SINGAPORE - National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Jan 29 there will be no commercial columbarium at the proposed temple site in Sengkang, the latest development in a controversy which has upset some residents.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Khaw said the site, which is next to a Build-To-Order (BTO) project called Fernvale Lea, was awarded to Eternal Pure Land under the impression that the company was a vehicle for a religious organisation to build and own a Chinese temple.
"We now understand that the winning tenderer for this site, Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd, is actually a private company without any religious affiliation," he said. "From what we know, the plan of the company is to run a commercial columbarium on the site. This is not in line with our plan for the place-of-worship site."
Here's a look back at the controversy:
1. What was said in Parliament?
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said his ministry will ensure that the land next to Fernvale Lea is restored to the original plan of a Chinese temple. The authorities are in discussion with Eternal Pure Land on how that can be achieved.
2. What is the tender process like for sites set aside for religious use?
The case of Eternal Pure Land, a commercial entity, winning the bid for a temple site in Sengkang has raised questions on land-use models and the tender process.
3. Why are residents upset with the columbarium plans?
Residents were annoyed that the site was not clearly marked as being used for a columbarium. They said the possibility of a columbarium at the site of the temple was in fine print, and the Housing Board (HDB) did not make that clear to them. Some did not like the idea of living next to the dead, or were concerned about the resale value of their flats. Some also did not like how a religious site was given to a commercial entity.
4. What did the authorities and Eternal Pure Land say?
HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority had said earlier they will ensure that the proposed temple will integrate well with the surrounding developments, the same way other existing places of worship with columbarium space have been integrated in many residential estates.
5. Are there columbariums in other housing estates?
The opposition among would-be residents of Fernvale Lea does not seem to be mirrored in other areas of Singapore that already accommodate such facilities.
The Straits Times spoke to 30 residents living near three columbariums nestled within residential areas and found a general level of acceptance.
6. What are some of the issues highlighted in the controversy?
Some have questioned whether commercial entities, like Eternal Pure, should be allowed to bid for sites earmarked for places of worship. Observers say the episode offers an opportunity for dialogue on land-use models and review of tender process.
7. What are the rules governing death-related facilities and sites here?