“Geography is never just geography, and buildings are never just buildings. They are repositories of shared memories for a lot of people.” – Local film director Kelvin Tong
“THe NSE is expected to cost upward of S$7 billion. One wonders if the funds could have been used to expand MRT capacity or develop better bus services. Tremendous human costs are incurred as residents are displaced, and in Bukit Brown’s case, historical and institutional memories are destroyed.” – Kenny Ching Hwe Seong
“I strongly suspect our grandchildren will not live in misery for want of that extra 0.95% of land. In fact, I hope our grandchildren will be more creative in their urban design, with efficient use of land and infrastructure, without resorting to the destruction of the few cemeteries left.” – Publichouse.sg
“If you think of yourself, you will play the casino with the resources that others entrust to you to get a better bonus, and cause misery to yourself and others.” – Dr Matthieu Ricard, Dalai Lama’s French interpreter and a top Tibetan Monk
First the iconic 7th storey building, then Bukit Brown, now Rochor HDBs …. and the list goes on. And it all points to unrelentless increase of car population over the years, even during the recession years when there was no need for increase in car ownership, yet the car supply was more than demand that the COE plunged to below $10,000 for quite a long time, before the floodgate was open for immigrants and the complaints of traffic jams and shortage of parking spaces kicked in. The side effect? Need to build more roads and car park spaces and as a result disturbing the dead and the living alike. The question is how many minutes of improvement in driving time after spending the millions of dollars? Is it worth it? It is no doubt in my mind that LTA, while not the main culprit for the poor immigration planning, is the bad guy that takes the rap by just solving the symptoms. In Chinese sayings, we call it “if the head pain heals the head, if the leg pain cures the leg” without solving the real cause of the sickness.
Other heart-wrenching disappearing acts include the dilution of the hawker culture and dialects, mom-and-pop businesses and heritage landmarks such as the old National Library and Bukit Brown were some of the things that had to make way for the Government’s “single-minded pursuit of development.
- What would S’pore be like if our grandparents had won
- Bukit Brown and the soul of Singapore
- A plea to the President – Discover your Roots in Bukit Brown (an amazing details of history discovered which I bet the President himself probably does not know)
Source: Todayonline 17 Nov 2011
I refer to reports about the construction of the North-South Expressway (NSE) and the buildings that will be affected, in particular Rochor Centre (“Paving the way for a smoother ride”, Nov 16).
The building, with its unique architecture and quirky colours, is to me a cheerful sight along that stretch of road. Areas like this on the fringe of the city add colour and life to our city state.
In fact, the whole Rochor/Beach Road and Bugis area is slowly being transformed into yet another upmarket area that I feel this country does not need.
We already have the whole of Orchard Road, all the way to the City Hall area, for the likes of tourists and locals to shop and dine in style. Why this need to always keep meddling with areas that are working well and, organically, have become part of people’s lives?
What’s next, I wonder: More “upgrading” for other historic areas? What about the older parts of Beach Road like the food centre and Golden Mile Complex? Will these parts of town be deemed too “unglamorous” and need to be refurbished?
I cannot help feeling that the authorities are too keen to bulldoze buildings that have little economic value, all in the name of increasing traffic flow and speeds. The same can be said of the removal of tombs from Bukit Brown cemetery, which the authorities say is necessary in order to build a road to ease traffic congestion at Adam/Lornie roads.
We need to seriously reconsider ways to improve the public transport system, rather than falling back on building more roads, in the process ruining our landscape and losing our history.
Source: Todayonline 15 Nov 2011
It started innocently enough; a notice in the newspapers about a Chinese cemetery making way for an MRT depot. This prompted me, in early 2008, to drive over with some colleagues for a look-see.
That visit saw us spending the next 13 months actively collecting information, oral histories, and documenting exhumation and temple-related rituals. Our photos reveal that we literally watched as the verdant serenity and historical riches of Kwong Hou Sua Cemetery (KHS) off Woodlands Road were utterly and irrevocably erased.
The lush greenery with its bird calls and cicada shrill were steadily replaced with the stink of excavator fumes and the barren lifelessness of uprooted trees and shrubbery. Pieces of once beautiful carved headstones and statuary lying, incongruously, in neat piles of smashed rubble.
Our work in KHS helped me realise I did not feel rooted to Singapore because I had few people, place and thing markers that made me feel proud of Singapore.
Physical markers I valued from childhood and adolescence – such as the National Theatre, National Library and what I remember as Pasir Panjang Beach – have been, like KHS, obliterated.
I do not envy our urban planners who must balance the need for modernisation with conservation. It is the work they are doing that helps keep Singapore an attractive place for investors whose contributions to our nation’s economic wealth and comparatively advanced national development afford me the luxury of railing against policies with which I might not always agree.
Still, with each generation, our memories of our beginnings grow dimmer. How can we feel proud of and rooted to a home that offers mostly transient proof points for belonging?
How do we reconcile today’s push for character education when our forefathers along with ecological riches and cultural heritage are ploughed under to ease traffic congestion?
With each visit to Bukit Brown, I have again felt the pain from the destruction of Kwong Hou Sua.
I lament the looming loss of the irreplaceable tangible history of our nation. I lament that we selectively remember the past that has made possible much of the present. Worse, that we have failed to systematically record and recount these stories so that our progeny and theirs will remember the many sacrifices and gifts that built Singapore.
Yet, in all my lamentations, I am also grateful for the gifts I have received through my cemetery documentation work. The people I have met, stories that have inspired me, lessons that I have learned, values that have been reinforced. I have been spurred to trace my Chinese Peranakan heritage and to learn more about Chinese culture and customs. These have, in turn, done more for my sense of Chinese-ness than did years of being forced to learn Mandarin.
Dr Gan Su-lin is with Republic Polytechnic.
Source: Todayonline 23 Nvo 2011I WRITE as a concerned citizen about how the Government’s repeated exhortations for residents to utilise public transport do not resonate with its actions.The North-South Expressway (NSE) and Bukit Brown redevelopment plans especially do not cohere with the Government’s stated aims of reducing the number and use of cars.These developments will serve only to encourage residents to drive more as traffic congestion is alleviated temporarily.It is especially worrying when one considers the costs involved. For example, the NSE is expected to cost upward of S$7 billion. One wonders if the funds could have been used to expand MRT capacity or develop better bus services.Tremendous human costs are incurred as residents are displaced, and in Bukit Brown’s case, historical and institutional memories are destroyed.It may be worthwhile to consider if there is indeed an over-arching and coherent vision with regard to car use and public transport in general.
If so, the relevant authorities need to articulate clearly what that is and reconcile development plans with it.
Co-ownership of cars between two or more families should also be allowed, without the constraints of co-operative rules and sub-leasing regulations.
As for parking, the cost of full-day parking should be lower at all Mass Rapid Transit stations and bus terminals.
Incidentally, the buildings in our shopping belt (Orchard Road) and business district (Shenton Way) are not all linked, nor are there sheltered walkways. It is not uncommon, in our weather, to drive down the road instead of walking to another building.
The above suggestions are non-exhaustive but it is noticeable that our traffic management has been based on disincentives and are punitive in nature. Why not try a softer, more incentive-driven approach?
It would not only lower the cost of living but also build a happier, more cohesive society.
Source: The Straits Times 4 Dec 11
I would like to thank the Land Transport Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority for making the effort to explain their rationale for the carriageway through Bukit Brown cemetery (‘Bukit Brown road project ‘can’t wait’‘; Nov20).
It appears that the designated route cutting through the grave site is a result of a Master Plan target to develop a residential estate in that location in three decades’ time.
My question: Why do the planners think that in 30 years’ time, they will have no alternative sites to plant the estate other than at Bukit Brown?
After all, already-concretised plots like Turf City are left untouched for years, golf courses are not acquired, and much of western Singapore is still available for development.
I would also like to know if an environmental impact analysis (EIA) had been conducted prior to the decision to undermine the invaluable roles that Bukit Brown cemetery plays – most importantly as an ecological sponge for rainfall, carbon dioxide and heat.
What were the EIA’s findings, and what steps are planned to mitigate the foreseen risks?
Bearing in mind that flash floods already plague us now and global sea levels are predicted to rise substantially, how much more risk are planners taking in eliminating priceless, natural catchment areas?
Should my generation pass on the legacy of a Singapore full of housing, but held captive by incessant floods?
Marian Tay (Madam)
Askmelah’s Note, 9 Dec 2011: The following two writers are way off the mark, the Bukit Brown Cemetery, and for that matter other calls for conservation of collective memory, is not just for the dead but also for the living as well. There are no lack of space in Singapore, just go look around, there are plenty of vacant lots around the more than 2/3 of all the MRT stations that are vacant for years – talk about lack of space. In the 19 Nov 2011 Straits Times article “Theatre Majestic No More“, the writer listed some of the hits and misses of the preserved buildings. And some of these buildings are simply magnificent. Imagine they were torn down and replaced by yet another tall commercial building? In less than 30 years, we have destroyed all the (and some beautiful) Kampongs except one which is owned by a respected and not money-faced private owner Ms Seng Mui Hong (which will no doubt in my mind to go down Singapore history for her contribution), because no one has fought for the demolition then, do we want to repeat the mistakes all over again?
So don’t give me the crap story about land versus development, just do not increase the population year after year, it is not sustainable. For the records, all Singaporeans are more than 100% housed, the new buildings are for foreign buyers and new citizens and PRs, period. Make do we what we have and optimise all the available resources. We will have a happy and prosperous population without having to import lots of workers of foreigners to tear down old buildings, diverting road traffic, digging roads and build more flats to accomodate ever increasing population. That is my plea and solution for the money-faced Government. Enough is enough!
Make way for living
Source: The Straits Times 19 Nov 2011
I was struck by the reasons put forward by sentimentalists to preserve the old National Library Building in Stamford Road, the Malayan railway land and, now, Bukit Brown cemetery.
I have only one simple question to ask the proposers: In the context of the land here, who needs it more —the living or the dead? Let us get real. We require land to build lands and roads.
Let’s be practical on land use
TWO road projects to ease traffic congestion have raised the hackles of conservationists because they involve using part of the Bukit Brown Cemetery (‘New road to ease Lornie Road jams’; Sept 13) and the relocation of all residents living in an old urban landmark, Rochor Centre (‘More than 500 homes to make way for highway’; Nov 16).
I am glad that long-term practicality has triumphed over other issues. While the governments of other countries are striving to fulfil their citizens’ short- term needs, the Singapore Government is planning for 30 to 40 years ahead, keeping in mind the needs of our children and grandchildren, when many of our current leaders will no longer be around.
Conservation and filial piety are cited for arguing against clearing Bukit Brown Cemetery, which is largely for future housing needs and partly for road building. The very critics who push hard for government flexibility are themselves being inflexible.
‘Consider the bigger picture.’
MR JEREMY TEO: “While I understand Ms Wendy Yuen’s concerns (‘Much to sacrifice for North-South Expressway’; Forum Online, Nov 19), we should consider the bigger picture. Singapore must constantly improve its infrastructure to attract more foreign investments, which will translate into more jobs. Preservation of buildings, especially those without much historical value, should not be the first priority when we are a land-scarce nation. Sacrifices have to be made for Singapore to become a First World country with a world-class transport system.”
If the Government is not prudent, there is no guarantee that our grandchildren will have proper housing.
Show filial piety to parents when they are around, and care for the future needs of our children and grandchildren.
Let us be practical – Bukit Brown should be developed and Rochor Centre should make way for the North-South Expressway.
Ang Chin Guan
Bt Brown too eerie to attract culture buffs
Source: The Straits Times Feb 11, 2012
MINISTER of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin stated in his Facebook post the idea of bringing in more Singaporeans to appreciate the heritage, culture and biodiversity of Bukit Brown Cemetery (‘Green light for road through Bt Brown’; last Saturday).
He also wants to maintain its rustic charm and preserve the environment and heritage.
But a cemetery is a cemetery; a place to bury the dead. Most ordinary Singaporeans, especially the Chinese, may not want to live next to a cemetery, or any grave.
I have lived next to Bukit Brown Cemetery for almost 20 years. Some graves are barely two to three metres from my house. Few people visit the cemetery, even during Qing Ming, the annual Chinese festival dedicated to cleaning ancestors’ graves.
Hardly anybody takes a stroll there, even during weekends.
What I have seen regularly are horses and riders from the Bukit Timah Saddle Club. Horse droppings proliferate and are washed off only when there is a heavy shower.
Naturally, the cemetery is deserted when night falls. A vehicle repair yard filled with rusty scrap metal and engine oil sits at the entrance of the cemetery; lorry and car owners take their vehicles for repairs there on weekdays.
That would describe the ‘rust-ic’ charm of Bukit Brown Cemetery.
It was only after a new road was proposed, cutting into the cemetery, and subsequent brouhaha, that I began seeing a few more Singaporeans visiting the area.
Only with the cacophony of concerns about heritage, culture and biodiversity has some human activity been recorded.
But let us be clear – this cemetery remains by and large uninhabited and neglected by humans.
As a long-time resident, I doubt that Bukit Brown Cemetery, or for that matter Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, can be part of our active heritage, culture and biodiversity.
They are, by and large, too eerie for the likes of average Singaporeans.
[Askmelah’s Note: while I agree largely with the writer’s argument esp on the part of culture buffs, conveniently demolish the green place and replaced with a vacant plot for years is just not right as well. I visited the place a year prior to the Bukit Brown incident, the place was not void of visitors on the weekends. I saw many Caucasian bringing their family for a slow walk, I also saw a few jogging and a few westerners were there on a discovery trip. I definitely don’t want to see another vacated cemetery plot like the one near the Potong Pasir MRT.]