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Business Times
February 28, 2014

Saving Bukit Brown calls for huge sacrifice of land

I REFER to the article "Preventing a grave error" by Chew Kheng Chuan (BT, Feb 22-23).

The article rightly points out that Bukit Brown is the largest Chinese cemetery outside China. Let us take a macro view of the issue of burials in a modern context.

A New York Times article dated Oct 30, 2013, titled "Too many bodies too little space", highlighted that the world's cities are running out of space to bury human bodies. The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported on June 6, 2012, that the Yarkon Cemetery is building multiple vertical graves, with elevators, across Israel, due to the lack of land.

This is also happening in various countries with considerably greater land space than Singapore. In an article "Why China is turning graveyards into farmlands", on news website www.worldcruch.com dated Nov 22, 2012, it was reported that there was a historical reform implemented after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 "when burials were discouraged and cremation became mandatory, in order to save land".

It is clear that even countries with large tracts of land have no option but to convert land with graves for the benefit of living human beings. It is well known that Singapore is facing a severe crunch of land space and young couples have to pay high prices for public housing, not to mention cars being beyond the reach of the average Singaporean family.

When the writer states that in Bukit Brown "lie our heritage and our history as a people", "the final resting place for our pioneers" and "the earliest generations of immigrants who built this society", surely he is referring only to the Chinese immigrants to Singapore. Singapore is a model of a multi-racial society admired by many countries in the world; these statements attribute the early history of Singapore specifically to one racial group.

With great respect to the writer's great grandfather, there are many landmarks in Singapore named after Boon Lay, i.e. a well known road named Jalan Boon Lay and Boon Lay Way, an MRT station called Boon Lay MRT Station and even a primary school called Boon Lay Garden Primary School. Surely, this is according tremendous respect to the writer's great grandfather. Requesting political leaders to step in to save this graveyard is surely asking for the current and future generations to make a huge sacrifice of precious state land.

Manmohan Singh

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