‘Bukit Brown meeting never intended to be type of dialogue desired and claimed by these groups’

Chua Yini
SingaporeScene

A meeting held on Monday night was not intended to satisfy Bukit Brown interest groups, said MND Minister Tan Chuan-Jin. (AFP file photo)

The Bukit Brown meeting between interest groups and government agencies was "deemed to be an inadequate effort at genuine engagement" because it did not satisfy their demands, said Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Minister said that Monday's two-hour closed-door meeting on the fate of Bukit Brown was "never intended to be the type of dialogue desired and claimed by these [environment and heritage] groups".

"Because we failed to conduct a session that was in line with what they [environment and heritage groups] wanted [to have their own briefs and invite others on their invite list] it was deemed to be an inadequate effort at genuine engagement," Tan wrote.

Tan said that the meeting was held to share with the group background information and considerations, and to highlight the road plans which were announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Monday.

LTA had revealed that one-third of a new road across Bukit Brown will be elevated 10m off the ground, a move which is expected to cost more but is seen as a concession to the environment and heritage groups.

Following the meeting on Monday night, the group released a statement at about 10.25pm, requesting for a moratorium on all works at Bukit Brown.

The eight-point statement said that plans to develop the Bukit Brown area should be halted until there is "clarity over long-term plans for the area and discussions over alternatives have been exhausted".

The statement, which also expressed "dismay and disappointment" at the way the meeting was organised, was signed by Nature Society (Singapore), the Singapore Heritage Society, Asia Paranormal Investigators, All Things Bukit Brown, SOS Bukit Brown, Green Corridor and Green Drinks.

The statement alleged that government agencies had postponed an original meeting scheduled for 20 February with 31 representatives from the groups.  An invitation for another meeting was sent out on 14 March, but only to a few of the original 31 representatives.

According to the statement, the two decisions to allow only those invited by the Ministry of National Development (MND) and to one representative per group gave "a strong impression of the lack of good faith on the part of MND".

The interest groups were also unhappy that the meeting was only held after LTA's announcement of the road plans, which "demonstrates the old practice of presenting decisions" instead of having "genuine engagement and discussion".

In an earlier Facebook post at about 9pm on Monday, Tan said that the decision to proceed with the construction of the road "has not been an easy one".

"While we have not been able to fully accommodate their [interest groups] wishes, we have taken many of their views into consideration," he wrote, citing the decision to document graves that would be exhumed due to the road construction.

He added that LTA has also factored in feedback from the interest groups in the design of the road, so as to "minimise impact to the cemetery, hydrology and biodiversity".