Thursday, October 30, 2014

“Welcome to the Istana!”

Disclaimer: This is just a pointless piece I wrote to entertain and console myself.  No socio-political commentary is being expressed.  Any semblance of socio-political opinion or innuendo detected is purely coincidental and imaginary.

"The Istana is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Singapore.  It occupies over 40 hectares of land along Orchard Road.  It is a precious and important part of Singapore's history and heritage, and has borne witness to Singapore's many historical milestones." [1]

Sometimes, you decide to visit the Istana for leisure, education or a sense of patriotism. Sometimes, you visit the Istana because you have to.

For instance, say you have a disagreement with a certain government official. The applicable statute may bind you to resolve your disagreement by lodging an Appeal to President of Singapore. [2]

On 20 October 2014, a group of Singapore citizens having some issues with a government official, tasked me to convey their letter of appeal to the elected President of Singapore. [3]

Generally, there are three ways to convey letters: (1) by email; (2) by post; or (3) by personal delivery.

Choosing the mode of delivery was a no-brainer.  I decided on Option 3 as it meant making a trip to the Istana, a place I have never visited but always wanted to.  Besides, it just didn’t sound right to email or post such an important document as a letter of appeal to the President.

A pre-emptory internet check confirmed the address of the Istana as "Orchard Road, Singapore 238823 (Near Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station)". [4]

And so, attiring myself in a long-sleeved blouse in my favourite colour and with the important missive in my hand, I rode the MRT to the Istana at Orchard Road on that sunny Monday afternoon. 

Upon arrival at the Istana gate at Orchard Road, I posed happily for a photo-opportunity selfie, before proceeding towards the policeman standing sentry at the Istana guard post. 

Picture 1: Posing for a selfie at the wrong entrance

Arriving at the Wrong Entrance

I had come to the wrong place, he informed me. "Documents are to be delivered to the Rear Entrance, located at Cavenagh Road", said the policeman who sounded nice.

"How far to walk there from here?" I asked. "20 to 30 minutes," said he. 

Feeling extremely sceptical and challenged to prove him wrong, I dispensed with a taxi, turned my heels and strutted towards the Rear Entrance at Cavenagh Road.

To the complete vindication of the nice-sounding policeman from the Orchard Road gate, I arrived at the Rear Entrance 25 minutes later, a little slimmer and my complexion several shades darker.

Having successfully arrived at the correct entrance for the Office of the President, I fished out my smartphone for a commemorative selfie, as all worthy Singaporeans would do on such an august occasion. 

Just then, I felt the perceptible sting of hard gaze from many human and electronic eyeballs falling on me. 

"No photos here!" growled an unhappy sounding policeman who stood astride the Rear Entrance.  He was clearly well-trained in the art of fixing his eyes for a cold stare, but perhaps less well-trained in the art of making conversation.   

A bevy of other policemen pacing behind watched me closely.  Conceding that I had nothing much to say in response to his 3-word sentence, I surrendered my quest for a selfie at the Rear Entrance.

In contrast to my joy at arriving at the President’s Office, the posse guarding the Rear Entrance did not seem pleased with my presence at all.

Picture 2: 
Leaving the Rear Entrance
after lodging the Appeal
I felt like the protagonist in a wuxia movie [5] trying to enter the gates of the Forbidden City.  Scenes from the period movie tickled me and I thought of entertaining my surly company by cracking a joke: “Bro, relak [6] la. I come as an Appellant, not as an Assassin!” 

Judging from the glares from the countenances of those well-trained people, I evaluated that they were either impervious to humour or lacked sense of the same. With deadly speed, I killed off my bad joke before it saw the light of day.   

I decided that it was best for me and for the happiness of the company I was in, that I quickly deliver my letter and quickly depart.  And which was exactly what I did.  I entered the Rear Entrance, did what I had come to do, and then exited the Rear Entrance gate to the freedom of the public space. 

When I felt that there was a sufficient distance between me and the gaze of human and electronic eyeballs radiating from and around the Rear Entrance, I whipped out my smartphone for a parting shot of the Rear Entrance, before scuttling away.  

Picture 3: My parting shot of the Rear Entrance

4 Tips for Prospective Appellants to the President

Here below are 4 Tips which I have compiled for the benefit of those who may need to visit the Istana to convey appeals or letters to the President. 

Tip No. 1: 

You cannot deliver your letter of appeal to the President at the Orchard Road Istana gate. You must do so at the Rear Entrance located at Cavenagh Road.  This piece of information is not found at the website of the Istana which only states the Orchard Road address.  If you fail to read Tip No. 1, then Tip No. 2 will apply.

Tip No. 2: 

Depending on your state of physical fitness and/or your footwear, it may take up to 30 minutes to walk from the Orchard Road gate to the Rear Entrance gate, and the walking gradient is uphill.  You will repent if you had chosen your attire and footwear based on aesthetics rather than on practicality.

Tip No. 3:  

There are many cameras posted at and around the Rear Entrance that will capture your image. However, any regrets over attire choices based on aesthetics over practicality will be compensated by the fact that you will look good in the images captured of you by those cameras. 

Tip No. 4: 

At the Rear Entrance, you will be closely stared at by a humour-challenged group of non-conversationalists in blue uniforms, at least one of whom will tell you not to take any photos even though you are standing on public space outside the Rear Entrance - and none of whom will say to you: “Welcome to the Istana!

[2] Section 21(8) of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, Cap. 206
[3] NSP Press Release dated 23 October 2014 at


  1. The official residence of the President, are you sure. I always thought it was LKY's office and many say it still is. I heard he also has a new guard called Sony or Tony, not too sure.

  2. Before the Presidential Election, you were assured that the candidate would be a President, elected by the people and for the people. We were sweet-talked into believing that he would be a "pro-people" President, who would safeguard the interests of the citizens of Singapore ... not the Government, not the foreign talents, not the corporate leaders and not the wealthy elites.