needed to walk Mac, I said twice, then he told me he once had a dog, a white samoyed, which died at age 6 and a half, and that it was very unusual. Then he asked what concerns I had living within this compound, and I said something to the effect of us having "some municipal issues (the dengue problem) which we have taken into our own hands (calling NEA)".

And that was that.

It was all over in a flash. I wasn't sure if he meant 6.5 dog or human years, or whether it was unusual because it died at 6.5 years or that it was an unusual dog, or that it was his opinion that the white samoyed, as a breed, was unusual. I didn't even get the dog's name.

By 7:39pm the Minister and his entourage had done their doorstop round and left our compound, walking down the quiet street towards the neighbouring houses and apartments. I'm sure if no one from our condo had spoken about the need for brighter street lights in our area, he'd have figured it out.

Pressed in my hand was a name card from the Minister, complete with a photo of him, and the address and timing of "MP Meet-the-People Session" at the local branch office. I didn't even remember him handing me the card. It will have pride of place on my fridge door, alongside other contractors' calling cards. I might mistake it for an electrician's though, what with the logo and all.

Can't fault them for trying to make a fist of it. It's your turn, opposition candidates. Come visit our condo, because I think we still have food from the "tea-reception" they planned.

Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee writes across all media except where it can be construed as graffiti. More of him on twitter @miyagi and http://miyagi.sg

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