Today is the launch date for the book, Pioneers once more: The Singapore Public Service 1959-2009. Not the most elegant title for a book but the dignatories who spoke at the launch event ensured that its launch party was graced by the elegant and great of Singapore.
I haven’t seen or read the book. And as I’m neither elegant nor great, I wasn’t at today’s launch, naturally.
But I’ve read the extract about the gardener who works in the Istana since 1972 that was run in the Sunday Times of May 16.
The extract made me incredibly sad. And my dormant socialist instincts stirred somewhat.
Hamid Sudi, despite working for 38 years, hasn’t been to any grand Istana functions, not even those mass events for grassroots leaders, some of whom may not be either grand or elegant.
This is how the book’s author, Chua Mui Hoong, put it: “His job as an Istana gardener brings him close to the seat of power and prestige — but he feels no part of it. He keeps the front lawn immaculate — but has never stepped on its lush green grass in the evening when it is filled with important people attending ceremonial functions. He has seen the three prime ministers — but usually from a distance. His job is to maintain the grass that they and their guests step on — and that is enough.”
Perhaps it is also enough that with less than primary school education, he earns about $1,800 a month today?
Despite Pak Hamid’s contentment, I find it both incredulous and incredbile that, over the last 25 years with three presidents widely known to be kindly individuals, Istana staff don’t enjoy the once a year privilege of accessing the facilities they maintain.
Staff of every snooty social club in town are allowed that privilege at their places of work when club premises close for annual staff parties.
Oh, sure the Istana isn’t a social club. All the more reason it should set a more kindly and egalitarian standard in employee welfare, surely?