While the rest of the world wrestles with Pastor Terry Jones' threat to torch Korans on this 11 September, Singaporeans are contending with a more fiery issue of free transportation to Sentosa being impetuously extinguished (lots of incendiary metaphors in this post).
Hawkish Resort World Sentosa (RWS) vice-president Noel Hawkes blasted off the first salvo about the "knee-jerk reaction" to terminate with immediate effect free shuttles servicing housing estates. Both IRs had obtained the necessary approvals from LTA for their transportation master plan, "to bring people here by public transport and avoid people having to take cars and jam up the (Telok Blangah) junction". On Thursday, one day after the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports announced it was investigating free rides to the IRS, RWS had already fired away notice it would voluntary end its heartland shuttle bus service by the weekend, on Sunday. "What we're really concerned about is our guests.. to cut it off like that is a bit blunt." Oh no, not cinder-proof Balakrishnan again. Hasn't burning up nearly $400 million satiated his pyric proclivities?
At the 19 pick-up locations, would be passengers fuming under a blazing sun were unaware of the Casino Regulatory Authority's explosive order to cease and desist. In a flash, Transit Network Consortium's $2 million worth of 18 new buses and 25 drivers were as good as toast. Managing director Neo, who banked his business on brainiac George Yeo's combustible claim that "an IR is not a casino" maintained that "there is (sic) other entertainment here like the theme park and restaurants". The incensed Hawks joined in and rekindled the official line that "the casino occupies (just) 5 percent of the total gross area."
The buses had transported 2,500 people to the IR each day. Mr Yap of Transtar was boiling mad, "This is very unfair to us. It's too harsh to have a sudden change." His company stands to see $2 million for purchasing 13 buses and hiring 36 Singaporean drivers going up in a puff of smoke. He had also swallowed George Yeo's blistering lie, hook, line and sinker, "This is an IR, not a casino. If we were ferrying people just to gamble, then as a Singaporean, I will stop my service. But people are taking the bus with children, so how can they be gambling?" Er, Mr Yap, while junior heads for the Universal Studio flaming attractions, and mommy makes a bee line for the fire-sale at Hermes, dad will probably be staking out the red-hot baccarat table for "asset enhancement" opportunities.
Amidst the flaring tempers, no one seemed to appreciate the altruistic largesse of RWS, providing a precious rarity in the pay-and-pay culture of Singapore, a bona fide, honest-to-goodness, free ride. Instead, confused commuters like 56-year old Tan who had boarded the noon shutlle from Ang Mo Kio were stuck in the scorching heat of Sentosa, "They should have stopped the buses tomorrow so that we can still take it back. How should I go back now?" Maybe he should flag down a YOG bus. The infuriating special lanes are still there, igniting pent up furies.