Parliament: Civic consciousness essential in keeping Singapore clean, say MPs

SINGAPORE – For Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), finding a public toilet with clean seats that his young daughters can use is always a “mad, crazy race”.

“The reality is that many of our public toilets stink. And I’m not just talking about the smell. Often, seats are covered in urine and the entire facility is unhygienic,” he said on Monday (Oct 5) during the debate on the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill seeks to raise Singapore’s general standards of hygiene and instil a national culture of keeping the country clean.

Mr Ng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) on Sustainability and the Environment, also highlighted the need to “go upstream” to improve public hygiene.

“While this Bill will help, we urge all Singaporeans to move away from the mindset that cleaners will be there to clean up after us,” he said.

Most of the other 11 MPs who spoke during the debate echoed the call for Singaporeans to step up their civic consciousness to improve hygiene standards here.

Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) said: “What does it say about us as a people when we leave our food dishes and rubbish strewn all over the table after a meal and justify it by not wanting the poor cleaners to lose their jobs?”

The Workers’ Party MP added that Singapore has much to learn from societies such as Switzerland, Japan and Taiwan, which maintain high levels of cleanliness despite not having many litter bins or employing many cleaners.

Ms He said this is a result of the civic-minded culture of those countries, where people who are sick automatically wear masks and residents sort their rubbish into different categories for recycling rather than waiting for cleaners to do it for them.

“Perhaps it is also time that we look to wisdom espoused by Goethe, who wrote: ‘Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean’,” she said.

The MPs also gave suggestions to improve cleanliness and hygiene standards.

WP’s Ms Raeesah Khan (Sengkang GRC) said young people should be exposed to more community-based programmes and made responsible for the cleanliness of their schools.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) proposed that the Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment specify toilet design requirements to ensure that toilets are easier to maintain and keep dry.

Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC) suggested that the National Environment Agency (NEA) consider an annual contest where members of the public vote for the top three venues with the cleanest toilets, as well as the three venues with the dirtiest toilets.

“Such a contest may put some social pressure to keep premises owners motivated and this could possibly be more effective than summons and fines by NEA,” she said.

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