Keep southern islands' natural and spiritual wealth

Letter from Malcolm Tan, Straits Times Forum 14 Aug 08;

I REFER to yesterday's article, 'Southern islands at crossroads'. I read with alarm that the departure of Mrs Pamelia Lee as managing director of Sentosa Leisure Group (SLG) may jeopardise the eco-paradise potential of the southern islands. It is indeed sad to learn that Mrs Lee seems to be the 'lone voice' in SLG, fighting for the preservation of the natural heritage of the southern islands.

I have stayed on St John's Island and crossed to Lazarus Island many times, and my photos attest to the fact that the two islands have much natural and spiritual wealth to offer Singaporeans and foreigners that cannot be found elsewhere on the mainland. Amid our hectic urban schedules, my friends and I have always found our spiritual refuge on the two islands with their many naturally therapeutic highlights.

The seas around the two islands are amazingly clear at certain times of the year and support much marine fauna and flora that are rare on the mainland. Many of these can be seen clearly on an especially low tide. One of our last stretches of natural coastal rocky shores in Singapore is also found here, with plenty of intact seashells lying buried in the soft sand. There is even a stretch of naturally soft sand bar on Lazarus Island, where one can walk to an outlying rock without getting completely submerged, even at high tide.

Moreover, nowhere else in Singapore can one see as many as 18 Brahminy Kites soaring gracefully in the air, spotting for prey and even occasionally diving down to the sea to take fish out with a quick and well-timed swoop. Add to these, the spectacular 'red ball' sunset over the open sea and the occasional sighting of pink dolphins in the water and one can understand why these islands are so magical.

The many Singaporeans and foreigners I met on the islands all agreed the authorities should preserve them in their natural state for posterity. It would be sad indeed if these islands are converted into another casino or another rich man's exclusive playground. That would be the sad day when most ordinary Singaporeans like me cannot claim the southern islands are part of our homeland as we have no access to their natural beauty. When that happens, the authorities should not be surprised if some of us choose to seek 'greener pastures' elsewhere. For we would then have truly seen that this country is an elitist one, where only dollars and cents matter, despite all the recent hype about the importance of work-life balance, nature conservation and eco-tourism.

Related links

Fate of the Southern Islands
on the wildfilms blog


Some comments on the ST Forum webpage

#4 - according to SM Goh, you are a quitter leh.
Posted by: LaoHero64 at Thu Aug 14 08:53:58 SGT 2008
Malcolm Tan,

Sorry for the typing error of your name. Deepest apology.
Posted by: richardpang at Thu Aug 14 08:14:44 SGT 2008
Malcom Tan,

Your letter moves me, bringing back my memories and nostalgia of my earlier years.

As an Australian now [living 2 km from a NSW beach], I fully share and empathize with your concerns and feelings for the eco-paradise of Singapore's southern islands.

A walk along the sandy coast has therapeutic effects after a hard day's or a hard week's work. The Southern Islands offer a "relatively cheap" getaway for the whole family. And there is no passport or immigration-check hassle, no strict dress code, etc.

Thanks for your letter, and have a nice day.
Posted by: richardpang at Thu Aug 14 08:08:09 SGT 2008
"That would be the sad day when most ordinary Singaporeans like me cannot claim the southern islands are part of our homeland as we have no access to their natural beauty. When that happens, the authorities should not be surprised if some of us choose to seek 'greener pastures' elsewhere"

We got to pay to step into Sentosa even though it is part of Spore. paying to get into attractions is fair enough but can't I just stroll over into Sentosa without having to pay or is it not part of our homeland - for the exclusive high ended only?
Posted by: anghwahong at Thu Aug 14 07:43:00 SGT 2008
Nah... we need to land-fill all the way to swallow them up... land no enough lah.
Posted by: SeenItAll at Thu Aug 14 07:17:55 SGT 2008

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