Potong Pasir is an area located between Toa Payoh and Sennett Estate in the North-East Region of Singapore. For urban planning purposes, it is classified under the Toa Payoh area. Potong Pasir is particularly notable for being the longest-held opposition ward in one-party dominant Singapore. Its Opposition Member of Parliament Chiam See Tong has held the ward since 1984. Potong Pasir is easily accessible by the MRT station.
In 2011, the ward, led by Mrs. Lina Chiam, was lost to 3-time challenger Sitoh Yih Pin in what was the slimmest of margins of 114 votes; with 242 votes rejected. Mr. Chiam See Tong led a team of 5 to contest in the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC) during that General Elections.
From 1910 to 1937, it was dominated by sand-quarries, hence giving it its present name, which means 'cut sand' in Malay. These mining activities created four ponds linked to the Kallang River, although they were reduced to two due to massive flooding in 1968. The ponds provided a good source of food for the local village folk, until pollution set in later.
In the mid 1950s, Potong Pasir was one of the most important vegetable growing areas in Singapore. The land here had been cultivated since the 1830s. The farmers there were almost all Cantonese and they used traditional methods with great success.
Leafy vegetables were grown on farms located in lowland areas such as Potong Pasir, Changi, Ponggol, and Sembawang. Watercress was the most important type of vegetable grown in Potong Pasir. A small portion of farmland was used for planting coconut palms.
Vegetable farming in Singapore was a family business. Farmers of Potong Pasir lived in attap houses, in zinc roof and semi-concrete houses. The general condition of the rural roads was poor. Most farmers in the area leased their land from the Government.
During the early years, Potong Pasir was also a site of regular flooding. Villagers would take refuge in nearby St Andrew's School, which was on Woodsville Hill.
Rapid change took place for the past five decades, with the building of a bridge across the ponds in the 1950s, a venue for education introduced in the form of a village community centre in 1952, piped water and electricity in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, most of the villagers had already started to move out as the land was acquired by the government for massive redevelopment.
Hence, a public housing estate, Potong Pasir Estate, began to take shape in the 1980s, with construction commencing in 1982, and the first blocks completed two years later. The sloping roof of some blocks became the most recognisable icon of Potong Pasir. From then till now, the ward has managed to retain its idyllic feel even as the pace of urbanisation has caught up with other areas. Potong Pasir also have the HUDC flats, but it was demolished in January 2018 together with Jade Scape, the first to get en-blocs since July 2016 and it was replaced by The Tre Ver, which is going to be near to Potong Pasir, Woodleigh and Bidadari redevelopments respectively.
Potong Pasir is currently managed by Sitoh Yih Pin of the People's Action Party.
Singapore's longest serving opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Chiam See Tong, managed it from 1984 to 2011. The Singapore People's Party, of which he is a member, is part of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, which is in turn made up of four opposition parties.
Elections in Potong Pasir have always been hotly contested as the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) seeks to unseat Mr Chiam. The current PAP candidate, Sitoh Yih Pin, has much support from the party, although the last PAP candidate, Andy Gan, failed in his bid to wrangle Potong Pasir from Chiam in the general election in 1997, even with the support the PAP gave him.
In the 2006 General Elections, the PAP promised extensive upgrading for Potong Pasir estate if Sitoh Yih Pin got elected as MP for the seat of Potong Pasir. Despite that, Chiam won for the 6th consecutive term by a larger margin compared to the 2001 General Election.
In the 2011 General Elections, Mrs. Lina Chiam, who took over the reins from incumbent Mr. Chiam See Tong, lost to twice-unsuccessful challenger Sitoh Yih Pin of the PAP by a mere 114 votes in a close 7973-7859 vote count.