Wednesday, April 04, 2012

That Brown Mount

Bukit Brown - a cause célèbre among civil society and special interest groups nowadays. All these over a cemetery that nobody cared about, much less heard of, before the Singapore government announced its intent on building an expressway through this piece of land. True to character, the government is planning ahead and it deemed the exhumation of graves, some dating back a hundred years, small sacrifice for the here and now, and probably for the future too. After all, they have done it before. The Bidadari Cemetery along Upper Aljunied Road was removed to make way for the then new Woodleigh MRT station. Much of the land above ground has yet to be redeveloped, which has proved to be a boon to the living. It has become a favourite jogging place for the health conscious exercise enthusiasts. What's not to like about clean clear spaces in an otherwise congested city?

The government is doing this, amidst strong dissenting voices from mainly environmental and civil society groups, for the motorists, which is becoming associated with the rich and the pretenders in this country. With a new small car costing no less than S$80,000, it's become a luxury (again) to own a car. That is the rub. Why must our heritage be destroyed just so the rich blokes (yeah, that's what you are when you own a car on this island) can zip around unimpeded, that they can go from point A to point B in a quarter of the time that we poorer public commuters have to spend doing the same? But of course it is impossible to restrict car ownership any further in an increasingly unequal society that is Singapore today. You'd be asking for a revolt at some point in time, likely through the ballot box. Unlike Hong Kongers,  Singaporeans who gather without a permit, except in designated places, face arrest. So nowadays, they congregate online to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, these voices are a mixed bag. Some are rational, considered, some vociferous, others are rude and abusive, yet others hawk semi-truths and parrot others without verifying the veracity of what they are repeating. This isn't doing their cause any good because the powers that be will treat them as such - noise of the rabble-rousers.

Of course, there are those who are sincere and wish to engage the government. I think the authorities have accommodated these views with a re-design of the new expressway, but not a cancellation of their original intent to build that road. You can't please everyone. Some are still smarting from feeling that they have been run over by a government bulldozer, unhappy that they didn't get what they want. Uncharacteristically, the government has reflected on the episode and admitted that it could have done better to manage expectations. I began with disapproving the building of the expressway. After all the debates, I still think that it shouldn't be built, not for the sake of preserving our history and heritage, but because the plan smacks of elitism. Why spend millions of dollars building something that I am not ever likely to use since I don't drive? The taxi you say? That's also becoming a luxury. If anything, nowadays I pop down a hole at one part of the island and emerge from another hole somewhere else, much like a gopher, then take a short bus ride or walk the rest of the way to my destination. Why do we need new expressway bridges anyway? But I can also see that more land will be freed up for the living. I only hope that these added land will not be for the benefit of the rich only. Sadly I am not optimistic about this.


Anonymous said...

Being an avid cyclist and also one who travels regularly by train or bus, I agree that Brown Mount be kept intact. The soon-to-be expressway serves no purpose to the vast majority, just like the ridiculous number of golf courses on this tiny island.

Prata Bob said...

It's very jam in the morning at Lornie Road as well as other roads into the city from the North. Right thing to do all things equal in removing the dead, who were mostly forgotten and neglected except for Qing Ming until the government wanted to exhume the graves. Can't please everyone, and motorists would be appeased for now at least.

Errr Not all motorists are "rich", there were hordes who benefited from the "cheap" car policies prior to the killer COE increases since 2009 or so. Back then, a new Jap sedan would be $50,000 or so. These are taxpayers and voters too who should have their interests protected as well.