My title is a quote from Amber Deahon, a waitress in the United States of America, who notified authorities when she saw a little girl behaving oddly with a man at her restaurant. According to Gayle King, the editor at large at O magazine, Amber’s action saved the girl from a kidnapper. We should have more people like Amber in this world. Amber took action and she prevented a crime from taking place. We need people who are willing to speak, act and take risks to help others and to create a better world.


Too often people avoid getting involved and they ignore the action or scene that is taking place. Once when the spouse (His Highness) and I were walking home after a meal at a restaurant, we saw a man lying on a pavement outside a popular shopping complex. People were here, people were there, people were everywhere. They walked past this body on the pavement and they either looked the other way or they would look at the body furtively and then hasten their speed! We could not see any security guard. Worried that the man might have had a heart attack, we called the Police and ambulance on our hand phone. Just as the Police arrived, two security guards appeared. There was a flurry of activity as the police and ambulance staff attended to the man. Meanwhile everyone else just stood and looked.

On another occasion people just looked on as a group of young people were fighting and beating up each other in the early hours of the morning. They must have had a night of revelry at a Karaoke club nearby. A young woman at the reception desk of an organization and who could view this scene quite clearly was scared to call the Police. She was afraid that the Police and the young people involved would descend on her! She was not concerned about the possibility of any of the young people falling on the road and cracking their skulls and dying! She was not bothered that if this had happened, the lives of the other young people would have been ruined! Upon pressure she eventually called the Police and ambulance.

More recently a case was reported in the Press of a man who spat in a woman’s face and harassed her at a bus interchange. Apparently, the members of the Public did not intervene nor did the staff of the bus interchange. The security members of the bus interchange were reported to be just watching and not intervening.


Not only should we respond and help others, we should also have the courage to protest against actions or decisions that expose members of the public to danger, hazard or major inconvenience, whether by individuals, private or public companies or government. This is what is meant by active citizenship. Active citizens get involved in their communities. They work for the betterment of their nation. They take action to bring about positive change.

Active citizenship is fundamental to a healthy democracy. People feel they belong to a community and to a nation if they can participate in making their neighbourhood better. The little people should never feel that they have no say in dealing with problems. Do your research, work with other individuals and groups and you will be amazed at just what you can achieve!


A year and a half ago, together with my neighbours, I made a protest against the setting up of a medical centre in the building that we occupy. Our reasons included the following:

• our building is an old one that is not designed to include a medical centre
• there are numerous health hazards associated with clinics
• the fear of radiation leaks, chemical spills and improper waste disposal
• the traffic congestion on our road
• the concern about being exposed to patients with Tuberculosis, Sars, Avian flu etc.

I wrote letters to the relevant authorities and, together with my neighbours, we had meetings with the staff of different government ministries. It was a stressful experience but one that was well worth the effort. The company behind the medical centre project was not open with us about their plans.

The authorities could appreciate that this project was not suitable and they rejected the application made by the company to convert the space to a medical centre. After this rejection, it was still necessary to be alert as the company had not given up on its ambition for a centrally positioned medical centre and is still actively pursuing for an alternative location. Readers take note!

I am grateful to the authorities that they could see that this project would seriously impact the community in our area. I am grateful too, for the opportunity to voice our concern and that the relevant authorities heard us out!

If you are planning to take action against a wrong doing, you must do the following:

• compile your facts logically
• be objective
• conduct thorough investigation and research
• write clearly and provide evidence in your submissions
• make eloquent. concise presentations

It helps to have a good support group. When things get unpleasant, when you feel you wish to give up and when you are harassed, having friends and family members to cheer you on and to encourage you is most important. Whatever happens do not give up if you know that what you are doing is right. Persevere, persevere and persevere!

We may be just the common people, the little people, but we have a right to voice our concerns about things which are not right!


  1. Way to go, Zaibun! Yes, that was a brilliant intervention you initiated with your neighbors. And I remember that you brought up very salient points especially with regard to the effect of radiation leakages, medical waste disposal and infectious diseases. Actually, I shudder to think the Authorities needed a lay citizen to point to these hazards of building a medical centre right among the levels of residences. What were they thinking? Or Were they thinking at all! Your post reminds me of a book by the wonderful (and by all descriptions zany as you are) woman, Jane Jacobs. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities discusses just how vulnerable our cities are to appropriation by the vanities of those with the power of capital and authority. Jane is a mighty example of what you refer to in the title of your post. She is not an architect or town planner by training but she writes on architecture and town planning and her book is considered a classic for architecture students. A ‘mere’ writer by profession, this is the lady who rallied her neighbours to stop town planners (led politics and money) from cutting an expressway through Washington Square Park in the 1950s. Her interventions included breaking up a meeting of the NY State Transportation Authority that was scheduled “without adequate notice” to approve part of the expressway project. Her arrest made headlines. She won. But it took 9 years of activism. She is an inspiration. Closer to home, a dedicated group has been engaging the authorities over the building of an expressway across the Bukit Brown Cemetery. But our planners have stood firm over a decision made decades ago! Can you believe it???! Happy Valentine’s Day.

  2. Active citizenship. That’s what’s needed to make Singapore and the world at large a better place. Funnily enough, I was having a conversation with my colleague about how we can make a difference in our tiny ways, even in areas of skyrocking medical costs and politics. He said it would take about 20 years for things to change. But in this internet age, information and information dissemination are easily accessible by everyone. The person on the street has a greater voice these days.

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