Bukit Brown – Where the Fallen Lie

Bukit Brown is a site where many of the fallen from World War II lie. It is a burial for war heroes, just like it is a resting place for members of the Tongmenghui (同盟會). These add significance to a green space that is also an environment where Singaporeans can connect with what our forefathers represent. Projections do not capture these. “Stop at Two” and the “Graduate Mothers Scheme” also relied on projections. These were well-meaning, but later needed significant corrections. Singaporeans bear the cost of such adjustments. Save Bukit Brown. Save OUR Singapore. Petition at sosbukitbrown.wordpress.com and write your MP.

Thank this Bukit Brownie for making this video!

If you enjoyed watching the latest video contribution from this concerned citizen. Inspired by it, do like it and even better make a response to it. If you want to join the campaign send the images, messages, articles and videos coming!

Send to sosbukitbrown@gmail.com


Encouragement for Saving Bukit Brown

Thank you Bukit Brownies!

Watch the latest video contribution from another concerned citizen. Keep the images, messages, articles and videos coming!
Send to sosbukitbrown@gmail.com

Here is his message for the video:
Some people ask where we get the motivation to keep pushing for Bukit Brown’s protection. Let’s just say we get it from the very top. We are in agreement with what is being said recently! So don’t wait liao. Stand up and be counted. Sign the open letter to support the protection of Bukit Brown at sosbukitbrown.wordpress.com or go to our Facebook page. These places got more information on Bukit Brown also.

Protecting our Commons

~by: William S.W. Lim and Faith Wong~


Posted by  on November 16, 2011

Bukit Brown's sparrow. Photo by Suki Singh

The impassioned public response to the LTA’s announcement that a road will be built through Bukit Brown cemetery can be viewed through the prism of the larger issue of Singapore’s dwindling pockets of active public space – the accessible, shared spaces for citizens traditionally known as the Commons. (This does not refer to the pseudo public realms of shopping malls, theme parks and golf greens, which are highly regulated and monitored.)

Voices of dissent to recent development plans have been increasing in volume. This is partly due to the fact that social media has provided an effective platform for mobilising public sentiment and partly due to growing demand among Singaporeans for open engagement and participation in policy-making. Examples are the campaigns to save the Bukit Brown Cemetery, the Rail Corridor, the Old School at Mount Sophia and numerous other instances involving national issues of land scarcity and urban transport.

Case 1: Bukit Brown Cemetery (BBC)

There is no need to further espouse the historical value of the cemetery to the nation’s culture and identity and its importance for collective memories. These issues have been highlighted by the Heritage Society and Nature Society, as well as in myriad letters from the public. One only wonders whether this is enough to rouse the nation from its familiar apathy towards the government’s pro-developmental strategies that often throw the nation’s heritage under the bus.

The eventual development of the cemetery land may have been publicised in the 1991 Concept Plan but one should recognise that concept plans only serve as a guide. If present conditions make some developments unsuitable, it makes no sense to carry them through. Plans regarding the physical environment should not be cast in stone but should be a flexible incomplete urban framework that is able to adapt to unforeseen changes and accept new conceptual ideas in the contingent urban environment. Also, in the race to beat the 2013 deadline, the frenzy of calling for volunteers to document the graves has conveniently blanketed the fact that this decision was thrust upon us. Open active public discourse would facilitate a transparent participatory process that will build trust in governance.

The recent proposal to digitise the cemetery involves a dystopian concept where real urban experiences are simulated in hyper-reality. This future where history and urban space is a matter of a click of the mouse is a horrific thought. We really are in trouble if this becomes the preferred solution to our urban contestations. We support the letter to Today by Mr Liew Kai Khiun, ‘Golf courses, not history, should make way’. A golf course is about 80-100 hectares, easily the size of a BBC (86 hectares) or Singapore Botanic Gardens (74 hectares). It is a spatial injustice when so many golf courses take up a large amount of land while servicing only the privileged few.

Case 2: Vibrant Rail Corridor

In contrast, the government’s ready engagement of the public regarding the fate of the KTM railway land should be applauded. The various design schemes and ideas proffered in the consultative process provide a clear directive towards any potential development, that is, to keep the 26km tract as a public green to be defended from acquisition for commercial use. The Rail Corridor is an unprecedented historical opportunity to provide wonderful experiences to all income and age groups, whether as a leisure and recreation site or a venue for art and cultural activities. A vibrant people-oriented corridor will generate a strong and unique image of our physical identity. It can become an iconic place with a long and complex history that all Singaporeans can be proud of.

The Myths of Land Scarcity and Urban Transport

‘Land scarcity’ and ‘transport needs’ are often used as the rationale for development. We require more imaginative solutions to these needs, for the day will arrive when we will have finally run out of land. We need to stabilise our population between 5 and 5.5 million, minimise our carbon footprint and work towards achieving environmentally sustainable lifestyles. It is critical that we change this singular mindset of “destroy-and-rebuild” that the nation has perfected into a treacherous art form.

How many roads do we need to achieve maximum flow of vehicular traffic? Infinite! New and/or bigger roads would only induce demand for more roads, a common illusion with automobile-oriented cities. In an age concerned with the carbon footprint, this car obsession is a great obstacle to achieving a sustainable city. Public transport remains the most effective, affordable and reliable way to move people for long distances. Cycling and walking are important complementary alternatives that are seriously under-explored here. There must be a “reset” in urban design towards a people-oriented integrated transportation network capable of meeting the needs of the majority of citizens.

The Save Old School (SOS) campaign began as an effort to save an alma mater but really concerns the land use and development of the Mount Sophia site, an area that is in the process of being transformed into a high-end residential district. This is yet another contestation that foreshadows the insidious losing of our Commons. It is not about deciding which buildings are more deserving of conservation but whether any building should be torn down for redevelopment at all, versus say refurbishment and retrofitting. For BBC, it is not how the graves should be researched or archived, but whether the site should be preserved and improved as a memorable public space. These urban contestations form part of the fight to protect the Commons. One should not mistake these efforts as reserved only for sentimental conservation buffs and idealistic dreamers; they are matters that concern us all.

WILLIAM S.W. LIM is an independent writer and urban theorist.
FAITH WONG majors in architecture, and is currently Lim’s researcher.



Joint release by community of concerned groups

Press Statement                                                                       For Immediate Release (March 19, 2012)

The community of concerned groups over the future of Bukit Brown is formally calling for a moratorium on all plans for Bukit Brown. This moratorium should be in place until there is clarity over long-term plans for the area and discussions over alternatives have been exhausted. Given on-going national discussions over housing, transportation and immigration, there is room for policy adjustments. Plans to develop housing and transport infrastructure in the greater Bukit Brown area cannot be made when these discussions are underway and before the public has had an opportunity to fully consider the details surrounding such proposals.


In addition, there has not been sufficient time for a public conversation over plans by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority for Bukit Brown, nor a discussion about the alternatives proposed by the Nature Society’s position paper issued in December. We are asking for more meaningful engagement than what we have experienced so far. Bukit Brown is important enough that all parties should be able to participate in discussions over its future reasonably as interested citizens, whether individually, as informal communities, or organised formally.


We enclose here a longer statement issued by the community to the Ministry of National Development after the end of a closed-door meeting today. We affirm that the level of engagement is wanting and insufficient consideration given to possible alternatives. We remain unconvinced that the ministry’s approach is the only viable plan for Bukit Brown.


We continue to seek fuller engagement over plans for Bukit Brown, and will explore other avenues to voice our concerns, including with the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development.


For media enquires, please contact the following spokespersons:


Nature Society:                            64571196

Singapore Heritage Society:         94574305

Asia Paranormal Investigators:     Raymond Goh, 96937856

All things Bukit Brown:                 97853617

SOS Bukit Brown:                          Erika Lim, 91856997

Green Corridor:                            Eugene Tay, 90305254

Green Drinks:                               Olivia Choong, 96887449


Voice of the People

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Save Bukit Brown

– A post from the Voice of the People

Official statement from the Society of Paranormal Investigators (Singapore) on Bukit Brown

This was forward to local print media on 4 Nov 2011 (fri), and published on the society’s official website:

Preserve Bukit Brown graves: Fellow Singaporeans

The decision to clear Bukit Brown Cemetery and make way for roads and housing development has triggered many discussions and debates.

The Society of Paranormal Investigators (Singapore), a registered society in Singapore and one of our objectives is to promote and foster knowledge exchange in our own research and investigations. This includes not only scientific but also cultural and traditions.

The Bukit Brown Cemetery is one of our usual locations that we often share and introduce to our members on its rich historical values as well as a great learning journey venue to understand Chinese graves.

The Reverend Master Lee Zhiwang, President of Taoist Mission (Singapore), pointed out that “… Preserving it (Bukit Brown Graves) also exercises filial piety to our pioneers.” (Taoist Mission, 1 Nov).

We agree on this and the Ministry of Education has pointed out that education has to be holistic and values driven. In his speech during this year’s MOE Workplan Seminar, Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Kiat had put forward that values and character development at the core of our education system and we need moral values, such as respect, responsibility, care and appreciation towards others, to guide each of us to be a socially responsible person. Filial piety, sense of gratitude and together with appreciating our own rich heritage should be part of our values. While we educate our young, let’s not forget that we as adults and the nation at large should also set a good example. Preserving the graves is also an act of what the Chinese would say “Yin Shui Si Yuan” 饮水思源. – While we enjoy the fruit of success, be thankful and do not forget the source.

As many other readers have pointed out, many distinguish Singapore pioneers are buried in Bukit Brown. Our roads are named after them and their individual grave each tells a different story and collectively they all form our very own Singapore Story. Thus Bukit Brown has great educational value to our future generation.

In response to Taoist Mission’s letter, another reader, Mr Daniel Chia, wrote in his letter to ST Forum “Cemetery should make way for the living” (3 Nov), that that filial piety should be exercised when the parents are still alive and not only when they passed away. We believed he could have misunderstood the concept of filial piety.
In Chinese traditions, filial piety is to be carried out all the time, when our parents are still alive and even when they passed on, they are remembered and revered through many Chinese traditions, e.g Ancestor worship, Qing Ming Festival and the 7th Month Festival.

We understand land is precious in Singapore; chances of preserving whole of Bukit Brown are slimed, but we still will like to urge the authorities besides documenting Bukit Brown, to consider preserving part of Bukit Brown or identifying distinguished pioneers’ graves and relocate them.

While having a virtual Bukit Brown Cemetery may be a good idea, it will still be a great pity if the actual monuments and historical artefacts are gone. Many people think that Singapore has little history but what we are removing now physically is history. It is certainly not a small part of Singapore’s history but a major part. The pioneers have done a lot in building our nation and Bukit Brown is their final resting place. Let show our respect and gratitude to them by continuing to allow them to rest undisturbed and future generations can still visit them, to understand our Singapore Story.

MJ Chow

Vice – President, Head of Dept of Historical Research

The Society of Paranormal Investigators (Singapore)