TOC APRIL FOOL'S DAY FAKE ARTICLE
The following article is fictitious and was published as an amiable prank on our readers on 1st April 2012. The story, concept and text are the brainchild of the following authors: Joshua Chiang, Remy Choo and Gangasudhan
The government has revealed that it is giving serious consideration to a possible alternative to the controversial plans to create a highway through Bukit Brown cemetery.
Drawn up by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), a new route has been proposed that involves cutting through the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) golf course, shaving off two holes of the existing 18-hole golf course.
This radical departure from the original proposed route of the Bukit Brown Highway comes in the face of increasingly vocal criticism of the government’s plan to exhume the graves of 5% of the historic cemetery to ease traffic along Lornie Road.
The news was first disclosed on Saturday afternoon at a closed-door-meeting between conservation groups and a newly set up inter-government bureau, the Heritage and Nature Conservation Official Committee (HANCOC), compromising officials from different ministries.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an activist who was present at the meeting told TOC that the souls of those buried at Bukit Brown can now 'rest in peace'. When asked if he had expected HANCOC to accede to the calls that Bukit Brown cemetary should be preserved, the activist said, "Nay. The officials and top civil servants who were present were quite adamant about building the highway through Bukit Brown at first, but then we showed them a last-minute video we cobbled together."
Insiders from HANCOC have confirmed that it was this video – a montage of the flora and fauna at Bukit Brown cut to Boy George's popular hit "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" – that moved the members of HANCOC to reconsider their original decision.
TOC understands that the alternative highway is an “80% certainty”, having cleared the inner circle of the Cabinet. The 20% uncertainty revolves around the inter-government bureau’s ability to renegotiate a buyback of SICC’s 30 year lease of the affected land.
GAS is Fuming
While TOC could not get in touch with the SICC Management Corporation in time for this story, we managed to speak to the Chairman of the Golfers' Association of Singapore (GAS), Mr Gia Bo Kiu, who confirmed that the association had been informed about HANCOC's latest position and registered his shock.
According to Mr Gia, there was no consultation with golfers at SICC at all. "I only knew about it this morning when I was attempting the 18th hole – it has been sealed up with concrete. It has always been the case of nature spaces having to make way for golf courses and not the other way around. Frankly, I am appalled."
However, a spokesperson from HANCOC said that they had indeed reached out to GAS. "Two weeks ago, we sent Mr Gia an SMS asking him which holes were the least popular among golfers. It was he who did not take our question seriously because his reply was , 'The a**hole, L-O-L'."
The spokesperson also revealed that initially 6 holes were penciled down for removal but after some careful study, the number was reduced to just two. It is understood that a concession has been made to golfers by having the highway built as a 4-storey, two-lane bridge – dubbed the "Golf-friendly Bridge of Kawan-Kawan" by HANCOC – instead of the dual 4-lane surface road that was originally planned. And while the 4-storey bridge will cost 8 times as much according to some engineers, HANCOC sees it as a small price to pay to keep the golfing community relatively quiet on the matter.
However, Mr Gia feels golfers will not be placated. “In fact, the management pipeline of GAS is right now scrambling to put together joint-representations together with the Singapore Union of Caddies (SUC) as we speak to urge HANCOC to reconsider its decision.”
Golfing Mynahs in Danger
He hinted that the organisations are likely to present a paper by the end of the week that argues against the new bridge citing 'heritage and nature-conservation' reasons. "Nearly every rich folk buried at Bukit Brown used to golf at SICC when they were alive. In fact, the legendarily difficult 18th hole was dug by a coolie buried at one of the unmarked graves at Bukit Brown."
In addition, Mr Gia pointed to the cluster of non-native oak tree saplings – planted just yesterday evening – and lamented how they would be destroyed asa result of the impending highway. He suggested too that the mynah species found near the 17th hole would be inextricably affected.
"Yes, the mynah may not be an endangered species, but those at the SICC have evolved to dodge flying golfballs with amazing agility. Who knows? In five years they may actually learn to golf themselves."
Citing the environmental considerations, Mr Gia added that the presence of the golf holes have largely prevented flooding in the surrounding area, and the removal of two of the 18 holes – or almost 50% of a quarter of those holes – would result in severe 'puddling' of the golf course. "Golfers don't like their balls wet," he said.
Difficult but Necessary Decision
Posting on their Facebook page last night, a representative of HANCOC wrote that the decision to build across the golf course was one which weighed heavily in his heart but sometimes difficult decisions have to be made unilaterally for the good of the nation. He assured golfers that there would be 'minimal disruptions' during construction of the bridge, adding, "customized construction boots covered with thick layers of wool have been purchased so that the newly-turfed artificial grass will not be harmed." The representative also stated that New Age music will be played from speakers installed on the golf course during the period of construction to minimise distractions to golfers.
Retired government urban planner Mr B.S. Nair, speaking to TOC in his personal capacity, explained what he believed was behind the government’s policy shift.
“The golfing lobby used to have quite a bit of clout in government circles. On almost every other weekend since independence, you’d probably run into half the Cabinet on the fairway. But now that it’s nearly time for some of them to cross over to the other side, they’ve figured they’re going to have more use for Bukit Brown than the 18th hole”.
TOC has learned that HANCOC reached out to the SUC-GAS committee earlier today to offer a deal whereby a fairway will be constructed that links the SICC to Bukit Brown and converts 5-hectares of Bukit Brown into a members-only miniature golf theme park for SICC junior members.
The HANCOC spokesperson suggested that the theme of the miniature golf park is likely to be “tastefully themed and well integrated to make full use of the funereal surroundings and existing fixtures of Bukit Brown for some family-friendly entertainment.
“It’s really a win-win for everyone concerned. Activists who have been pushing to save Bukit Brown for succeeding generations will now be able to take their kids out for a spot of putting on ah-kong’s grave. What more can they ask for?"
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