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ST Forum
Jun 27, 2011

Save selected parts of Bukit Brown Cemetery

I HAVE just returned from a trip to Malacca and had the opportunity to visit the Unesco World Heritage city's famous Bukit China Cemetery ('Take a DIY walking tour at Bukit Brown'; June 18).
Singapore's Bukit Brown Cemetery may pale beside Bukit China in terms of size or the size and age of the graves themselves, but it is our own. Chinese Singaporeans like me will undoubtedly experience a sense of history, identity and pride visiting the graves at Bukit Brown which belong to our Chinese forefathers, including prominent personalities like Tan Lark Sye, Lim Chong Pang and Chew Boon Lay.

Bukit Brown also boasts the oldest grave in Singapore dating from 1833 and the largest grave 'guarded' by statues of the Sikh watchmen or jagas, belonging to businessman Ong Sam Leong and his wife.
While we understand the need to adopt a balanced approach towards conservation in our land-scarce country, nonetheless I hope the authorities will heed the calls of Singaporeans to find creative ways to conserve at least parts of Bukit Brown, perhaps by relocating some selected graves and tombstones to occupy a smaller area.

As the Bukit China graveyard shows, a historic cemetery may yet have its place in the modern cityscape.
More importantly, its conservation, even if it is done selectively, may mean that this and future generations of Singaporeans need not mourn yet another loss of an invaluable and irreplaceable piece of our heritage which contributes to our sense of rootedness to the place we call home.

Edwin Pang

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