By Kent Francis & Sally Tan
Mr Talman Kahn, a foreign worker from Bangladesh, has been a street cleaner for more than ten years. He has been spending on average, an extra two hours overtime everyday to clear the increasing amounts of litter found on the streets of Singapore in recent years.
“This almost feels as if Singaporeans are ought to spite me,” Kahn said through an interpreter. But with the launch of the Get Environmentally Ready Movement of Singapore (GERMS) campaign later this year, workers like Kahn may soon be out of job.
Jointly organised with the National Environment Agency (NEA), which has given “significant backing” to the movement under their Greener And Greener (GAG) scheme, GERMS aims to promote littering to curb the deluge of bad luck that Singapore has received this year.
“The native American Indians used to bury fruits and seeds into the ground as a sign of respect for nature. Even though Singapore is mostly an urban jungle, it is important to give back to mother nature what we took from her in the first place,” said Ms Tracy Ong, who is the head of GERMS in a press conference held in Hougang, a slum that GERMS considers a model neighbourhood.
She cited the recent bitch of a weather — leading to floods on one day and sauna-like heat the next — as a sign of an increasingly agitated mother nature that needed to be appeased. When confronted with evidence that it was mostly due to poor drainage planning and structural oversights, the offending reporter was escorted off the premises by the heavily armed eco-friendly in-house security team.
“Trash must be thrown out,” Ong said, “but it should not be wasted. We have to educate our young of the importance of giving and receiving which also happens to be one of our mottos.”
The sudden reversal of policy has angered many litterbugs who can now lay claim to having been misunderstood by the government.
“We demand reimbursement for all the fines incurred in previous years,” said Miss Dewla Jee, who has been littering indiscriminately for the past decade.
“I was only trying to fertilise the land. See what happens when the government comes up with hare-brained policies? It always backfires,” she said. Jee reckons that her chewing gum habit and three children have generated more than $20,000 worth of lost subsidies and fines.