Karung guni man turns home into JUNKYARD



ONE resident calls it the rubbish dump of St Michael’s Road.


By Ho Lian-yi



18 February 2008


ONE resident calls it the rubbish dump of St Michael’s Road.


Piles of junk collected over the years are stacked to the second floor of a two-storey terrace house and even along the road in this quiet and serene neighbourhood.


Officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) dropped in last week to ensure that Mr Poon Buck Seng’s scrapheap didn’t pose a health hazard.


It is a mountain of junk, a playground for cats, and some less welcome vermin as well, judging from the flies buzzing about.


On the pavement across the road from the terrace house lies another swath of junk that Mr Poon, 48, a karung guni man, has collected.


Residents think it is aneyesore.


Hidden under the plastic sheets with which Mr Poon covers the mound are used computers, plastic furniture, planks of wood, wheelchairs, old clothes and so on.




Junk for us, but gold for him.


It was the collecting and selling of such goods over the years that allowed the humble, hardworking man not only to sustain his wife and four children, but also to buy a house now worth more than a million dollars, a feat The New Paper reported last year.


But some have complained that storing goods this way is an inconvenience, an eyesore and a health hazard.


One reader, who passes by the house frequently, called The New Paper on Sunday to complain.


She wouldn’t mind it if the mess was just in his home.


‘The trouble is, it spills over into public land,’ she said.


It completely blocks the pavement next to a Buddhist temple, nearly spilling onto the road where Mr Poon parks his bicycle and tricycle.


Pedestrians are forced to walk out onto the street to bypass it.


Little wonder then that some of his neighbours aren’t pleased with MrPoon.


A passerby, seeing the reporter and the photographer, gestured, saying: ‘Terrible ah.’


It wasn’t so bad when MrPoon first moved in eight years ago, but it has become worse recently, said the passer-by.


‘It’s very inconsiderate. A walkway is for people to walk. What he is doing is wrong… that place is not for junk.’


One neighbour, however, said she understood his predicament.


‘On the whole, he is a nice guy,’ she said.


However, she agreed that it was wrong for him to put his stuff on the pavement, as it would block the way.


‘We also feel a bit of pity because he is a karung guni man. It is part of his job. But he doesn’t realise that what he is doing is a hazard. It could breed mosquitoes,’ she said.


Despite the brickbats that they have been receiving, the family is friendly and cordial to visitors.


When The New Paper on Sunday visited them the first time, Mr Poon and his wife, Mrs Poon Yean Bik, 50, a part-time worker at a fast food restaurant, were not home, but their eldest son, 22, still graciously welcomed us to his home.


He lives there with his parents and three siblings, aged 20, 16 and 10.




On a second visit, Mr Poon was spotted rummaging through his junk.


The plastic sheets had been pulled aside, and he was busy sifting through his goods.


He was trying to get rid of the pile, he said. The festive season was responsible for the accumulation of the pile.


‘It is because of Chinese New Year. All the shops are closed,’ he said, gesturing at the junk, in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien.


This means he couldn’t sell the items.


‘It’s only temporary,’ Mrs Poon added, in English, of the pavement problem.


Sounding apologetic, Mrs Poon said she had been pressing her husband to remove the obstruction.


‘I have been scolding him all this while. We know the Government is concerned about dengue,’ she said.


Mr Poon is careful about mosquito breeding and fire hazards, according to his son.


Mrs Poon added that they had been visited by NEA officers.


On Thursday morning, a van from NEA arrived.


The inspectors talked to Mr Poon and looked over his goods. One took pictures.


The NEA said they had received a complaint about the possible health risks from the piling up of junk inside and outside Mr Poon’s home.


But their inspection of the unit showed no mosquito breeding or public health nuisance. Even a repeat inspection revealed nothing.


The NEA said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is looking into the storage of secondhand stuff on the public road and pavement.


An LTA spokesman said the placing of articles on public footpaths is an offence as it can impede pedestrian movements.


First time offenders can be fined $400 and repeat offenders $500.


Although he has not yet been forced to do so, Mr Poon wasn’t waiting to clean up his act – at least on the pavement.


He had been up since 5am on Thursday trying to do this.


Since he doesn’t own a car, it involved four trips a day on his bicycle, selling what he could to a warehouse on Toa Payoh Lorong 8.


The rest he would sell at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market. He promised to clear the mess in a week.


His family is pressing Mr Poon to clear the junk at home as well – if only for comfort.


Inside the house – a musty, cramped place – his son, civil servant Poon Heng Boon, 22, said he had been trying to convince his father to clear a room for his younger brother and sister, who are growing older.


Right now, only the Poons’ two grown up children have rooms. Mr and Mrs Poon sleep in the living room with the two school going children.


‘I told my dad, if you cannot clear, we can hire a bulldozer,’ he said.


 Source: The New Paper

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