Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

November 2011

Straits Times Forum
Nov 28, 11

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.

 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

ST Forum
Nov 27, 2011

Nothing concrete in earlier plans for Bukit Brown


Last Sunday's article, 'Bukit Brown road project 'can't wait'', reported that 'strangely, the URA said, no one raised a ruckus when plans highlighting the area's intended future use were displayed for feedback' in 1991 and 2001, when the Concept Plans were released.

This argument is being used to refute current public opinion against the transport and housing developments in Bukit Brown cemetery.

In 1991 and 2001, there were no concrete announcements on the intrusion of physical infrastructure like the road. If there had been a public outcry then, the Government would have replied, understandably, that such an outcry was premature as nothing concrete had yet been planned.

More importantly, we were a different country two decades ago. Thanks to nation-building efforts by the Government, Singaporeans today are more conscious of their national identity and are thus sensitive to any loss of heritage.

With a bigger population now, Singaporeans are hungry for more open spaces and recreational areas, of which Bukit Brown is one.

We also now have new know-ledge of just how rich a historical and ecological resource Bukit Brown is.

Arguments for the conservation of the area were put forth by the Nature Society (Singapore) in its Feedback for the Inter-Ministerial Committee Project on Sustainable Singapore: Lively and Liveable City in 2009, and by the Singapore Heritage Society in the book, Spaces Of The Dead: A Case For The Living, published in May this year.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority Concept Plan is intended for long-term planning and its zones are broad and flexible.

For example, Pulau Ubin was also zoned for residential use in 1991 but it was later re-zoned as 'open space and reserve land' in the 2001 Concept Plan.

To imply that present-day concerns are invalidated by not having been raised 10 or 20 years ago is a flawed premise that leads to sub-optimal decision-making based on outdated information and analysis.

It also denies the possibility for any generation to determine its own immediate future and those of its children.

Chua Ai Lin

Terence Chong

Executive Committee Members

Singapore Heritage Society

TODAY VOICES
Nov 24 2011

Why conservation is pragmatic
by Philip Holden

Having taught and researched Singapore literature for years, I often find myself inadvertently drawn into discussing it. Last Sunday, my doctor told me that he'd been reading Robert Yeo's classic The Adventures of Holden Heng, written twenty-five years ago but just republished. I asked him what he liked about the book. The central character, perhaps, or the plot? Not really, he told me. What he liked was that the novel brought back to life places he'd known so well that have now disappeared.

In the last month, we have heard of two more parts of our contemporary landscape that are in danger of disappearing. The Rochor Centre flats and Bukit Brown Cemetery at first sight have little in common: A modern space for the living, and a much older space for the dead. Yet both are important parts of the lifeworlds of a significant group of Singaporeans, and both are making way for the demands of development, for more roads to cater for Singapore's ever-growing car population.

In both cases, planning decisions seem to have been made before a full process of consultation has started: Consultation has thus largely been an exercise in minimising the negative effects of a course of action already decided upon, rather than exploring alternatives through genuine dialogue.

The reasons advanced in favour of the removal of graves from a section of Bukit Brown and the demolition of the Rochor Centre flats at first seem compelling. Singapore faces constraints on land that few other cities do, and it seems inevitable that heritage sites that make less intensive use of space will make way for contemporary, more space-efficient structures. The old makes way for the new, and administrative expediency trumps consultation.

On reflection, though, this seems very much part of an outdated paradigm. One of the key issues of contention in the general and presidential elections in this year was the desire of Singaporeans for greater participation in the processes of governance.

And Singapore, in the last decade, has made its physical constraints a virtue. Faced with the prospect of water shortage, the Government did not take the easy route of negotiating an extension of the water agreements with Malaysia, or making new water supply treaties with Indonesia. Rather, it encouraged the development of technologies for recycling and desalinating water, providing the basis for the growth of companies such as Hyflux which are now major players internationally.

We could also show similar vision in dealing with conservation issues. Singapore's restricted size and the pace of its development means that we are now working through debates concerning the preservation of heritage that will later be confronted in the rest of developing Asia. If we develop best practices in consultation mechanisms that bring in all members of the community, in sustainable development, and in engineering solutions that preserve heritage landscapes and structures, such expertise will surely be invaluable in the future.

Arguments for heritage frequently stress the intangible: The disorientation we feel at the loss of familiar landscapes, and the erosion of a sense of community that accompanies this. This sense of a connection to the past is certainly important.

My own experience of removal from Hillview Avenue estate under the Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) has taught me that communities take many years to grow, and cannot simply be transplanted from one built environment to another. Yet for Singapore in the present, developing a cutting-edge expertise in the conservation of heritage would also make sound pragmatic economic sense.

Imagine a Singapore in thirty years time where my doctor and I, now both retired, would not have to rely on literature alone to bring the past to life, or to jog our now failing memories. Rather, we would live in a Singapore that had developed as a thriving heritage management hub, where places such as Bukit Brown and the Rochor Centre flats would not have vanished, but rather have become further enriched as spaces of community through the lived experiences of a new generation of Singaporeans.

Philip Holden is a Singapore Permanent Resident with a long history of involvement in heritage-related issues. He teaches at the University Scholars Programme at the National University of Singapore. A shorter version of this appeared in the print paper.

http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC111124-0000001/Why-conservation-is-pragmatic

This story was first published on 22 Nov 2011

It was an overgrown sector of Blk 1.   Therefore it was a pleasant surprise when I came across a triad of tombs, one with a cross, a Hokkien style tomb and a memorial plaque
Nearby a lamp was lit.  I have seen the lamp lit before the last time I was there.
I walked around and saw an old man cutting grass nearby some tombs.  I talked to him and asked if he was tendering to his ancestors' grave.
No,  I was looking after my ancestors' neighbors.  I was surprised.  He led me to some nearby tombs of this triad, and point one by one each of these tombs.
"I always come to say hello to this little boy.  And this gentleman here"  The old man pointed to several neighboring graves.   "They are all my grandfather neighbors."
I was curious about the cross, the lamp, the memorial plaque and the tomb. 
He was in talking mode that day,  perhaps he was surprised that I knew about this tomb with the light also.
This is his story....
My grandfather Lo Kim Hak used to be a letter writer for the Sinkehs (immigrants)  in the past during the 1910 – 20s, just after the Chinese Republic was formed.
He was a very helpful person, and was well liked by the Sinkehs
A letter writer (pic from PICAS)
Lo was well respected by the people, but he earned a honest living, he was very poor when he died young at the age of 37 in 1925, but the sinkehs and
neighbors put together $300 for him to have a nice marble tombstone
My grandfather then had married Gan Kwee Geok, who lived till a ripe old age.  Before she died, she became a Catholic.
Margaret Gan Kwee Geok
I used to light a lamp for her whenever I came here. Although I am a Taoist,  I know she would be comforted by the light of the lamp.  The lamp can burn for 4 days.   Sometimes I read besides the tomb and the light, and enjoy the bliss and serenity of the quietness of the cemetery and the sweet nature sounds.
Lo and Margaret has 2 daughters,  one of them was Mary Low.
Mary Low was married to K H Tann, better known as Tann Kim Hock,  he was a cinema pioneer of the early days of Singapore, and worked for Universal Pictures
Tann is an unusual surname,  but Kim Hock preferred to add an additional N as he thinks the correct pronunciation of Tan should be Tann.
K H Tann, 2 Jun 1932
K H Tann was a well know cinema pioneer and film distributor, managing the Operation of Universal Pictures in Singapore.
On 9 Jul 1925, he even went to Bangkok, taking with him the picture "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," which he was arranging to screen before the Siamese Royal Household
Kim Hock was the son of Tan Pong Guan, who was at one time secretary to the Consul General of China based in Singapore.
The old man continued his story ..
I was an adopted son of Tan Kim Hock and Mary Low,  my actual surname was a Ong. 
But since they have adopted me and taken care of me, it is time I take care of them back.
This is a memorial plaque for my mother Mary Low, her ash is in a columbarium,  but I thought I would like to put the memorial plaque next to her father.
I don't understand why the Government is going to redevelop this place.   There is so much history and shared memories of our forefathers here.
Anyway,  I will always come and light up the lamp, and let the light continue to shine in Bukit Brown

Zaobao 2011-11-21
谢燕燕

  目前被人们误称为咖啡山的武吉布朗坟场原非咖啡山,其历史也并非始于1922年,而是比那早上半个世纪,即1872年左右。算起来,武吉布朗坟场的历史应该有139年。
  武吉布朗坟场之所以会变成人们俗称的咖啡山,是因为人们不习惯用洋人的名字为华人坟场命名,坟场在40年前封山后,人们逐渐忘了它的历史和原有的华文名称,因此出现上述误解。
  今天恐怕没多少人记得姓王山(后称太原山)、二关塚山新恒山亭老山颜永成山等,幸存下来的,似乎就只有咖啡山,于是咖啡山就成了上述坟山的总称。
  本报最近四处寻访本地文史工作者及曾在坟山聚落生活的旧居民,走访会馆,翻查旧刊物和档案资料等,尝试拼凑武吉布朗坟场已被遗忘的历史。
  原来的武吉布朗坟场,是由王氏太原山(最早称姓王山)和福建会馆的大巴窑新恒山亭所组成。
  不过这两座毗邻坟山,在上世纪20年代前后被英殖民地政府征去一部分土地,用来设立1922年启用的华人公塚二关塚山
  今日的武吉布朗坟场,便是由二关塚山、太原山和新恒山亭剩余坟山所组成。它指的是从罗尼路(Lornie Road)转进森路(Sime Road)的那一大片坟场。谦福路(Kheam Hock Road)穿插其中,附近还有一条罗弄哈娃(Lorong Halwa)。
  至于咖啡山,指的是靠近泛岛高速路的快乐山路(Mount Pleasant Road)和安莱盖路(Onraet Road)那片坟山,扫墓者一般是从安莱盖路或王振毓路(Wong Chin Yoke Road)进山。

咖啡山与武吉布朗因发展而分隔
  新加坡福建会馆名誉理事苏晋兴(84岁)证实咖啡山过去是福建会馆产业,但已被政府征用。由此看来,咖啡山有可能是大巴窑新恒山亭的一部分,但因后来的发展,已和武吉布朗坟场分隔开来。
  在陆路交通管理局决定建穿山新公路,一些坟墓得为道路让位时,很多国人忽然意识到坟山原来也是一种历史文化遗产,蕴含了很多先人的珍贵史料。
  于是,保护历史文化的声音四起,如何抢救坟墓上的史料,包括墓碑、墓志铭、雕塑、装饰物等成了当务之急。
  不过在抢救坟墓史料的当儿,大家却说不清坟山本身的历史,它究竟如何形成,有过什么样的历史演变,就连坟山旧主人之一的新加坡福建会馆,目前已没有二战以前的史料可参考。
  国家图书馆曾编写过武吉布朗坟场的简史,根据其说法,武吉布朗名称之由来,是因为那片地的第一名主人是来自印度加尔各答的英国船主亨利·布朗(Henry Brown)。
  亨利·布朗1840年来到新加坡后,买下了那一大片地,将之命名为快乐山(Mount Pleasant)。这片地后来被开闽王氏三名先贤王有海、王九河与王沧周,以及福建会馆分别买下并辟为塚山。
  要厘清武吉布朗坟场的历史,首先就必须了解王氏太原山和新恒山亭的历史。

三名开闽王氏族人 500叻元买下太原山
  有关王氏太原山的历史,至今能找到有较详细纪录的是新加坡开闽王氏总会出版、王秀南主撰的《王氏开宗百世录》和王氏慈善(开闽公司)三庆特刊等。

  百世录中的先贤置山建祠设会一文,便谈到太原山的购置缘起。

  据记载,早在1872年,侨居星洲的开闽王氏族人王有海(王秀南译成王友海)、王九河(王求和)与王沧周(王宗周)便商议集资购地供族人建屋栖息、从事种植,购买的土地还可以作为葬地,让族人养生送死。

  三人的祖籍都是福建同安白礁乡。王有海1830年生于新加坡,靠经营砂劳越土产发迹。王九河来自马六甲,1871年在新加坡创立丹戎巴葛船坞公司,曾是英华学校和萃英书院赞助人。年少时从中国南来的王沧周曾创立德昌号,并以经营船务起家。王沧周1888年去世时就葬在太原山之麓。

  他们有意效仿潮州义安公司的做法后,刚好有一名叫  Mootapa Chitty 遮地人(来自南印度的ChettiarChitty)与华人林祖义拥有大巴窑区上段的一大片地皮要出售。这片被列为五号永久地契,共221余英亩的地,当时的交易价是叻银1500元。

  三人各出500叻元,于1872518日买下有关地段,作为开闽公司福建王氏慈善所公有。当时契约规定,凡是福建王氏族人可申请作为建屋、耕种及安葬用途,这便是从武吉知马路四英里转入谦福路的姓王山之由来。姓王山后来易名为太原山
  当时的地契正约原本有权委任信托人,却不知何故没有执行,时间一久,人们只知有姓王山,却不知献山者为何人。

征地赔款与利息 用来设开闽公司

  根据《王氏开宗百世录》,殖民地政府后来决定建华人公塚,于1919年征用姓王山97余英亩地,作为二关塚山的部分用地。

  政府在开设二关塚山时也开辟谦福路,后又增辟亚当路,姓王山所剩下的113余英亩地,分开在亚当路和谦福路两边。殖民地政府在征地时赔了24476余元,却因为找不到山主,最后把该款项寄存在高等法院等候认领。 

  1922320日,高院裁决,依照买地契约能产生有效的慈善信托。
  19231228日,法院批准王长顺(王有海之子)之申请,委任三信托人,除了王长顺,另两人是王瑞洲(王九河之孙)和王金鍊。此案在1924年完结,所领出来的赔款和利息用来设立王氏慈善(开闽公司)。

  据了解,1982年至1990年间,政府把太原山剩余土地全部征用,经信托人和管理委员会极力争取,获得900万元赔偿,再以这笔钱购买武吉巴督23街的地皮,兴建办公楼、闽王氏宗祠和骨灰瓮安置所。这一工程于1997年竣工,是由已故王鼎昌夫人林秀梅所设计。

  本地文史研究者吕世聪在翻阅旧报章时,曾看到一则刊登于1894316日《星报》的趣闻。百多年前住在牛车水的王金福,在父亲去世时买了副很大的棺材,为把棺木抬进家还得拆掉大门。

  他选好日子要把父亲葬在太原山,但天下大雨,跑马场、牛车水积水成河,可泛舟街上,他只好改期为父举殡。

村民话当年这里曾有个陈牛廊村

  熟悉武吉布朗的吴安全,曾听一些看山人说武吉布朗叫二关,另外还有姓王山老山,等,只是后来大家把这一切混淆了,误以为武吉布朗便是咖啡山
  最清楚这一切的应该是昔日在陈牛廊生活的陈亚峇(60岁)。陈牛廊是谦福路坟场聚落的俗称,陈亚峇1951年在那里出世,一直住到1982年才搬走。
  据他回忆,罗弄哈哇的两头接到谦福路,北端那一头靠近太原山,是以打石碑而闻名的陈牛廊村,居民清一色是福建人。
  他本身住在第二个村子,即罗弄哈哇中间、靠近快乐山。这部分原来属于福建会馆。政府未征地前,他家每月还租金给会馆。这个村子以种植果树,帮人照顾坟墓为主,当时还有人在亚当路摆摊卖水果。
  至于最南端、靠近杜尼安路的聚落,除了福建人,还住了潮州人、海南人和马来人。居民以务农、当小贩、看守坟墓为主。
  他记得村子里当时还有一所振中学校,上世纪70年代出过一本校刊,但几年后便关闭。
  陈亚峇说,二关山指的是快乐山延伸到罗尼路的部分,基本上由快乐山和谦福山组成,他所住的村子,就在这两座山的山谷。简单来说,太原山是靠近麦里芝蓄水池、罗尼路、亚当路那一边,福建会馆的塚山,则是靠近快乐山、咖啡山的另一边。


新恒山亭 1891年前已存在

  王氏太原山隔邻的一大片坟山,是福建会馆的塚山新恒山亭。目前无法找到新恒山亭的完整记载,但能从本地文史工作者的研究中,理出一些头绪。

  研究恒山亭的知名文史工作者叶钟铃曾在《恒山亭:新加坡福建帮最早的总机构》一文中指出:自从恒山亭辖下施排埔(今日中央医院)新塚四脚亭于1894年前止葬后,闽人塚地便迁往麟记山和大巴窑。

  叶钟铃从闽籍富商王三龙为首的倡修路董1910523日所颁布的《募修新恒山亭路序》中,确定与太原山毗连的大巴窑新恒山亭是福建会馆塚地。当时因为新恒山亭的山径崎岖,牛车络绎,崩塌益甚,闽帮领导人决定雇工修造道路,并号召闽人共襄善举。

  福建会馆究竟是在何时购买新恒山亭塚地,原本的范围多大,目前还查不出相关史料,但是吕世聪在1891826日的《星报》上看到一则新恒山亭诸董事人告白,可以确定新恒山亭在1891年之前便已存在。

  当时有人在新恒山亭预筑山基为异日瘗棺之地(即预先霸占好墓地作为日后埋葬棺木之用),新恒山亭董事认为有必要整顿纲纪,去除陋习,于是刊登启事,限违例者在三个月内到恒春号(邱菽园的店)通报,每穴四方尺罚充公银12大元,没有据实通报者,坟堆将被毁平,日后再葬时罚款加倍。

  通告还指出,董事会拟举颜永成为督理,负责安顿坟墓诸事。颜永成似乎在恒山亭的管理上很活跃,据叶钟铃的研究,他曾于1894年慷慨解囊,独捐巨金负起修复恒山亭旧塚山的善举,也可能因这缘故,新恒山亭曾有一处叫颜永成山。

  吕世聪也在找史料时,发现福建会馆曾在1921114日,在《叻报》上刊登一则关于福建塚要事之传议,内容说福建会馆收到地税公司于同年110日所发出的信函,表明殖民地政府准备把大巴窑福建塚的112英亩土地收归公有,福建会馆领导人决定在122日开会商讨征地一事。

  上述通告所说的大巴窑福建塚,指的正是新恒山亭。通告说征地是为改造住屋之用,就不知被征土地是否有一部分曾被纳入1922年开设的华人公塚二关塚山内,但不排斥这一可能性。

太原山葬王姓福建人 新恒山亭只葬福建人

  原来的太原山只葬王姓福建人,新恒山亭只葬福建人,但二关山公塚则是开放给各籍贯华人。

  吕世聪也在19211220日的《石叻总汇新报》上看到一则挖迁旧坟墓之报闻,那是恒山亭董事告知恒山亭旧塚有166个墓穴受政府兴建公共医院(中央医院)影响,将迁葬到工部局设在武吉物老隐(武吉布朗旧译法)的新塚。

  去年初,亚洲超自然侦探协会(API)创办人吴安龙和吴安全曾在武吉布朗坟场的罗弄哈哇发现一座隐藏在树林中的古庙,墙上匾额刻着新恒山亭福德正神民国丁丑年1937年),香炉刻着福德堂光绪十九年1893年),算是为新恒山亭找到实证。

  福建会馆秘书长沈美霞在翻阅了会馆的旧会议记录后说,会馆的坟山于1973年封山,政府从1976年中开始陆续征用会馆的坟山,目前已全部被征用。一小部分受扩路工程影响的墓穴则已被挖掘。

    福建会馆究竟是在何时购买新恒山亭塚地,原本的范围多大,目前还查不出相关史料,但吕世聪在1891826日的《星报》上看到一则新恒山亭诸董事人告白,可以确定新恒山亭在1891年之前便已存在

ST News
Nov 20, 2011

Lively debate over fate of cemetery

By Yen Feng

There was no end to the questions, so much so that the symposium ran for more than three hours, and the organisers had to start ushering people out.

The issue? Bukit Brown.

More than 250 people turned up at a public forum on the historic cemetery yesterday. Volleys of probing queries were fired at the expert panel working to document and preserve the site's graves and ecology.

The symposium, the first of its kind on Bukit Brown, was co-organised by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) South-east Asian Studies Society.

Packing a small hall in the Asian Civilisations Museum, the audience heard out the five experts - moderated by NUS architectural historian Lai Chee Kien - who made presentations on the cemetery's heritage and ecological value.

The blitz of queries followed in the Q&A session.

A few did offer the panel tips on furthering the conservation work. One person suggested creating a publicity video on the historic site and uploading it onto YouTube; another proposed putting the cemetery up for Unesco world heritage site status.

But for every tip there were many more questions, and as the evening wore on, past its second hour, the crowd grew restive, eager to be heard.

To many, talk about documenting the graves seemed to signal that the experts had given up the fight to stop the road construction altogether - though two of the five had said earlier that it was not the graves, but the proposed road, that should give way.

The two were cemetery guide Raymond Goh and NUS anthropologist Irving Chan Johnson. The other panellists were Dr Hui Yew- Foong, the anthropologist leading the documentation project; Dr Ho Hua Chew of the Nature Society (Singapore); and Mr Chew Kheng Chuan, the great-grandson of pioneer Chew Boon Lay, who is buried at the cemetery.

Why the air of resignation, teacher Lisa Li, 30, asked the panel, earning appreciative nods in the audience.

'As a concerned citizen, I just cannot accept that this will happen,' she added.

Logistics director Gregory Loh, 48, wanted to know if SHS was concerned that in proceeding with the documentation project, the wrong idea would be conveyed to the Government that the SHS accepted its decision.

Ms Tan Beng Chiak, 48, a teacher, said she did not want to volunteer for the documentation project for this reason precisely - she felt it signalled that the graves were a lost cause.

Frustrated by what she felt was missing in the debate so far, Ms Claire Leow, 44, a heritage enthusiast, blurted: 'Why has the Heritage Board stayed so silent on this issue?'

Amid calls for the heritage groups and experts to stand up for the cemetery in their discussions with government bodies, Dr Ho urged the audience to do their part too.

He said heritage groups had not given up the fight, but that the work could not be done by the groups alone.

'If you don't agree, say something,' he said.

'Things can happen, but the ground must be moving too.'

ST News
Nov 20, 2011

Bukit Brown road project 'can't wait'
LTA says it is needed to ease Lornie Road traffic, though estate will be built only later

By Christopher Tan

THE controversial four-lane dual carriageway through Bukit Brown cemetery is slated to be one of two crucial backbones of a road network that will serve the residential estate to be developed there.

Although this future estate that spans more than 200ha - bigger than Serangoon and slated to have a mix of private and public housing - will be developed only in 30 to 40 years, the new road is necessary today to bring relief to the increasingly congested Lornie Road.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said Lornie Road, which forms an outer ring road system designed to allow traffic to bypass the Central Business District, already sees 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles an hour during peak periods.

That is equivalent to the peak load on expressways. And the LTA sees demand rising by 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020.

So, instead of building alternative roads that may spare Bukit Brown in the short term, the LTA decided to kill two birds with one stone - by building a road through Bukit Brown that will be an arterial carriageway to be joined by smaller roads in the future estate.

'We would not have to waste money building one road now to take some load off Lornie, and then another in 30 years' time when Bukit Brown is developed,' said LTA group director of engineering Paul Fok.

Also, the LTA said, alternatives such as building a viaduct or an underground road were found to be unfeasible, and might even be more detrimental to the environment.

The LTA held a joint briefing with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last Friday to explain why the four-lane dual carriageway had to be built now, and why it will cut through Bukit Brown.

It was the first time the two agencies had come out together to elaborate on the plan which has caused unhappiness among conservationists, the Singapore Heritage Society and ordinary citizens.

Opponents wanted the site preserved as it is the resting place of many early migrants, including prominent ones. They added that the site is also an important green lung and home to several species of birds and plants.

Strangely, the URA said, no one raised a ruckus when plans highlighting the area's intended future use were displayed for feedback.

URA deputy director Zulkiflee Mohd Zaki said: 'We showed it in the 1991 and 2001 Concept Plans, and it was also in the 2008 Master Plan.'

No one came forward to object, he said.

It was only after the URA reaffirmed its development plans to the media in May that the protests began. The outcry intensified when the LTA said in September that a new road will run through the cemetery.

The LTA has reiterated that the road would affect only 5 per cent - or about 5,000 - of the 100,000 graves there. The remainder will go only in 30 to 40 years, with redevelopment of the area.

Asked why the LTA could not wait until then to build the new road, the authority said it could not allow the congestion to worsen further. It said it has been getting an average of 10 complaints a month from motorists about the Lornie Road jam in recent years.

'Cars are still an important part of the land transport system,' said LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam. 'It is not possible for us to rely completely on public transport.'

Mr Fok added that it would not be right to erect Electronic Road Pricing gantries there because the outer ring road is an alternative to the priced expressways.

Automobile Association of Singapore chief executive Lee Wai Mun said that although there is a need to have new infrastructure from time to time, existing roads can be improved 'to increase mobility and to have better circulation'.

He said it was also vital for road usage to be better spread out. 'We should do more to stagger working times. It calls for a mindset change,' he said.

Businessman Baldev Singh, 30, whose daily commutes are affected by the Lornie Road jam, said: 'Heritage value is important. But it is important to be practical as well. It would be good to strike a balance.'

christan@sph.com.sg

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