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Mar 6, 2012

Tan Chuan-Jin vs Janice Koh on Bukit Brown

At least four Members of Parliament made emotional last-ditch attempts to save Bukit Brown. -myp

Victoria Barker

SINGAPORE - In a power-packed Committee of Supply debate yesterday, at least four Members of Parliament made emotional last-ditch attempts to save Bukit Brown, which will make way for a dual four-lane road.

Nominated MP Janice Koh spoke of her personal connection to the cemetery - her great-grandfather is buried there - and asked if the road works could be held back until a "stronger national consensus" emerged.

"Nothing quite replicates the emotional experience of standing on the very ground where your forefathers were buried generations ago," she said.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin replied that the Government had explored many options, such as widening Lornie Road and constructing a viaduct, before making the "difficult decision" to build the proposed road.

That plan "has the least impact" on the area, he said.

While development should not come at the expense of Singapore's heritage, he added that the younger generation have their own memories to make.

For instance, Toa Payoh was once a cemetery known as An Xiang Shan. "It's now home for many, many Singaporeans... Our children are growing up and forming their new memories of these places," he said.

The southern part of the Bukit Brown area will be set aside for public housing as an extension of Toa Payoh, he said.

Mr Tan recalled the response of People's Action Party founding member Lim Kim San when he faced similar concerns during exhumations at Tiong Bahru.

"(He) asked a group who went to see him, 'Do you want me to look after our dead grandparents, or do you want to look after your grandchildren?'" said Mr Tan.

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