Lawrence Wong’s First Mandate as PM Should Be to Make Yew Tee Great Again
Top Image: Lawrence Wong / Facebook

Yew Tee was once called Singapore’s “most depressing” town. Now, it stands on the precipice of greatness. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, also a Member of Parliament for Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency (GRC), will become Prime Minister in a few hours.

Move aside, Ang Mo Kio. You can no longer boast about having a Prime Minister as one of your MPs. It’s Yew Tee’s time in the spotlight. 

Mr Lawrence Wong oversees the Limbang Division, one of the oldest parts of Yew Tee. According to the incoming Prime Minister, Limbang is “now undergoing significant transformation” with an upgraded shopping centre and refurbished sports centre. 

To be honest, unless you live in Yew Tee, Singaporeans don’t think about it all that much. Ang Mo Kio has giant tomato sculptures; Marine Parade has the East Coast Plan. Yew Tee is quaint and, perhaps, uneventful. 

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. With Mr Lawrence Wong as the Prime Minister, all eyes will be on Yew Tee to set an example for other constituencies to follow. After all, how can Mr Wong focus on matters of national importance if a resident is flinging their soiled underwear out of their window. 

Lawrence Wong’s first mandate as Prime Minister should be to make Yew Tee great again. 

Image: People’s Action Party / Facebook

The Rise of Yew Tee and Lawrence Wong 

Even the thought of Yew Tee being ‘great again’ is a wee bit inaccurate. The only thing it was great for in the past was being a village where Japanese occupiers stored oil—thus the name ‘oil pond’ in Teochew.

These days, Yew Tee residents describe their neighbourhood as tranquil and other synonyms for ‘peaceful’. The kinder residents have likened it to the “starting village in a Zelda game”—cosy but “connected to something bigger.” Harsher residents have called it “isolated.” 

Judgement aside, it seems nothing much happens in Yew Tee. Apart from the fact that Limbang Shopping Centre recently reopened its doors with new upgrades, Mr Wong’s appointment as Prime Minister could be the most exciting thing to happen to the area in years. 

Who wouldn’t want a Prime Minister in their neighbourhood? As Mr Wong swears in as Prime Minister, Marsiling-Yew Tee residents are entrusted with a responsibility only a few have known—ensuring that Mr Wong’s tenure as a Prime Minister continues after the next General Election. If he contests in Yew Tee, that is. 

And Limbang will be all the better for it. Non-Limbang Singaporeans are probably hearing of this town for the first time. It will now be the talk of the country. To be fair, upgrading projects have been going on in the area—more covered walkways, better lifts, and upgraded parks.

How does one define a ‘depressing neighbourhood’ anyway? Some people might find Yew Tee to be a peaceful and comfortable residential area with convenient amenities and access to nature. Others might prefer more bustling or urban environments. It ultimately depends on what you’re looking for in a neighbourhood and what activities and amenities are important to you.

Image: Zaqy Mohamad / Facebook

Yew Tee: A Reflection

Can this humble, ulu little town be a bustling hub? Will there be a whole glut of bouldering gyms, vintage stores, gourmet grocers and other indicators of Singaporean gentrification? With a guitar-playing prime minister in charge of the district, could Yew Tee finally be cool enough to host Radiohead? 

Likely not. PM Lee’s Teck Ghee stronghold was already a buzzing focal point of Ang Mo Kio—what with AMK Hub and AMK Bus Interchange in the vicinity. Not to mention how Ang Mo Kio is somewhere in the centre of the island, compared to Yew Tee’s northwestern sensibilities. Rejuvenation plans simply needed to build on the current amenities that have already made Ang Mo Kio Town Centre one of the largest town centres in the country since the late 1970s. 

DPM Lawrence Wong will have a more challenging job revamping Limbang into a destination town worth visiting, but he’s made a significant enough impact among residents there, according to anecdotal evidence.

At the very least, Singaporeans will finally know that a place called Limbang exists now. At most, there’ll be increased media presence and stakeholders disrupting the tranquillity every time Mr Wong returns to visit his ward, and that’s assuming that he’ll stick around in the next general election. 

Honestly, it’ll be interesting to see if one of the most isolated residential municipalities in Singapore will drastically improve once he sits in the most powerful office in the land. But there’s a possibility that Yew Tee residents don’t want radical changes to their estate. They just want their homes to be better places to live in. And not be dubbed ‘Singapore’s most depressing place’.

Even the list of ‘exciting’ developments in Limbang seems more practical in nature—more in service of improving accessibility and introducing initiatives to ensure health and safety for seniors. Things like new bus stops, fitness programmes, and an upgraded swimming complex aren’t precisely electrifying, but they serve the needs of the people who live in Yew Tee. That’s great enough. 

Image: Zaqy Mohamad / Facebook

One can’t help but notice the parallels. The general sentiment of Mr Wong as Prime Minister is that he doesn’t represent a significant shift in politics—he’ll simply be the replacement pilot for a pre-determined charted course. Like what he’s doing for the people of Limbang, the presumption is that he’ll merely make safe little tweaks in governance to ensure Singapore’s basic pragmatic needs are met. 

Maybe that’s why such a momentous occasion like the changing of hands in prime ministership (after 20 years, which is huge) doesn’t feel all too exhilarating tonight. It’s more like switching from one flavour of ice cream to another slightly different flavour—decent, reliable, but hardly earth-shattering. Which isn’t a bad thing

Despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to hype it all up, the handover offers the same level of excitement as we would have for the opening of a new park connector in Yew Tee. Nice to have, but it’ll take time to see if this latest development adds extra sparkle to our daily lives.

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