Culture / Environment / People

On why Singaporeans and other urban dwellers need to preserve Bukit Brown

Nearly a year of awareness-building for Bukit Brown, it is still an issue ignored by the larger, mainstream Singapore community. Maybe, it is mainly because Bukit Brown a.k.a “Coffee Hill” is a Chinese burial ground, and death is always a taboo topic. No human being, except probably the Mexicans with their ‘memento mori’ culture, like being reminded of their mortality, of the dirty, scary, and inevitable business of death. So, when the Singapore government announced its plans to exhume thousands of tombstones to give way to a 2 kilometre-wide road on January 2013, most Singaporeans were apathetic about it.

But, they don’t know that Bukit Brown is more than just a cemetery. Activists and concerned citizens are raising their voices because this new plan has struck the most important issue in the hearts of all Singapore citizens: Its soul. For the sake of modernity, how much is Singapore willing to sacrifice? To move forward with globalisation, how much of the past is the country willing to forget? Is a 180-year-old cemetery that is home to rare animal species and a hotbed of activity for hundreds of citizens, so trivial if compared to an expressway?

In this country, as with other urban sites around the world, where people are fast losing their cultural identity, ask yourself, is this 180-year-old site not worth preserving?

So, would you help protect the largest Chinese cemetery site outside China? Would you help protect the green lung of Singapore?

At Bukit Brown Cemetery

At Bukit Brown Cemetery (Photo credit: whitecat sg)

This site is just a few kilometers away from MacRitchie, another green lung. Taking Bukit Brown down brings the government a step closer to gradually taking back the surrounding 200-hectare green area as well as to give them the excuse to re-evaluate the ‘Nature Reserve’ status given to the Central Catchment area.

If those arguments don’t move you, would you at least help prevent families from having to relive the grief of seeing their loved ones “die” again?

Imagine, to have to exhume your parents’ or grandparents’ graves, to uproot them from what some see as their ancestor’s home in the afterlife, can bring so much despair and anxiety.

To sit in front of your ancestor’s tomb in the middle of the night. To pray for forgiveness for the sacrilege you are about to commit. To have to see strangers step over your family tomb. To hear the first thump of the metal shovels hitting the hard ground, ground that has been untouched for decades or maybe, a hundred years.

And this culminates to the final and most harrowing experience. To have to see the hundred-year-old altar head, to see that hard marble or granite rectangular block crack into half, right through the middle of the miniature portrait and engraved name of your ancestor, and to see it fall apart right in front of your eyes.

Oh, the sorrow.

Can money justify knocking down these precious tombstones, these tombstones hidden away in this serene, maybe even, surreal forest, these tombstones that carry tales of people then and now, these tombstones that still has the power to bring people together? Does it?

To destroy this heritage site for the sake of an eight-lane dual carriageway road. Is it worth it?

It is not. Share the news. Tell people about why Bukit Brown matters. And, do you know your roots? If not, learn it. The stories of our ancestors, our people are what made and makes the human civilisation colourful. What would history today be without tales brought alive from the graveyards?

Hundreds and thousands of years in the future, would people in the future know us from the lines of the expressway? Or, will our stories be from the tombstones? Think about it, and ACT.

Sign the petition. ACT here:



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