Owners of the Fernvale Lea units - let's call it the Fernvale Lea Group (FLG) - should give themselves a pat on their backs, they actually brought the minister to heel! Without explaining why he decided to overrule his officers' stubborn insistence on the fine print - both the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) had flexed their muscles by issuing a joint statement indicating that the columbarium at a Chinese temple planned in Sengkang will go ahead, despite objections from residents - Khaw Boon Wan made a dramatic U-turn in parliament yesterday, 29 Jan 2015:
“For that Sengkang site we do not want a commercial columbarium and we won’t have one.”
He didn't exactly own up to the mistake - that the Government had awarded a place-of-worship site to a company that was not affiliated to a religious organisation - but merely acknowledged that HDB had awarded the land tender to Australian company owned Eternal Pure Land under the (mistaken) impression that the company was a vehicle for a religious organisation to build and own a Chinese temple. In other words, HDB had shoddy due diligence done on the bidders. Not unlike the oversight of shady dealings in the Brompton Bikes purchase.
Surely the FLG deserves an apology from the pathetic lame duck of a member of parliament, Lam Pin Min, for acting as salesman for Eternal Pure Land, promoting their project as the first Chinese Temple in Singapore and in the region (outside Japan) with a modern automated Columbarium, private viewing booths and E-booking for visitation times. That plus the co-ordinated onslaught from the mainstream media to shame the FLG for harboring selfish not-in-my back-yard (NIMBY) attitudes. At an angry meeting with about 400 affected home owners on Jan 4, Lam actually said that there was no purposeful effort to keep residents informed of the columbarium plans as it was not uncommon for places of worship to house such spaces. Well, Lam And Khaw just provided justification for purposeful effort to scrutinise all government intentions.