Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

July 2017

The Straits Times, Jul 23, 2017
By Melody Zaccheus
Heritage and Community Correspondent


The gravedigger has to sift through mud, soil and other debris with his bare hands to recover the remains. PHOTOS: FONG CHUN CHEONG

Armed with power drills, workers may spend up to three hours to get through the soil in an exhumation, but once the gravedigger gets into the coffin, it is just bare hands.

The gravedigger's hands are recognised as the only tools of a dying trade delicate and thorough enough to retrieve the bones, exhumation companies shared with The Sunday Times.

The 10 or so Singaporean gravediggers - there were 50 in the past - will be kept busy with a mass exhumation that needs to be carried out at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. Some 80,500 graves will be exhumed for the expansion of a military airbase in the north-west.


Mr Johnny Tan, 69, the third-generation director of Chua Chu Kang Marble Company, said the cost of private exhumation can be more than $1,000 per grave.

Industry players estimate that public exhumation costs are usually kept between $100 and $300.

Workers are typically hired by companies for the more manual task of removing the soil.

The experienced gravedigger has to climb in alone, usually with an electric saw to gingerly remove remnants of the coffin. Then, he will sift through the silt, mud, soil and other debris with his bare hands.

Mr Jeffrey Lee, sales and marketing manager of Singapore Casket which outsources the work to exhumation companies here, said: "They have to use their bare hands to find and extract fragments of bone and teeth which are sometimes stuck in the soil.

"Sometimes families remember that their relative had a gold tooth. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. I really have to salute them (the gravediggers)," said Mr Lee.

Mr Fong Chun Cheong, a Yin Fengshui practitioner who conducts rituals for families and charges $2,888 for his exhumation package, said: "When the coffins are uncovered, the contents can look messy. It's not an easy job."

Workers then rinse the remains and carefully bag them before they are handed over to the National Environment Agency. The remains are then cremated.

Relatives are usually present at the start of the process and at the end when the ashes are re-interred into a columbarium. The whole process can be completed within 12 hours.

With the dearth of local expertise, industry players said most of the public exhumation work is handled by foreign workers.

The company involved in the ongoing exhumation works at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery is Hoe Ann Granite Industrial Construction.

Almost all Muslim exhumations are handled by the Government. In the case of the upcoming exercise, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will inform family members when to register and head down to witness the exhumation.

No rituals are conducted. The remains are then re-interred in the ground at another site following a short prayer.

Mr Raymond Goh, who studies tomb inscriptions, hopes that companies handling both the public and private exhumations of the Choa Chu Kang graves will document the attached tombstones before they are exhumed.

Mr Goh said: "A simple photo of the tombstone and inscription will provide a more lasting connection for future generations searching for how their ancestors were once buried and remembered."

Ch 8 News and Current Affairs
2017年7月19日  21:10  吴俍㬕报道




受登加空军基地扩建影响,蔡厝港8万个坟墓得让路,相信是蔡厝港坟场历来规模最大的起坟计划。寻墓人建议为坟场进行建国先驱墓地记录,不过国家文物局表示,不会这么做,因为过去多年来已收集到全面的记录。

在得知蔡厝港4万5500个华人坟墓得迁坟,庄美玲隔天赶来寻墓。一晃40年过去了,她虽然同已故者没有血缘关系,但对方同自己的父亲情同手足。

受影响家属庄美玲表示:“当我们听到消息的时候就很惊讶,我小时候12岁的时候他过世的时候什么都不会只会哭,可是现在是我第一次来特地要来看我可能跟他做到搬迁到好的安息地方,不要丢进大海。”

据了解,受影响的坟墓也包括两名华社名人。记者到访时发现坟墓已挖掘迁移,墓地还铺上了混凝土。寻墓人表示,受影响的坟墓相信是蔡厝港坟场仅存的特色墓碑,从设计到碑文就可分辨已故者的祖籍和家谱。

寻墓人吴安全说:“七十年代到九十年代去世的都是我们建国的先驱,所以我希望政府能够好好地至少记录下它们的碑文,拍照留个记录因为这方便以后他们后人来寻根,当他知道他祖先的坟墓已经没有掉,他们会很遗憾的。”

受影响的坟墓将在2019年第四季清除,家属可从今年9月起认领坟墓。

据本台了解,挖出的遗骨会火化,有人认领的骨灰将会安置在骨灰安置所,无人认领的骨灰则会在起坟三年后将撒入大海。

The Straits Times, Jul 19, 2017

By Rachel Au Yong and Yuen Sin


Choa Chu Kang's Chinese Cemetery. Some 80,500 Chinese and Muslim graves will be exhumed progressively to expand Tengah Air Base.
ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG


Singapore's biggest and only active public cemetery - Choa Chu Kang Cemetery - will have its size cut down by a third, from 318ha to 200ha.

Some 80,500 Chinese and Muslim graves will be exhumed progressively to expand Tengah Air Base, which in turn is to accommodate the relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030 onwards.

Those affected can have their relatives' remains cremated at Choa Chu Kang Crematorium.
For those whose religions require their dead to be buried, like Islam, the remains can be reinterred elsewhere in the cemetery.

The authorities will pay for the moves, though additional rituals or requirements will have to be borne by the affected relatives.

Owing to space constraints, the Government in 1998 imposed a burial period of 15 years for all graves in Choa Chu Kang, after which the remains would be exhumed.

Since December 2004, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has been exhuming graves at the 70-year-old cemetery in phases.

This is the largest exhumation there to date, though there have been larger-scale ones at other cemeteries, such as in Bishan or Bidadari, which made way for new homes and towns.

At Bishan, around 100,000 Chinese graves dating from 1870 were exhumed between 1982 and 1984.

In Bidadari, 126,000 Christian and Muslim graves dating from 1907 were exhumed between 1996 and 2006.

The NEA said it will continue to exhume graves which have met the 15-year burial period to ensure there is sufficient supply to meet burial demand.

"While there is sufficient land in the foreseeable future, NEA will continue to work with land use planners to explore options for future generations," it said.


In 2007, it introduced a new interment system for Muslims, where concrete crypts built below ground replaced traditional earth plots.

Modelled after similar graves in Saudi Arabia, the system helps to save space as it allows the bodies interred to be arranged in a more compact way, and was reported to help keep the grounds open until at least 2130.

The latest round of exhumations will take place in several phases.

About 45,000 Chinese graves and 5,000 Muslim ones older than 17 years will be exhumed first, with the earliest beginning in the last quarter of next year.

Newer graves - with some buried as recently as three years ago - will be exhumed later, after they meet the minimum 15-year burial period.

Yesterday, retiree Norani Masuni, 59, whose sister's grave at the N-1-3 plot will be eventually exhumed after the burial period, said: "We feel sad, but what can we do? A decision has been made."

She said it is likely that her sister's remains, which were buried six years ago, would be buried with other family members.

"It has happened to us before at other graves, so we are prepared for this," she said.

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Yee Chia Hsing, whose Nanyang ward includes the air base, said he believes that while the changes may be disruptive, most will take it in their stride as they are aware of the land constraints in Singapore.

"That is why those who can accept it will have their loved ones cremated, while those who bury their relatives know full well it cannot be for forever," he said.






Today, Jul 19, 2017
By  KELLY NG

SINGAPORE — The graves of a local football icon and a former politician known for his anti-drug advocacy work are among those slated for exhumation at Choa Chu Kang cemetery to make way for the expansion of Tengah Air Base.













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The grave of football icon Dollah Kassim will be affected by the expansion of Tengah Air Base. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY


Abdullah Mohamed Kassim, who died in October 2010, rests in a tomb adorned with a bunch of red flowers and a miniature football pitch formed out of grey and white stones on top of the structure.

Better known as Dollah Kassim, he represented Singapore between 1968 and 1981, playing centre-forward, and was nicknamed “gelek king” for his graceful and deceptive dribbling.

Dollah, a respected legend in the region and one of the Republic’s star strikers in the 1970s, suffered a heart attack in October 2009, while playing in a veterans’ exhibition match. He died at 61, after spending a year in a coma.


Like Dollah, Harun A. Ghani, a former Member of Parliament and political secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry, was laid to rest at one of the 30,000 Muslim graves that will be exhumed at a later date, after they reach the 15-year burial limit.

Harun, who died aged 66 in August 2005, was known for leading the charge in the war against drugs in the Malay community.

He pioneered “meet-the-family” sessions, which have become a key component in rehabilitating former drug addicts and other ex-offenders.

He was often spotted at coffee shops counselling former abusers and their family members.

In 2005, an education fund dedicated to assisting families struggling with consequences of drug addiction was set up in Harun’s memory.

A total of 80,500 Chinese and Muslim graves, dated between 1955 and 2000, will be exhumed progressively to make way for the air base’s expansion. The first to go will be  5,000 Muslim graves across two blocks in the fourth quarter of next year.

TODAY understands that some families have already sought clarifications from the National Environment Agency and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore regarding the exhumation of their ancestors’ graves.

Heritage enthusiast Raymond Goh said many of the Republic’s founding fathers who died between 1946 and 1978 would have had their graves exhumed in earlier phases.

Mr Goh — who has embarked on an extensive documentation of graves at the Bukit Brown cemetery with his brother Charles —  urged the authorities to work with the claimants to document the graves before they are exhumed.

“There is a lot you can uncover about the person’s genealogy and ancestry from the inscriptions on the graves,” said the 53-year-old pharmacist.

Prior to exhumation of graves at the Bukit Brown cemetery to make way for road developments, the Government worked with key stakeholders.

These included Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association of Singapore, Singapore Heritage Society, academics and grave experts,  to document the graves, as well as memories and rituals associated with the cemetery.

TODAY Newspapers,  Jul 18, 2017

By Kelly Ng


A total of 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery will be affected by the expansion of Tengah Air Base. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY


SINGAPORE — Three fish farms, one nursery and 80,500 graves in Choa Chu Kang cemetery will have to make way for an expanded Tengah Air Base, as part of plans to relocate the Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030.

On Tuesday (July 18), occupants of the affected farms at Murai Farmway — Koon Lee Nursery, Goh Swee Hoon, Fisco Aquarium, Rigoh Fishery — received their notices of acquisition from Singapore Land Authority officers.

These businesses, which are on 20-year leases originally slated to expire between 2027 and 2030, will have to relocate by Jan 31, 2019. Compensation will be based on market value for the land on the date it is acquired, said the authorities.

Apart from these four plots on 2, 17, 19 and 21 Murai Farmway, on which the three fish farms and nursery sit, Chew’s Agriculture had announced last year that it is selling its farm premises and assets at 20 Murai Farmway to the Government for S$38.7 million. It is moving to a site 6.5km away along Neo Tiew Road, to be purchased from the Government for close to S$4 million.

Williton Orchids at 35 Murai Farmway will also not have its tenancy renewed after it expires in June 2019.

The relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the 2013 National Day Rally. It will free up 800 ha of land in the north-east region — an area bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio — for new homes, offices, factories and parks, and also remove height restrictions on a large area around Paya Lebar, Mr Lee had said, adding that the full changes will take place 20 to 30 years later.

A total of 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will also be affected by the expansion of Tengah Air Base. These will be progressively exhumed as they meet the minimum burial period of 15 years, with the first 5,000 Muslim graves slated for exhumation from the fourth quarter of next year. This will be followed by 45,000 Chinese graves to be exhumed from the fourth quarter of 2019.

Claims and registration for these graves — dated between 1955 and 2000 — will begin this September. Notices for the remaining 500 Chinese graves and 30,000 Muslim graves will be issued at a later date, after they have met the 15-year burial period.

Costs of exhumation and cremation at the Choa Chu Kang crematorium (for Chinese graves) will be borne by the Government, but claimants will bear additional costs for performing additional rituals or placing the remains in private cemeteries.

The exhumed Muslim graves will be reinterred into another part of the cemetery, said the authorities. These graves currently occupy about 100ha of land, while the farm plots gazetted for acquisition take up about 6.3ha.

In response to media queries, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said the expansion of Tengah Air Base will allow the ministry to “build infrastructure and facilities to house aircraft assets, operational flying and support squadrons and other facilities” that will be relocated from Paya Lebar Air Base. There will also be a new runway built in the expanded Tengah Air Base to meet the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s operational requirements.

Part of the 1.8km Lim Chu Kang Road, including a portion of the Heritage Road at its northern segment, will be re-aligned to facilitate the air base’s expansion. “Agencies are studying the exact impact on the road, and possible mitigation strategies, which includes transplanting the trees to the new road,” said the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and SLA in a joint press release.

Mindef’s military training areas in the vicinity will also be affected, but the actual boundaries of the expanded air base are still being worked out. Apart from Tengah Air Base, the Changi Airbase East will also be expanded to accommodate various assets and facilities to replace Paya Lebar Air Base.



越来越小的蔡厝港坟场
发布/2017718 9:00 PM
/马华卿图/何健伟
Zaobao
国家发展部、国家环境局以及新加坡土地管理局今早召开记者会宣布,为扩建登加空军基地(Tengah Air Base),政府将征用周边的土地,几个农场、蔡厝港的45500个华人坟墓和35000个回教坟墓得迁坟,现有的林厝港路也必须改道。
这次扩建计划,是为了容纳将于2030年后搬迁的巴耶利峇空军基地的部分军事设备,并且新建一条飞机跑道。
巴耶利峇空军基地迁移后,将腾出东北部800公顷的土地供新发展用途,这比碧山或宏茂桥市镇的面积还大。此外,从巴耶利峇到滨海南一带的建筑限高也将解除,未来这一地段可以建更高的楼。
由于我国土地有限,多年来随着国家发展的需要,我国面积最大的坟场——蔡厝港坟场的规模已经逐年缩小。
过去十多年的起坟计划
蔡厝港坟场的第5期起坟计划已于昨天(17日)正式开始起坟,受影响的是华人坟场的遗骸重葬地段(Exhumed Remains Section),下葬年份介于1947年至1975年。
此前的四期起坟计划如下:

完成时间
下葬年份
受影响的坟场
1
200512
1947-1961
1946-1953
华人坟场
兴都教坟场
2A
20083
1954-1971
华人坟场
2B
201012
1973-1980
回教坟场
3
20106
1968-1978
华人坟场
4
20149
1980-1986
回教坟场
一迁再迁的华族殉难义士纪念碑




1996125日,原本位于福荣山的竹仔巷死难者遗骸被迁到蔡厝港华人坟场。(档案照片)
在第5期起坟计划蔡厝港华人坟场中被起坟的坟墓中,包括葬有2000人的华族殉难义士纪念碑
75年前新加坡沦陷后第二天,日军开始大举在武吉知马的竹仔巷(具体位置在今天华中后面的南利园一带),屠杀村民和在那里避难的华人,持续数日,死难者估计高达2000多人。
上世纪60年代初期,我国多处曾发现日据时期死难者的乱葬岗,掀起了要求日本政府偿还血债的运动。
华族殉难义士纪念碑1962年秋由公众建立,葬有星洲武吉知马区五个半石竹仔巷村民,承建墓园的是东海有限公司。当时,竹仔巷需重新发展,因此华社发动死难者遗骸的清理工作,并将遗骸集中在一起葬在福荣山坟场。
1995年,政府征用福荣山。199612月,华族殉难义士纪念碑和这些遗骸被迁移,并原样出现在蔡厝港华人坟场。
20多年后,竹仔巷死难者公墓,必须再次起坟,原因是土地使用年限期满。
葬在蔡厝港坟场的华社显贵


著名侨领陈若锦画像。(国家文物局提供)
受到蔡厝港坟场的第5期起坟计划影响的华人坟场的遗骸重葬地段有许多华社名人的迁葬墓,这些迁葬墓大部分来自土地被征用的老坟场。
其中一个是著名侨领陈若锦(1859年-1917年)的墓。陈若锦是19世纪新加坡的先驱人物陈金声的孙子,若锦街(Jiak Kim Street)就是以他来命名的。
陈若锦生前热心公益,为了保护华人群体的利益,还参与创办了英国海峡华人协会(Straits Chinese British Association),也就是土生华人协会(The Peranakan Association)的前身。陈若锦受英文教育,作为土生华人,他也能说一口流利的马来语。他也是当年新加坡银行业和保险业的翘楚。
此外,陈若锦的女儿陈霰娘(1948年去世,享年54岁)也葬在蔡厝港坟场,她是陈庆炎总统的外婆。
另一位是本地早期报章《叻报》创办人薛有礼的弟弟薛有文(1859-1909年)。薛有文幼年在槟城的圣芳济书院受教育,后随其父往厦门经商,从1890年起在汇丰银行担任买办,直至去世。他的祖父是本地福建帮的开山鼻祖薛佛记,儿子是担任过中华总商会会长的薛中华。
只能埋15年的土葬
此次因登加空军基地而受影响的坟墓,起坟时都已达到15年的期限。
根据我国的土葬条例,1998111日起的所有土葬,安葬期限仅为15年。土葬超过15年后,将被分批起坟。
起坟后,如果死者的宗教允许,死者的遗骸将被火化。
如果有后人认领,骨灰将被存放在骨灰瓮安置所。
如果无人认领骨灰,将在起坟3年后被撒入大海。如果死者的宗教要求土葬,遗骸则会被重新葬在较小的墓穴里。
因此,要避免亲人的坟墓被起坟,最好就是选择火葬。

The Straits Times, Jul 12, 2017

SINGAPORE - "We are not makers of history, we are made by history." Yet, how many of us are aware of our ancestry? Fifty-two-year-old Raymond Goh's dream is to help everyone trace their lineage.


52-year-old Raymond Goh loves getting his hands dirty by uncovering graves. Can he solve the century-old puzzle and find the descendants of the late Singapore Chinese pioneer Neo Chan Guan?

Mr Goh, the director of a pharmaceutical company, loves getting his hands dirty: His favourite pastime is digging graves.

Mr Goh, together with his brother Charles, 50, founded Asia Paranormal Investigators (API) back in 2005. Their main goal is to locate and identify graves, and from there, take a deeper look into Singapore's history.


Throughout the years, the brothers have rediscovered many graves of Singapore’s pioneers whose names adorn our roads and buildings, such as Joo Chiat and Boon Lay. They also offer to help families locate the resting places of their ancestors, completely free of charge. Their meticulous work has since earned them the title "Tomb Hunters".

In recognition of his heritage work, Mr Goh was even shortlisted as an Outlook Inspiration by BBC and was among the top 15 of 50 inspiring people from around the globe.

"Every stone tells a story," is what motivates the brothers’ quest in leaving no grave undiscovered.


THE DREAM

For four years, Mr Goh dedicated his free time to finding the tomb of one of the first Chinese pioneers in Singapore back in the 19th century - Neo Chan Guan.

Neo Chan Guan was the main contractor behind national monument Chong Wen Ge. The pavilion in Telok Ayer, believed to be built between 1849 and 1852, was gazetted as a national monument, along with the Thian Hock Keng temple. After four years, Mr Goh finally discovered the 164-year-old tomb in Bukit Brown. He hopes to find Neo Chan Guan's descendants and bring them to their ancestor's grave.

THE QUESTION

It is known that Neo Chan Guan was one of the founding members of Keng Teck Whay. Unfortunately, Keng Teck Whay does not hold any information regarding his direct descendants.

Host Ken Low even resorted to publishing the story in the newspapers to broaden the search.

Can Ken beat the clock and solve the century-old puzzle? Watch the video to find out.

"No dream is too big and no dreamer too small." If you have a dream waiting to be fulfilled, e-mail the "Live Your Dream" team at zbevents@sph.com.sg.

For more stories on "Live Your Dream", please visit:  www.zaobao.com/zvideos/live-your-dream


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