Somapah


Located off Changi Road at the 10th milestone, Somapah was a residential area centred on the Somapah estate, which was also known as Somapah Village.1 The area was named after Indian landowner Hunmah Somapah. Although Somapah Road still exists, the villagers have since been resettled and the area redeveloped into an industrial and commercial area comprising Changi Business Park as well as the Singapore Expo convention and exhibition centre.

Hunmah Somapah
The Somapah area was named after Hunmah Somapah, an Indian broker, commission agent and property owner in Singapore.2


After completing his studies at St Joseph’s Institution,3 Hunmah Somapah was employed by the municipality as a bill collector and cashier from 1886 to 1906.4 He then concentrated on growing the family’s property business after he left the Municipal Board. Among the properties he owned were plots of land in Punggol, Rangoon Road, Paya Lebar and Changi.5 When Somapah died in 1919, the properties he had amassed were believed to be the largest owned by a local Indian at the time.6

Somapah was one of the representatives of the Hindu delegation that lobbied the then governor and commander-in-chief of the Straits Settlements, Arthur Henderson Young, to make Deepavali a public holiday in Singapore.7 In 1914, he also started a scheme to provide free cooked meals for the poor at the Sri Krishna Temple on Waterloo Street.8

Somapah Road
It is not known when exactly Somapah Road was constructed, but in the 1930s, it was one of the roads leading from East Coast Road to the sea.9 In 1949, a proposal was made to the government to improve and widen Somapah Road because it was the only road that gave access to the densely populated Telok Mata Ikan.10 This area was a popular spot for seaside bungalows, including holiday bungalows opened in 1950 for subordinate staff of the Singapore Municipality.11


In 1954, the Singapore Rural Board announced plans to improve and extend Somapah Road.12 In 1979, the Public Works Department started construction works that linked Somapah Road to a new network of roads connecting East Coast Road to Changi.13

Somapah Village (Changi)
Etymology
Somapah lent his name to many of his properties such as the Somapah Village near the 10th milestone on Changi Road, as well as another Somapah Village located at the junction of Tampines and Upper Serangoon roads.14

General facilities and services
Somapah Village at Changi served as the gateway to the coastal villages that lay to the southeast such as Mata Ikan. According to a 1966 historical map, the village was located at the junction of Jalan Tiga Ratus and Upper Changi Road.15

The village had a bustling open-air market, medical clinic, police post, kindergarten and dairy farm.16 The dairy farm was probably Sam Dairy Cooperative, whose owners were the last household in Somapah Village to move out when the area was redeveloped in the 1990s.17

In 1961, the Somapah Wardens, a vigilante corps, was inaugurated. The corps initially comprised around 70 Chinese, Malay and Indian members who went on night patrols to reduce crime in the area.18

A government outpatient dispensary was opened on 15 September 1962 on Somapah Road to serve residents in the Changi-Bedok area.19 In 1971, the government announced plans to build a dental clinic in Somapah Village,20 while Red Cross opened a night clinic on Somapah Road in 1981. The night clinic, which served residents of the nearby islands, operated from the premises of Min Chong Public School. Medical services were previously inaccessible to residents there, especially at night.21

Other villages
Besides Somapah Village, other notable villages in the area included Kampong Harvey (along Harvey Avenue), Gulega Village (along Gulega Road), Mata Ikan Village (at the junction of Somapah and Siak Kuan roads) and Padang Terbakar Village (along Siak Kuan Road).22

In the 1930s, the Chinese villagers living along Gulega Road were mainly involved in catching prawns and growing vegetables for a living.23 By 1960, Gulega Village had an estimated 4,000 residents, many of whom were farmers and poultry-breeders. The Gulega Road Volunteer Corps was formed by the villagers during this time to combat thugs and gangsters in the area.24

Mata Ikan and Padang Terbakar villages were both coastal villages. Mata Ikan was known for its seaside holiday bungalows, while Padang Terbakar was primarily a Malay fishing village.25 In 1966, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew disclosed that people who were being smuggled into Singapore from Indonesia often landed at Padang Terbakar.26 In the 1970s, the shoreline of these two villages was extended further out to sea as part of land reclamation works to enable the construction of the East Coast Parkway.27 In the mid-1980s, the two villages were acquired by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) for industrial developments and the villagers were subsequently resettled into Housing and Development Board flats.28

Schools
Several Chinese schools were founded in Somapah after World War II. Min Chong Public School (公立民众学校), founded in 1946, was a merger of two prewar schools, Bo Wen School (博文学校) and Pei Nan School (培南学校). It was the first Chinese school in Singapore to offer English classes. Min Chong was closed down in 1980.29

Nong Min Public School (公立农民学校) catered largely to the children of farmers residing in Jalan Tiga Ratus, and was in operation from 1947 to 1977.30

Located on Somapah Road, the Red Swastika School, founded in 1951 by the World Red Swastika Society, was built on 3 ac of land that had been donated by Quek Shin, who was then the society’s president. Originally known as Wan Tzu School, it was housed in a single-storey wooden building with six classrooms.31 By 1961, the school had been renamed Red Swastika School and was providing free education for children in the area.32

The government schools found in the area were Changkat Changi primary and secondary schools. The secondary school was an integrated school that was opened in 1966.33 It is not known when the primary school was started, but the school was in existence by 1968.34

Transportation
In 1976, the Singapore Bus Service (SBS) announced plans to build a bus depot in Somapah.35 Subsequently, the relocation of bus services from Upper Changi Road to Somapah caused inconvenience for many commuters residing in Bedok.36 In 1981, Somapah became the designated bus interchange for bus services to Changi Airport as it was then the closest interchange to the airport and had a sizeable number of bus services.37

As Changi Airport was being built in the 1970s, it was predicted that residents in parts of Changi, including Somapah, would be affected by higher noise levels caused by planes once the airport was opened.38 After the airport became operational in 1981, a group of residents living in the area wrote to the press complaining about the noise from the planes flying overhead and petitioned for a quick resettlement.39

Relocation
As residents gradually moved out of the Somapah area, the schools and amenities located there were similarly relocated. In 1981, Red Swastika School moved to new premises at Bedok North Avenue 3.40 The Somapah police post located at Jalan Somapah Timor was closed down in 1984,41 and the Somapah outpatient clinic was closed down in 1990 following the opening of the Tampines Polyclinic.42 Changkat Changi Primary School (now known as Changkat Primary School) moved to Simei in 1988,43 while the secondary school relocated to the Simei estate in 2001.44

Redevelopment
The area close to Somapah Road is currently used for industrial and commercial projects. In 1996, the JTC commenced work on redeveloping the Somapah area into the S$1.5-billion, 66-hectare Changi Business Park, which targeted mostly logistics and high-tech manufacturing companies.45 Parts of the development were opened in 1997.46 Since its launch, the business park has attracted multinational companies such as IBM and Invensys to locate their headquarters there.47


The nearby Singapore Expo convention and exhibition centre was opened in 1999. The centre offered 60,000 sq m of exhibition space after just the first phase of development, making it the largest exhibition venue in Southeast Asia then.48

The newest addition to the Somapah area is the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), which was officially inaugurated on 7 May 2012.49 The campus is located at 8 Somapah Road.50

MRT station

“Somapah” was originally the name given to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station that was located close to Upper Changi as part of the Changi Airport extension of the East-West line.51 The station was eventually renamed “Expo” after Singapore Expo, which it services.52

In 2011, “Somapah” was one of the names suggested for a new MRT station located near Upper Changi as part of the Downtown Line. Again, “Somapah” was passed over and “Upper Changi” was selected as the name of the new station.53



Authors

Stephanie Ho & Jaime Koh



References
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17. Urban cowboys. (1992, January 22). The New Paper, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Another vigilante corps launched: Patrols bring fall in crime rate. (1961, June 1). The Singapore Free Press, p. 4; Telling the people. (1961, June 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Byrne opens new clinic. (1962, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Two dental clinics to serve the rural folk. (1971, November 10). New Nation, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Red Cross opens night clinic in Somapah Road. (1981, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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24. Kampong corps put an end to gangsterism in their area. (1960, September 8). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Holiday homes opened. (1950, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 5; Fishermen told to organize. (1950, October 23). The Straits Times, p. 7; He plans a ‘Go Malay’ outing. (1961, November 16). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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30. 《消失的华校: 国家永远的资产》 [Disappeared Chinese schools: The country’s lasting resource]. (2014). 新加坡: 华校校友会联合会, p. 174. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 371.82995105957 XSD); 李龙. [Li, L.] (2015). 《蕉风椰雨话甘榜五十》 [Fifty tales of kampongs]. 新加坡: 亚太图书出版社, p. 63. (Not available in NLB holdings)
31. Red Swastika School. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, September 11 from Red Swastika School website: http://www.redswastika.moe.edu.sg/about-rss/our-history
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37. And SBS to provide six services. (1981, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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40. $3.6 m school with a TV in every classroom. (1981, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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50. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). (2016). Contact us. Retrieved on 2016, September 13 from SUTD website: http://sutd.edu.sg/About-Us/Contact-Us
51. MRT line to be extended to Changi Airport. (1996, November 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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53. You can now vote on the names of Downtown Line 3 stations. (2011, June 2). Today; Downtown Line 3 stations named. (2011, August 20). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.



T
he information in this article is valid as at 18 October 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
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