Address by Ms Indranee Rajah S.C., Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance, at Heritage@Maxwell
15 May 2017 Posted in Speeches
Commander, Traffic Police, Senior Assistant Commissioner Sam Tee,
Former Commanders Mr Chua Chin Kiat and Mr Rajoo Gopal,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to join all of you this afternoon.
There are about 50 of you present today – active and retired Traffic Police personnel who used to work at 28 Maxwell Road. These include two former Commanders: Mr Chua Chin Kiat, who was Commander in the late 1980s, and Mr Rajoo in the late 90s and early 2000s. So I am glad today’s event has provided an occasion to bring together so many past Commanders and officers.
The strong turnout today reflects the depth of feeling that you have for 28 Maxwell Road, where you had served, and which was for many of you almost a second home, for many years.
Setting the Context
In case you are wondering why the Ministry of Law has organised this event, allow me to provide some context.
In 2010, the Ministry of Law set up Maxwell Chambers, the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex. This is where businesses get their commercial disputes heard by arbitrators or mediators. It also houses the offices of some case administrators, arbitrators, mediators and lawyers who work on these cases.
Over the last six years, Maxwell Chambers has seen a significant growth in demand for its services from the region. Those who already have an office at Maxwell Chambers want more space to expand. There is a waiting list of others who want to take up space at Maxwell Chambers.
The Ministry of Law is therefore refurbishing 28 Maxwell Road for the expansion of Maxwell Chambers. This will allow us to meet growing regional demand for dispute resolution services, attract more international institutions, arbitration chambers and law firms to Singapore, and strengthen Singapore’s position as the dispute resolution hub in Asia.
In a nutshell – the lawyers are taking over 28 Maxwell Road! But don’t be alarmed. We will take great care to ensure that the place does not lose its soul and its unique character.
- Heritage restoration will be a very important part of the refurbishment works. For example:
- In the past ten years or so, after the Traffic Police had vacated the building, several ad hoc awnings and roofs have been added to the building by its then new occupants. All these awnings and roofs will be removed to restore the courtyards to their original open-to-sky design.
- The façade of the building has been bright red since 2005. In the 12 years since, Red Dot Traffic Building has been a striking landmark in Tanjong Pagar, housing the Red Dot Design Museum, various creative agencies and other offices. But soon, the walls will be restored to an off-white colour – closer to what you remember from your time there.
- The building will be beautifully lit at night to highlight its unique architectural features and historical value.
But I am sure that to all of you, and many others, 28 Maxwell Road is not just brick and mortar, and certainly much more than the colour of its walls. It was the people – all of you – which gave this place character. More important than its architectural features are your stories and memories of the place, accumulated over the years.
That is why the Ministry of Law worked with the Traffic Police and students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to launch the Heritage@Maxwell programme – to keep your memories of 28 Maxwell Road alive, and to share them with younger Singaporeans. We owe it to you; and we owe it to them too.
- I understand that the SUTD students have already interviewed over a dozen of you. Some of your stories have been featured on their Humans of 28 Maxwell Road Facebook page and Instagram account:
- Mr Pattiselanno Senior joined the Mobile Squad in 1956, when Singapore was still a British colony. His son followed in his footsteps and is now serving in the Traffic Police. Both father and son are here with us today to share with us their different experiences.
- Mr Richard Tan met, and fell in love with his wife, Esther, at 28 Maxwell Road. Both husband and wife are here today. I am sure this place holds many sweet memories for them.
- This group photo was shared by Mdm Masneah, who has been in the Traffic Police since 1982. It shows the Violations Report Branch, just before they moved out of 28 Maxwell Road in 1999. Mdm Masneah is also here today. I hear she still displays this photo at her desk, so it must be a photo that she holds dear to her heart.
- Several other interesting memories were shared through the interviews.
- The Traffic Police Headquarters used to extend into what is now an open-air public car park. The “mobile garage” used to be there. This photograph from Mr Pattiselanno Senior shows patrol officers from the Mobile Squad with their bikes lined up for inspection. I am told that officers who failed the inspection would have to patrol on foot!
- I believe this was the former Registry of Vehicles, where members of the public would apply for driving licenses and pay their traffic fines. I understand that officers had to work from behind these cage-like wire frames for their protection. Gangsters were known to hurl foul substances at officers – perhaps in anger at being “summoned”?
- Another interesting nugget is that the driving theory exam used to be conducted orally for candidates who did not have at least their ‘A’ Levels, using a table-top map and toy cars. Driving Testers used to conduct the exam in whatever language or dialect candidates were most conversant in. Apparently, if a candidate lifted a car off the map, he would be failed immediately – because obviously, cars can’t fly!
- We sometimes see the Traffic Police doing stunts on their bikes at National Day Parades and other special occasions. These photographs, taken by Mr Pattiselanno Senior in the 1950s, show that this has been a part of TP’s traditions since pre- independence days!
In the top left corner of this next group photo, notice the sign that says “Maxwell Memories”. There must be so many, many Maxwell Memories.
We will feature your memories in the refurbished 28 Maxwell Road. Come 2019, when the refurbishment is completed, the ground floor of the building will be open to the public. There will be F&B outlets. The five open-to-sky courtyards will provide chill-out spaces for people to enjoy. We will also create a new 24-hour public thoroughfare through the building. This thoroughfare in the middle of the 161-metre long building will allow pedestrian connectivity between Tanjong Pagar MRT Station and the new Maxwell MRT Station, and better connect Tanjong Pagar with Maxwell and Chinatown. In the public area of the building, we will set up a permanent heritage exhibit to showcase the rich heritage and history of 28 Maxwell Road. The stories you share today will help provide inputs for this display.
Soon, you’ll be going across the street, back to 28 Maxwell Road – a building which, as we have seen has a proud heritage and a very special place in Singapore’s history. But the story of 28 Maxwell Road is far from over. A new chapter is just beginning.
28 Maxwell Road will become part of Maxwell Chambers. When completed in 2019, 28 Maxwell Road will add 120,000 square feet of space to Maxwell Chambers and triple its current size. It will provide, over four floors, 50 modern, premium offices for international dispute resolution institutions, arbitration chambers, law firms and ancillary legal services. The currently narrow corridors, which I am sure you remember, will be widened with the construction of a new corridor block. The corridors will be glassed up and air-conditioned, for modern day comfort. Existing floors and washrooms will be upgraded to allow barrier-free access. A new overhead link-bridge will provide seamless connectivity between 28 Maxwell Road and Maxwell Chambers’ current premises.
28 Maxwell Road will enjoy a new lease of life as an international dispute resolution complex and anchor Singapore’s plans to be a global dispute resolution hub. In doing so, new stories will be generated, a new legacy will begin, and it will play a very important part in our journey towards SG100.
I wish everyone an unforgettable afternoon. Please catch up with old friends, make new ones, and share your very own Maxwell Memories.
- Thank you very much.
Last updated on 15 May 2017