Thursday, August 02, 2007

Complainants to have ownership of problems

Last night, Michelle and I went for the meeting with the MP organised by the caregiver. The caregiver wanted to start up a pet club in her community club, which is good to hear, and their first project was to be a TNRM project.

The caregiver was speaking with Michelle when I arrived. She was concerned that we would bring up potential problems (such as complaints and abandonment) which might stop the MP from agreeing to the club being started and wanted us to focus on statistics so the club might be allowed to run for a year to begin with. However we felt that it was very important to be clear about what potential problems were so that realistic expectations could be achieved - ie if you don't mention the possible problems and how to tackle them, then the programme may be viewed as a failure. I told the caregiver that I felt that most MPs were concerned about problems - but they did not just want to hear about problems, they wanted to hear solutions. I also pointed out that we were there to speak on TNRM which is what we know about and we have to paint a clear picture of what it entails. While we were very glad to hear about her wanting to start a club, that was for her to elaborate on as she knew what she wanted to do best.

The caregiver started out by outlining what her club would cover, including responsible pet ownership, TNRM and other matters before the MP spoke.

The first thing the MP asked was what the residents there felt the problems were. He said that he was very much a problem solver and wanted to get from them a sense of what the issue was exactly. He wanted to ask about community cats first and to see how much of a problem the caregivers felt they were. The really interesting thing he said was that he rarely got complaints about community cats in his area - in the whole zone he managed, there were only 20 to 30 complaints a year, which he felt was very low. He also said he did a lot of block visits (one a week) to different blocks in his zone, and he did not get a feeling from the residents he spoke with that cats were an issue with them. Since the beginning of this year, there had only been 4 complaints per zone.

He asked the caregivers what they felt. As the caregiver who called for the meeting had only very recently started TNRM in her estate and had not as yet spoken with her TC, another two TNRM caregivers shared their experiences. They said that their officer was quite helpful and that they did not really have too much of a problem. They explained they worked with the TC and had involved NEA in situations as well where there was recalcitrant littering by feeders. The MP was very pleased to hear they were working with the different stakeholders in this.

One of the Peoples' Association members also spoke and mentioned that there was certain criteria for a club to be formed under them and this included having community groups that would promote racial bonding.

The MP also asked if irresponsible pet owner was a huge problem and the two caregivers explained that there was dumping and cats allowed to wander on different occasions. They did not however think it was a huge issue as well.

The MP felt that at this point there was no need for a formalised group bearing in mind that the situation was quite well managed. He said that this did not mean that dialogue would end, and he was happy the caregivers were working to handle the community cat population, but that perhaps it would be best to work on it at a localised level with the town councils and the relevant bodies. I asked if he might ask the TC to support the caregivers in their work. He said that he understood the town council was quite supportive - the two caregivers confirmed that for their area the officers were, but out of this zone, the other caregivers had a tougher time.

The MP kindly offered to speak with the TC if the caregivers felt that they were hitting a brick wall in their dealings with the TC.

The two caregivers mentioned that they did have a problem with anonymous complaints being entertained by the TC. The MP felt that it was important for people to do their part when there was a problem. He said for example if people felt that there was noise from the basketball court, that they should come down along with him or the officers to have a look. He said if the person refused, he would tell the person that it would be hard to solve the problem without him or her.

He said he would speak with the TC officers and ask that they take down as much information as possible including the complainant's information. He said that sometimes people left anonymous voice mails which made it difficult to get information though. I asked him if it was possible to speak to the town councils about persistent, anonymous complaints who did not want to come forward.

The MP also said that he felt there was a need to get Singaporeans to be more responsible and that they cannot expect everything to be done for them. He felt that they needed to have ownership of the problem too if they complained about it. It was really good to hear this!

So at the end of the day, there was no pet club but when I spoke with the two caregivers as we left, they were happy with the outcome of the meeting as it went further in protecting the community cats. The caregiver who called the meeting was in deep conversation with one of the officers and her husband as we left so we only said a quick goodbye. We did not have a chance to ask her how she felt the meeting went. I hope she wasn't too disappointed as the community cats in this area look to be well protected with the MP's help, which I am sure was the aim of this at any rate.

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Blogger animalfamily said...

it's great the MP is supportive but i wonder why he would not want to take the caregivers' work further by formalising the club? because that is really the best way to get more buy-in from the community and maybe recruit more volunteers to alleviate the work of the current caregivers.

does he feel that if the cats in this area weren't as well taken care of as they are, there would then be more reasons to start the club? or are there other reasons to maintain status quo e.g. a cat club would be too politically subversive? just pondering...

2/8/07 2:58 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I believe he felt that since it was a pet club, and not a CAT club, that there might be issues with dogs for example. He said this might not be the case, but that it was worth thinking about and since everything was working well, he considered sticking to the status quo for now.

The PA apparently has certain requirements and the PA person there said it must promote racial bonding and harmony. Technically though just about anything would come under racial bonding I suppose.

2/8/07 3:13 PM  
Anonymous apple said...

All TC should make it a policy that anoymous complaints will be ignored,will not be entertain.

3/8/07 12:17 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

apple - I agree. Unless you have a genuine reason for staying anonymous - fear for your life, etc - then you should be compelled to give your details. Think how many LESS complaints TCs would need to deal with too.

3/8/07 5:02 PM  

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