After years of talks to find suitable alternative sites for a Hindu shrine operating illegally on state land for the past five years, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has given the former’s representatives till Jan 18 to relocate the shrine.
SLA officials on Thursday (Dec 15) issued an advisory to representatives of the Sri Thandavaalam Muneeswaran Alayam shrine at 451A Queensway — which occupies the land that used to belong to the Malaysian government when the KTM trains were still running — informing them of the
The shrine must move because it sits on land that is not zoned for religious use and is part of the Rail Corridor, which will be redeveloped in the future. There are also public health and safety reasons, said the SLA.
Asbestos has been found in the roof of an adjoining state property, and removal works of the hazardous material can only be conducted safely after the shrine has been removed. The shrine’s makeshift tentage structure — comprising temporary construction materials such as timber and plastic sheets — also poses safety risks. In addition, the SLA said the site is a potential fire hazard because cooking there is done over an open fire using a gas cylinder.
“The shrine made no efforts to relocate despite having several years to do so. As there are no further alternatives, SLA issued an encroachment advisory to the shrine’s representatives today. SLA will continue to provide whatever assistance we can to the shrine,” said an SLA
The SLA said it has held several engagements on relocation with representatives of the shrine since 2011. The statutory board roped in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) and the Hindu Advisory Board. With the help of the HEB, one of the Hindu temples offered to house the shrine’s deity, but this was rejected by representatives who cited a difference in the observation of rituals.
If the advisory is not complied with, a legal notice could be issued, giving a 28-day grace period. After that, the SLA has the option to seek a court order to enforce the eviction.
The Sri Thandavaalam Muneeswaran Alayam shrine was erected in the 1990s by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) railway workers who used to live at the quarters situated at 451A Queensway. After the land was signed over to the Singapore Government on July 1, 2011, the shrine — occupying 30 sqm — continued to operate.
Speaking to TODAY, one of the shrine’s representatives, Adaikalam Annadhurai, 64, said they will not move the shrine unless a suitable location is provided along the Rail Corridor. He added that the shrine’s representatives have also informed the authorities that they are willing to purchase a similar plot of land near the Hang Jebat Mosque, which is located 10 minutes away from the shrine’s current premises.
Noting that the shrine’s deity is a “railway god”, Mr Annadhurai said the shrine has to remain at or near the current location. He added that there are about 100 regular devotees, with many others worshipping there from Fridays to Sundays. “For me, I feel very happy whenever I visit the shrine. The place gives me peace,” he said.
On Dec 5, the representatives of the shrine submitted a petition signed by 800 individuals to the SLA and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah, appealing for the shrine to be allowed to remain at the current site. They sought Ms Indranee’s help as she is the Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Law. The area where the shrine is located in is overseen by MP Chia Shi-Lu.
Noting the sensitivity of the issue, the SLA said it gave the appeal much consideration, and gave representatives ample time and notice to relocate.
There have been previous instances where Chinese shrines operating illegally were asked to be removed. TODAY understands that the SLA has never had to issue a legal notice or go to the courts over such cases. In one case in 2011, an unauthorised Taoist shrine on State land near Tanglin Halt and Commonwealth Drive was relocated to the Taoist Federation, in accordance with rituals.