Wednesday, February 15, 1995

Pulau Ubin has Oldest CC with Oldest Chairman

By Jimmy Yap of Political Desk.
15 February 1995, Straits Times

PULAU UBIN COMMUNITY CENTRE can boast of many things.

It is the oldest community centre in Singapore and is the only island community centre left.

Mr Lim Chye Joo, 89, the chairman of the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC), is Singapore's oldest serving chairman, having been in the position for the past 28 years.

The CC was renovated two years ago at a cost of more than S$20,000.

The old plank walls were replaced with brick, a new roof was put on, and the flooring was done up. It now looks brand new.

But the one thing that the CC cannot boast of is that it is a hive of activities.

No courses are conducted at this CC, and the kindergarten serves just five pupils.

The facilities here are limited.

A basketball court, a room to play ping pong, a room for the kindergarten and a karaoke room that is used more by overnight campers than by the island's inhabitants.

The CC opens at 2 pm. In the afternoon, it is home mainly to sweaty day-trippers seeking shelter from the burning Ubin sun.

But it was not always like this.

Said Mr Lim in Teochew: "The CC used to teach music lessons and wushu. There used to be regular get-togethers on special occasions.

"Sporting competitions such as football and dragon-boat racing were also popular.

"Now there is no one to take part in these activities."

The story of the decline of Pulau Ubin CC is interwoven closely with the history of the island itself.

The island was once home to about 3,000 people. Today, the resident population is estimated to be about 400 people, mostly people in their 60s. Their children have grown up and now live on the mainland.

The island's economy was based on granite, and according to Mr Lim, there were eight quarries in the mid-'70s. Today there are only two.

The CC was first built in 1961 with contributions from residents, and it was originally a community hall.

In 1966, it was converted into a CC, and the first management committee was formed, with Mr Lim in the chair.

Other residents on the island remember how the CC used to be a focal point of activity, and how there would be no problems getting people to join in the activities.

"Even if you didn't organise something, the residents would prod you to do so," recalled the vice-chairman of the CCMC, Mr Ali Montain, in Malay.

"And when we organised activities, we did not have to worry about getting people because there were so many people around. If some couldn't make it, others could.

"Today, it is different. No people."

Like other CCs in Singapore, the Pulau Ubin CC organises trips for residents. Previous destinations include Haadyai and Genting. The last trip that the CC organised was to Bali two year ago for about 30 people. This year, they hope to go to Indonesia again, but that has not been confirmed.

It depends on whether enough people sign up.