The Christmas spirit of a Toa Payoh resident, Mr Martin Silva, has won.
For the past three years, the 57-year-old puts up makeshift Christmas lighting and decorations outside his HDB ground-floor unit. With glittering lights and even LED reindeers, his little Christmas wonder has been the joy of residents in his area. According to The Straits Times, it has become a meeting point during the festive season, and some even queue to have their pictures taken there.
As a result of his unauthorised decorations in a public space, the Bishan-Toa Payoh town council has fined him several times, and ordered him to remove the decorations.
Just yesterday, Mr Zainudin Nordin, Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, posted a statement on his Facebook in support of Martin Silva, and the decorated patio is here to stay.
“I can understand the Town Council’s concern, as they have the responsibility to make sure that common areas are not for private use, and safe for all residents. But at the same time, if residents have good ideas to bond the community, we should encourage them.
I had asked the CCC Chairman and RC Chairperson if there was a way for all residents in that neighbourhood, including Mr Silva, to benefit.
I’m glad to report that they have come to a good outcome after a meeting. Mr Silva agreed that the makeshift structures would be open for community use. The RC members informed surrounding neighbours that they would adopt this as a community project for all residents to use. Some planks had to be remove for safety reasons.”
After being fined $400 on three separate occasions and $1,000 once over 3 years, Mr Silva had been concerned that he could no longer continue this Christmas tradition, that had, over the past three years, brought about the Christmas spirit in his neighbourhood.
With this new change, he is encouraged, saying to The Straits Times that he believed the decision would help bring back the “kampung spirit”.
“This is a fantastic breakthrough for families like mine who are just trying to bring people together, and opening their homes to everyone,” he said.
Having lived in Singapore all my life, the idea of a community had not been a very strong one to me. Getting to know your neighbours has never been a priority in moving to a new estate, and while town councils have organized several events and initiatives in the heartlands, its progress in uniting Singaporeans has been slow, if not stagnant.
Seeing local initiatives like this one is heartening. Mr Silvah is to us the neighbour we’ve walked past a thousand times, the one we never greeted, or even glanced at. And when our neighbour invites us into his ‘home’, who are we to ignore it?