Identifying five vacant kampung houses on Pulau Ubin for restoration is a good example of a process that recognises the value of heritage in a nation's self-consciousness. Pulau Ubin is the country's last offshore village after islanders living on Pulau Seking were relocated to make way for landfill operations. That development has raised fears that Ubin might be turned one day into an industrial or military site. Even without that eventuality, Ubin's community and its cultural and built heritage have been neglected for decades. They have taken on the role of a poor cousin to plans to develop the island into a recreational park and nature site. Ubin became an offshore attraction for jaded mainlanders who wanted a brief getaway from the concrete jungle. The island's intrinsic value washed out to sea.
The new approach, being developed by the National Parks Board (NParks), seeks to return a degree of social autonomy to the island's kampung homes. In other words, the houses would be restored because of their relevance to the island's history, and not to the commercial needs of the mainland. The fact that the five vacant houses are Malay and Chinese signifies the multiracial nature of Pulau Ubin, a microcosm of life on the mainland.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.