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

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.


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

  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。

  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。

三名开闽王氏族人 500叻元买下太原山




  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。


征地赔款与利息 用来设开闽公司









新恒山亭 1891年前已存在









太原山葬王姓福建人 新恒山亭只葬福建人






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.'


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