NSP calls for greater openness
In the most recent development surrounding the Fernvale columbarium issue, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) released a statement on Sunday (11 January) regarding its stand. NSP’s strong stance adds on to the hostility already present between the Housing Development Board (HDB) and residents of Fernvale Lea.
Secretary-General of NSP Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss said that HDB’s Fernvale Lea brochure was unclear when it said that the adjacent plot of land was for a Chinese temple. The word ‘columbarium’ did not appear at all. The only possibility of a columbarium being built was in the disclaimer section, where it mentioned that facility plans may be subject to change.
NSP argued that the statement was ambiguous, and that the average reader would have never thought of a columbarium as part of the “change”. They also accused HDB of neglecting their duty to reveal important information to buyers that would have had an impact on their final decision.
Profit maximising over societal duty?
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) had awarded the Chinese temple site to the bidder with the highest offer instead of religious institutions. NSP claimed that the sale allowed for profit maximisation by a commercial organisation given the high profitability of a columbarium. A 1999 court case of Poh Lian Development Pte Ltd v Mok Mee Property Pte Ltd and Others over a similar columbarium issue estimated development costs at $28 million, while projected profits were in excess of $100m.
The plot of land on which the columbarium will be built was won by a business whose parent company is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
NSP also called on the URA to relook its own policy and include public consultations before making its final decision. Open dialogues would allow residents to have a say as stakeholders and reach decisions that are beneficial to both parties. Without such openness, buyers are left out and the eventual decision merely shoved down their throats.
At least from now on, the pressure will be on HDB and URA to be more transparent in their dealings and to avoid making one-sided decisions. This saga may not necessarily be all bad after all.