Kim Seng Constituency



Kim Seng Constituency was located in the Bukit Merah area, within Singapore’s Central Region. It was named after Tan Kim Seng, a successful businessman and leader of the Chinese community in the 19th century. The constituency’s original boundaries were Indus Road and Alexandra Canal in the north, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee in the south, Kim Seng Road and Outram Road in the east, and Lower Delta Road in the west. In 1991, Kim Seng Constituency was merged with the Kampong Glam, Cairnhill and Moulmein constituencies to form Kampong Glam Group Representation Constituency.1 The land in these areas was previously a Chinese cemetery for the Hakka and Cantonese communities.2

History
In 1857, Tan donated $13,000 to improve the town’s water supply. In 1882, the municipal commissioners erected a water fountain (now located at The Esplanade) to commemorate his contribution.3 A road and bridge also bear his name.4


In the 1950s, Kim Seng and its neighbouring area, Bukit Ho Swee, were notorious crime-filled slums. Thousands of dilapidated huts had sprung up at these locations as a result of the population boom after World War II. The squalid conditions affected the health and morale of residents.5 The situation changed after two big fires in 1961 and 1968 made at least 10,000 residents homeless.6 The burnt-out, rundown shacks were replaced by modern flats, and residents were rehoused in what became the Bukit Ho Swee and Kim Seng housing estates.7 The newly established Housing and Development Board ensured that the estates were self-sufficient by incorporating schools, business and social amenities in the design.8

Due to population and re-zoning changes, the boundaries of the Kim Seng area were adjusted over the years. In 1972, the area was made a constituency with an electorate of 12,839.9 Prior to that, the area was part of the Delta Constituency.10

In the 1972 General Election (GE), Ong Leong Boon of the People’s Action Party (8,178 votes) defeated Heng Swee Tong of the Worker’s Party (3,895 votes) in the Kim Seng Constituency.11 Ong was re-elected in the 1976 GE, and by then, the constituency’s electorate had expanded to 14,860.12

In 1980, the Kim Seng Constituency was divided geographically into four residents’ committees to serve the needs of constituents in some 5,100 households.13 In the same year, a two-storey community centre – dubbed a “common luxury” for the poorer residents – was built at Indus Square on Havelock Road.14 During the GE held that year, Yeo Ning Hong of the People’s Action Party was elected as the new member of parliament for the constituency.15 Yeo was appointed minister of state for defence the following year.16

Built in a hurry to re-house victims of the Bukit Ho Swee fire, the Kim Seng Constituency underwent upgrading in 1988. The improvements included new park facilities and more trees to create a greener and more pleasant neighbourhood.17

In 1991, Kim Seng was incorporated into the Kampong Glam Group Representation Constituency, together with three other single wards – Kampong Glam, Cairnhill and Moulmein.18 The group representation constituency was looked after by the City Centre Town Council at Ganges Avenue, located beside the Kim Seng Community Centre.19

In the 1990s, improvements to the housing estate in Kim Seng were made through the Housing and Development Board’s Main Upgrading Programme. At the time, there were about 5,900 households with some 23,000 residents living in the area; most of  whom were Chinese Hokkiens.20 In a research report on under-achieving Chinese published by the Chinese Development Assistance Council in 1992, Kim Seng was identified as one of five areas with the highest density of lower income Chinese households. The other four areas were Kreta Ayer, Whampoa, Bukit Merah and Kampong Glam.21

Key features
Landmarks in the Kim Seng area:


Giok Hiong Tian Temple
The Giok Hiong Tian Temple was funded and erected on Havelock Road in 1887 by Cheang Hong Lim, a famous Hokkien opium farmer who funded the public garden now known as Hong Lim Green. One of the most architecturally decorative and ornate temples in Singapore, it is dedicated to the Chinese deity, Ti Kong.22


Fuk Tak Tong Temple
Also located on Havelock Road, the Fuk Tak Tong Temple was erected in 1921 and dedicated to Tai Peh Kong (also known as Tua Pek Kong). It was built to cater to female devotees with bound feet who found it inconvenient to travel to Kusu Island to pray to the deity.23


Chwee Hean Keng Temple
The Chwee Hean Keng Temple was built in 1927 on Zion Road to honour three great Chinese officials who were venerated since the Song dynasty: Wen Tianxiang, Lu Xiufu and Zhang Shijie.24 In 2009,it was reported in the media that the temple was to be evicted  due to rental arrears. However, there was an extension by the Housing and Development Board until 2011.25 At 8 am on 5 May 2012 (Vesak Day), the temple vacated the Zion Road premises to a temporary location at 319 Upper Paya Lebar Road (opposite Tai Keng Gardens condominium).26



Author
Vernon Cornelius



References
1. Henson, B., & Zaleeha Ibrahim. (1991, August 10). Kg Glam's political history preserved. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, pp. 15, 21. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
3. Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 RAM)
4. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 214–215. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
5. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, pp. 20–22. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
6. How the Kim Seng spirit survived the disastrous fire of May 1961. (1982, April 5). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Loh, K. S. (2013). Squatters into citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire and the making of modern Singapore. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia, p. 148. (Call no.: RSING 307.76095957 LOH)
7. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
8. How the Kim Seng spirit survived the disastrous fire of May 1961. (1982, April 5). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. De Cruz, G. (1971, October 21). Why certain wards are not touched. New Nation, p. 6; The constituencies. (1972, August 30). New Nation, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Boundaries of new wards. (1971, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. [Untitled]. (1972, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. All the results.... (1976, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Kim Seng to get 4 RCs. (1980, April 7). New Nation, p. 5; Kim Seng RCs: 300 get invites. (1980, May 30). New Nation, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Kim Seng ‘common luxury’ soon. (1980, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 10; Soon, the pride of Kim Seng. (1980, August 20). New Nation, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. All the results.... (1980, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Ahmad Osman. (1981, April 7). 4 junior ministers resign. The Straits Times, p. 1; Three acting ministers promoted. (1984, May 31). The Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Greener, more colourful Kim Seng in the offing. (1988, February 8). The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. 21 single-member wards, 15 GRCs for next election. (1991, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Kg Glam’s political history preserved. (1991, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
20. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, pp. 15–16. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
21. Where lower-income families are concentrated. (1992, October 29). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
23. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
24. Tan, S. (1996). Kim Seng: A reflection of Singapore’s success. Singapore: Kim Seng Publication Committee, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
25. Century-old temple appeals against eviction. (2009, June 20). The Straits Times, p. 44;  锡安路水显宫再获准 继续留原址到2011年. (2010, January 1). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Post by administrator. (2012, April 15). Contact. Retrieved 2017, May 4 from the official Shui Xian Gong 水显宫 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=387527544619534&id=307861622586127



The information in this article is valid as at 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive and complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Suburbs--Singapore
Streets and Places
Urban planning
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Geography>>Population>>Urban Planning
Street names--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Law and government>>National development>>City planning