Joo Chiat cleans up sleazy image

Joo Chiat, once infamous for a stretch of road where prostitutes openly solicited, has now flushed out most of its sleaze. MP Chan Soo Sen said this ahead of a ministerial visit by Law Minister K Shanmugam next month.

Joo Chiat wants to be known for its rich Peranakan heritage, best seen in the old shophouses that line its streets. But its history had been overshadowed by a stretch of road, which gained a reputation as a hotspot for prostitutes.

Back in 2005, Joo Chiat Road was populated by many budget hotels, massage parlours and pubs and this caused great distress to residents who were often separated by just a small alley.

Complaints about loud noises and unfavourable activities in the backlane led to the installation of lights in 2008. Other efforts to clean up the area included an appeal to the police to stop the number of licences handed out to such establishments.

A neighbourhood watch group was also formed to keep a lookout for places that broke the law. And these have paid off, as the pubs and massage parlours have given way to family restaurants and art galleries.

The stretch of road where prostitutes would solicit has also been reduced from 800 metres to 50 metres. In 2005, there were more than 40 pubs and 30 massage parlours. These dropped to 30 pubs and fewer than 5 massage places in 2008.

Chan Soo Sen, MP for Joo Chiat, said: “It will make more economic sense for the landlord to rent our their premises to businesses that can give them better returns, rather than to businesses that have to get a police licence, and who are observed regularly by the community. So I’m confident that over time, things will improve further.”

Asked if he plans to stand in the next General Election, due by February 2012, Mr Chan said he would like to continue, but this has to be decided by his party, the People’s Action Party.

He added: “The Joo Chiat community has given me their support in the last general election. It is my duty to serve them loyally and with dedication, till the last day of my term, whatever that term may be.”

Mr Chan has served two terms as an MP for Joo Chiat, and prior to that, one term in East Coast.

Meanwhile, the work to improve the image of Joo Chiat continues, with the constituency working closely with the Peranakan and Eurasian Associations to highlight its food and culture.

There are also plans to improve the old infrastructure of the area, such as the drainage system, and also to promote active aging among senior citizens.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 19 Apr 2010

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