SINGAPORE - A Hindu shrine which has been illegally occupying land along the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks at Queensway for the past five years has finally started moving out.
The Sri Thandavaalam Muneeswaran Alayam shrine is now renting a space on the top floor of a three-storey building along Upper Bukit Timah Road for $350 a month.
The shrine started relocating its deities to the new site on Tuesday (Feb 7), and the management hopes to finish moving the remaining items by next Monday (Feb 13), three days ahead of the deadline to vacate the state land.
This comes after the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) last month issued an encroachment notice to the shrine's representatives, stating that they had to move by next Feb 16. Otherwise, SLA will be forced to take legal action to take possession of the land.
Civil servant Adaikalam Annadhurai, the shrine's treasurer, told The Straits Times of the move from Queensway: "It isn't easy. We've been here for so long.
"We feel a sense of belonging, but we have no choice but to go."
The new site, situated near the former KTM railway tracks, is a 15-minute drive from the Queensway location.
The shrine's management said the move is temporary. Mr Annadhurai, 65, said they are still on the lookout for a permanent place around Bukit Merah.
The shrine was originally located under a flyover at the intersection of Queensway and Portsdown Avenue. It was built by workers of Malaysian train operator KTM at least 20 years ago.
In its advisory last December, SLA said it had been engaging the shrine's representatives since 2011, after KTM stopped train services there and the land was returned to Singapore. The authority had given them ample notice to relocate.
It also worked with agencies to source for alternatives, including co-location at other temples. But the shrine's management committee, headed by provision shop owner Thirunaukarasu Adaikalam, and comprising some 20 members, rejected these options.
The shrine was previously situated on land that is not zoned for religious use. The land is also part of the Rail Corridor, which is earmarked for redevelopment, SLA said.
The shrine also posed public health and safety issues as some devotees cook over open fires.