You are not to play chess here!

That’s what a poster somewhere in Marine Parade said.

The offending poster

The offending poster

There were three such posters. They were put up by the Marine Parade Town Council at the void deck and covered walkway of Block 11, Haig Road. The “offending” behaviour that led to these posters going up? People (apparently mostly old men) playing draughts:

The "offence"

The “offence” (image from the Straits Times)

The Marine Parade Town Council has now come out to “apologise for the wrong context of our poster”. What does that even mean? Wrong context of the poster? Huh?!

I think what they meant to say was that they were sorry for being unimaginatively harsh and draconian. Perhaps the people playing draughts were indeed obstructing the path of people using the covered walkway. Perhaps they were indeed too noisy, especially late into the night. But to ban playing of chess and draughts just because of that? How typically PAP!

It didn’t help the Town Council that one of the people Straits Times interviewed was a Mr Steven Oh, who just happened to be the chairman of the Geylang Serai Residents’ Committee. Mr Steven Oh said that the draughts players inconvenienced him and his father, who is wheelchair bound. Mr Oh recounted how he had to push his father’s wheelchair onto the uneven grass patch beside the linkway because the chess players obstructed the path.

Unsurprisingly, some people accused the Town Council of cronyism: “Ya la. Of course the Town Council must ban people from playing chess there la. They never give face to RC chairman! Made him push his father’s wheelchair onto uneven patch of grass! How can liddat?!”

Which makes one wonder, would a simple “Excuse me, please” have solved the problem? Really need three posters that ban the playing of chess and draughts meh?

But perhaps Mr Oh has tried asking nicely, only for the draught players to ignore him. Which may well have been the case. Because apparently the draught players have also ignored pleas by the MP of the area, Dr Fatimah Lateef, to not obstruct the walkway and be too noisy. Apparently all her pleas have fallen on deaf ears and some of them even scolded Dr Fatimah with vulgarities!

If that’s really the case, then it begs the questions: why so antagonistic and why such a strong sense of entitlement? Just because you live near there gives you the right to obstruct walkways and be noisy late into the night while playing draughts?

Why can’t everyone just be civil about it? Why can’t the draught players give way when people on wheelchair, or parents pushing trams, or people carrying bulky items walk past? Why can’t the draught players just stop playing by about 10pm or if they want to continue playing, lower their volume? Why is it that the Town Council needs to be involved in this? Why can’t the residents just sort things out amongst themselves?

If indeed the draught and chess players were inconsiderate and inconveniencing other residents, then this incident is a classic example of how Singapore society is breaking down: We need some authority to tell us what’s right and wrong. We need a set of rules to follow before we can be civil to one another. We can’t think for ourselves. We have lost our civic consciousness.

If we’ve really gotten to that state, then it’s really very sad. I hope that we don’t descend into a society that all our problems can only be resolved when some authority intervenes. Come on Singapore! Let’s just have that little bit of civic consciousness!

I hope that wherever possible and reasonable, let’s make the conscious effort to not inconvenience or disturb other people. And if someone points out that our actions are inconveniencing and disturbing other people, if possible and reasonable, let’s stop inconveniencing and disturbing them.

Hopefully, if more of us do that, then we will see less of this silly business such as the banning of playing draughts and chess in public areas.

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One thought on “You are not to play chess here!

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 17 Mar 2016 | The Singapore Daily

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