Original video source. Sin Rak Sin Party
Over 400 future residents of Fernvale Lea and residents of Fernvale link turned up for dialogue session called by Dr Lam Pin in, MP of Seng Kang West SMC after concerns from the residents came up to him about the planned Chinese temple and columbarium at Fernvale Link.
The dialogue session also had representatives of the Life Corporation Pte Ltd, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Housing Development Board (HDB).
Many of the Fernvale Lea’s future residents were alarmed to know from news that their estate or soon-to-be-completed homes are to be situated next to a Chinese temple, which would house a columbarium within its premises.
Speaking in Mandarin, Ms Sharon Toh a resident of Fernvale Link asked the panel which comprised of Mr Simon Hoo, Chief Executive Officer of Life Corporation Pte Ltd and Dr Lam Pin Min about the details of the company and questions about what the company would offer in the Chinese temple. She also shared her concerns over the running of the Chinese temple by the private company.
Below is the transcript of the video.
Ms Sharon Toh: (Speaking in Mandarin) I myself do not object to the construction of a monastery, or a temple or even a church. But now I hold much doubt towards the intended use of the land that has been tendered by the company and approved by the authorities.
First, I would like to point out to Mr Simon Ho. Simon Hoo? Ok. In the Straits Times and the Chinese newspaper on 30 December, you proclaimed that your company will have a one-stop funeral service. Is that correct?
Not just this, Life Corp also in its shareholder circular, spoke in detail about the series of development once the land is successfully bid. Ok?
These series of development includes columbarium, one-stop funeral services and etc related services. I also heard that you also have a crematorium.
But after 31 (December), after you have met with Dr. Lam. You went to say that you only have services for the columbarium and no funeral services. ok?
Mr Hoo, I would like to clarify on your operations. I have written it down in points and after that what are you going to do to guarantee the residents that you will not provide the one-stop funeral services?
And after you have given us your guarantee, how is Life Corp going to answer to its shareholders?
If your shareholders insist that to have the one-stop funeral services later on. Can we ask if eventually there will be such services? Ok? Because it is just temporarily.
So I have to address that this Chinese temple, would it be Life Corp or Eternal Pure Land managing it? If it is Eternal land that is managing it, how about you answer me, is that ok?
Mr Simon Hoo: If you don't mind, I will reply in English.
Thank you for the questions and these are very valid questions and first thing to clarify. The article which came out in the Straits Times on the 30 December, I did not give an interview. The reporter called me up for a two minute talk and asked me if I am free, I say I am on a holiday, I am on my way, on a plane for a family holiday. Can I get back to you in a moment. So that was the two minute conversation.
And you know, certain investigation journalism came, they read our annual report, they read our announcements and all the stories that was gelled. And when the article was published, it was not verified or confirmed with certain facts of the company itself.
So to clarify those things the report say, the articles say that Life Corp or Simon Hoo said certain things itself, they are linked out of context.
The only thing I said was the temple will be completed before 2017.
In terms of what Sharon Toh has said, you know, the announcements, the annual reports, we tell shareholders, we have told shareholders that we are a full suite of services from premium funeral services all the way to columbarium.
That is true but we did not say that it will be conducted on the same site. That is more referenced to the business model, in the way we have Singapore funeral services, as a fact conducting premium funeral services, they are doing the funeral services at the housing estates all over Singapore.
We are not saying that we are putting SFS into the same place to do the same business. Because we realise that shareholders have no expectation of that and our board of directors have no intention of that the funeral parlour, funeral services to be conducted at Fernvale because in the first place when we went for the tender. We read under conditions, we read the URA guidelines, funeral parlour is not allowed.
Crematorium is not allowed, because that is even worse. Crematorium is only done by the government because crematorium can burn some evidence in terms of any murder case so this is very strict so there is no impression that anyone can just open a crematorium.
As for the crematorium and stuff. There has never been an intention that it should be conducted at the temple site because it is a place of worship, it is not a parlour, it is not a parlour.
So I just want to add, how would we answer the shareholders. I don't have the answers to shareholders because there was no expectation of that in the first place.
Sharon: So can I continue my question? (Speaking in Mandarin) You didn’t answer my question: is this piece of land managed by Life Corp or Eternal Pure Land?
Simon: To that question itself, Life Corp is the parent company; Eternal Pure Land itself is the owner, developer and operator of this temple site itself. So Eternal Pure Land will be operating it but the management is the same from Life Corp.
Sharon: If that is the case, is Life Corp/Eternal Pure Land registered as a religious organisation in Singapore?
Simon: Eternal Pure Land is not a registered religious group.
Sharon turned and addressed the people in the audience: Ok, no. (Residents start to applause)
Sharon: If that is the case, may I know if it is a not-for-profit organisation?
Simon: No. (Further applause from the residents)
Sharon: Is it a registered charity?
Simon: No. (Residents applause)
Sharon: If it’s ‘no’ to everything, in that case, you all should also not be registered with the Singapore Buddhist or Singapore Taoist Association. Am I right?
Simon: Right, right. (Residents applause)
Sharon: If that’s the case how can you bid for this land in the name of a Chinese temple? (Residents applause)
I haven't finished my questions.
If you are bidding in the name of Life Corp, I think this is a serious problem. If you are bidding in the name of Life Corp, a listed company, can I say that you are using falsely using the name of religion as a way for your listed company. (Resident's applause drowns the voice of the speaker)
I have more questions to ask URA later. Thank you
Dr Lam Pin Min: Maybe just before Simon answers the question, there is actually two aspects to this dialogue session, ok? The first aspect is having the Chinese temple with columbarium service located in Fernvale Link. That’s one aspect. I think there will be other residents who will actually be quite concerned about this aspect.
Then the other aspect will be actually the tendering and the running of the Chinese temple activities. All right? Ok, so we have to separate it very clearly and, of course, we will have Mr Simon as well as URA and HDB here to actually help us answer some of these questions.
Sharon: But Mr Lam, if he (Simon and Life Corp) does not belong to any religious groups, how can they claim it to be a Chinese Temple? (Residents applause)
Dr Lam: (Speaking in Mandarin) Later our HDB and URA colleagues will help explain these queries.
(Speaking in English) So we don’t want to jump to conclusion yet. All right?
("Why not explain now?" shouted one resident from the audience)
Dr Lam: Ok? Because we want to have some sequence, lah. We don’t want to jump all over the place. We have time, ok? We have all the time to answer all the questions.