Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

December 2013

ST News

Dec 19, 2013
Exhumation at Bukit Brown begins

3,440 graves will be exhumed over next 9 months to make way for road

By Grace Chua

An exhumed grave at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The public exhumation began on Tuesday. A total of 304 graves have already been exhumed privately by family members. In all, 1,263 graves have been claimed to date. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

EXHUMATION has begun at last at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, where more than 3,000 of nearly 100,000 graves will make way for a new road.

The public exhumation, coordinated by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), began on Tuesday. Over the next nine months, 3,442 graves will be exhumed.

A total of 304 graves have already been exhumed privately by family members. In all, 1,263 graves have been claimed to date.

The remains that are still unclaimed three years after exhumation will be cremated individually and scattered at sea.

Construction of the new road will begin in stages after the exhumation of affected graves is completed, an LTA spokesman said.

"While construction is ongoing, members of the public can continue to enter the other parts of Bukit Brown Cemetery that are not affected by the road construction. The details of access routes will be made available to the public when construction starts."

The exhumation process is being documented by anthropologist Hui Yew-Foong and his team, who have been appointed by the Government for the task.

Dr Hui, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the team observes what rituals might have been carried out, what artefacts were buried with the dead, and if the tombs have any underground structure.

For instance, underground chambers were sometimes lined with bricks to keep coffins dry, while women might have jewellery or miniature cooking utensils buried with them.

Meanwhile, members of the public have sent letters to the Ministry of National Development as part of feedback about the Draft Masterplan 2013, pleading for the rest of the cemetery to be kept instead of redeveloping it for housing.

Today is the last day for the public to submit feedback on the Urban Redevelopment Authority's draft masterplan, which was made public last month.

Among those who have written in is Mr Ishvinder Singh, 26, a supply chain professional.

He became intrigued by Bukit Brown when he saw photos of Sikh-guard statues at the tombs of Chinese businessmen and officials. This led him to visit Bukit Brown and investigate its history as well as that of the Sikh community here.

"I realised that the Sikh statues weren't just about my own community, but about the interactions that took place between different communities," he said.


Dec 19, 2013

Collaborating to preserve the Singapore story

Balancing heritage with development, especially on a little island with global-city aspirations, is never easy even in the best of times.
By Terence Chong

Balancing heritage with development, especially on a little island with global-city aspirations, is never easy even in the best of times.

But the Singapore Story, if nothing else, has always been about maximising whatever the fates have left us and forging new pathways. It is a story that we tell ourselves, our students, our citizens, and stories are important because they give meaning to our lives.

The recent release of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan 2013 is yet another hint of how the Singapore Story will unfold.

Unlike the Concept Plan, which is a long-term vision of the country’s urban and physical development as well as land allocation, the Master Plan is a more detailed imagination of zoning and density areas. It is a statutory document, which means it has to pass through Parliament and can be revised.

The current Draft Master Plan focuses on green townships as well as shortening the distance between work and home. And while narrowing the distance between workplace and home is generally positive and cost-effective, it is a phenomenon that should invite social researchers to interrogate the socio-cultural impact this may have on our life patterns and everyday culture.


One positive turn has been the launch of the My Conservation Portal by the URA in October. The portal brings together heritage maps, photographs and write-ups, and invites public submissions on the more than 7,000 conserved buildings around the island. This innovative use of technology will allow not only local but also global users to familiarise themselves with our heritage sites and buildings.

Similarly, we should also applaud the decision to make public the list of 75 buildings proposed for conservation gazette in the launch of the Our Future, Our Home — Draft Master Plan 2013 exhibition. The Singapore Heritage Society has long kept an eye on any development to these buildings and championed the gazetting of some, such as the five Singapore Improvement Trust housing blocks at Kampong Silat. It is indeed a pleasant surprise that the Government intends to gazette them.

The publication of this list is significant because the last time such a list was included in the Master Plan was in 1958. One could speculate why such a list was not published between then and now — perhaps for fear of real estate speculation or the destruction of buildings by owners who do not want to bear the onerous burden and obligations that sometimes come with gazetting.

As such, both the introduction of the My Conservation Portal and the publication of this list bode well for the increasingly consultative and transparent approach of state agencies.


There could, nonetheless, be clearer and better defined evaluation criteria for building conservation.

The current criteria that buildings should possess “special architectural, historical, traditional or aesthetic interest” (Planning Act) is just too broadly worded.

Indeed, how is this different from the Preservation of Monuments Act, which calls for the protection of buildings that possess “historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance and national importance”? This is not a question of semantics, but one that has real consequences on the way we decide what to keep and what to demolish. It is a matter of what we want to include in our Singapore Story and what we want to expunge.

The difference between the conservation of buildings and national monuments used to be clear. Now, it is getting less so. For example, could Leong San See Temple (which is on the list of 75 buildings) qualify as a national monument when, say, the Hong San See Temple does? Why is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (another on the list of 75) not considered a national monument when the Sri Mariamman Temple is included as one?

The writing of the Singapore Story is a collective effort. With the Draft Master Plan 2013, the URA has made small but positive steps towards co-authorship with civil society, academics and ordinary citizens.

This is not to say that co-authorship will always be smooth. Indeed, as the Bukit Brown saga has shown, tensions and disagreements continue to linger. It is thus important for civil society and the state to set aside differences of opinion over issues where there is no reconciliation in sight, and move on to other challenges and issues where collaborative effort will bear fruit.


Terence Chong and Yeo Kang Shua are Vice-President and Executive Committee member of the Singapore Heritage Society, respectively.


Zaobao News
张曦娜 2013年12月06日

通过武吉布朗思考历史 ——访金笔奖华文短篇小说组首奖得主叶铭扬


本届金笔奖华文短篇小说组首奖选出了两名得主:叶铭扬与刘菲菲。 21岁的叶铭扬毕业自莱佛士初级学院,目前留学英国,是伦敦国王学院医学系一年级学生。课余之暇,他也兼任国王学院医学系杂志记者。 叶铭扬的得奖小说《花开花落,云卷云舒》,以武吉布朗墓园为背景,故事主人翁是个孤儿,从小被武吉布朗墓园一名年迈看守人领养,所以经常跟随老奶奶到墓园去,那里俨然成了他儿时的乐园。小说对墓园的景观,包括墓园中的花草飞禽、名人墓地有不少细节描写,并带出墓园让道迁坟的事件。



今年初挖掘墓园的方案掀起许多人的议论,我想通过自己对这片土地的认识,借短篇小说来介绍它的珍贵。” 叶铭扬也说,《花开花落,云卷云舒》故事纯属虚构,但有关墓园的资料却是真实的。

“小说里的那位墓园看守人,形象多半来自于2009年我到那里实地考察时的观察所得。故事主角的原型则是大家的成长经验。我想反映人随着时代变迁,对历史与文化的忘却。” 作为医科学生,叶铭扬却以华文从事创作,这在本地年轻人之中十分少见。

叶铭扬说:“我觉得科学与文学看似毫无关系,其实却是相辅相成。之所以对华文创作有兴趣,因为它能表达出一些无法以数据来衡量的社会价值。” 受到初院华文文学老师启发 说到自己走上华文文学创作这条路,叶铭扬将功劳归给读书时的华文与文学老师。他说:“初级学院的华文文学老师启发了我,让我了解华文写作的技巧,我非常感激他们。

” 叶铭扬就读莱佛士初级学院时选修“H2华文与文学”课程,还参加双文化课程,进而喜欢上华文文学。他说:“林高老师与吴淑虎老师是我在文学道路上的启蒙老师。我在小说中使用的一些写作技巧,都是在文学班时向老师学习的。

林高老师也是作家,读他的作品令我获益良多。他对于写作的热忱更启发了我。” 因为对华文文学的热爱,叶铭扬中学时代就开始写作,一有空就写写自己的想法与感受 。《花开花落,云卷云舒》是他的第一篇得奖作品,也是他第一篇正式发表的作品。 作家林高说,叶铭扬在知悉自己获奖后发了简讯给他,低调地告诉老师,与他“分享获得金笔奖的喜悦”。

 谈到未来的创作计划,叶铭扬说:“时间允许,我会继续创作。但对我来说,创作的主要动力是,我是否有些想法渴望通过创作发表,而不只是为了创作而创作。” - 

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