Tan May Ping
Sun, Jun 08, 2008
The New Paper
Why cut down healthy 17-year-old tree?

FOR 17 years, the mango tree grew undisturbed.

But now, it is at the centre of a conflict between a shopowner and the Management Corporation (MC) of an estate in Simpang Bedok.

Mr Gabriel Tan, 52, is trying to prevent the MC of Bedok Shopping Complex from cutting down the tree.

He feels they have not given a good reason to do so.

The MC's lawyers recently sent a letter to Mr Tan demanding that he 'immediately cease and desist from hindering or otherwise obstructing' the contractor from felling the tree.

The MC is made up of owners - elected at the annual general meeting (AGM) - who run the estate, while Kenwood Property Consultants is the estate's managing agent.

On 17 May, Mr Tan said a worker approached him in his shop and asked him to remove his pickup, which was parked under the tree.

He said he saw some workers with a chainsaw, and it then dawned on him that they wanted to cut down the tree.

'When I realised what they were going to do, I refused to move my vehicle,' said Mr Tan, who is authorised to speak and act on behalf of his father, who is the owner.

Mr Tan has run his audio equipment business there for 12 years.

He said he was told by the MC that the owner of the private house next to the tree had complained that the leaves were falling into his backyard.

The police were called in, and it was decided that the tree should not be cut down until clarification was sought from the National Parks Board (NParks). The contractors left after an hour, said Mr Tan.

He then went on the Internet and found Mr Joseph Lai, who is actively involved in the conservation of trees.

He contacted Mr Lai to ask for advice on how to handle the issue.

Mr Lai, a trained botanist, told The New Paper he inspected the tree and found that it was 'perfectly healthy' and posed no danger.

Mr Tan sent faxes to the managing agent appealing to them not to cut down the tree.

Then, on 31 May, he got a shock when he received a lawyer's letter threatening legal action if he continued to hinder the removal of the tree.

The letter said the MC had approved the felling of the tree by a majority vote, and had obtained the necessary clearance from NParks.

But when contacted, an NParks spokesman said its approval is not required as the tree is in a private compound, and not within a tree conservation area or on vacant land.

When contacted by The New Paper, the MC chairman declined comment.

The estate, which is also known as Bedok Market Place, consists of shophouses and a central marketplace.

The owner of the private house next to the tree said he was surprised that the management had decided to remove the tree.

The retiree, who declined to be named, said the tree had not been pruned for three years and was getting 'heavy on top'.

He said he had not asked for the tree to be cut down, adding: 'Last October, I asked the MC to prune the tree. That's not the same as felling the tree.

'We have overhead electricity cables and if the branches fall on the cables, we would have no electricity until they are repaired.'

Mr Tan said several businesses do not want to get involved, but gave him their support.

One of them, a restaurant owner in his 40s who did not want to give his name, said it would be a waste to cut the tree down.

He said: 'It gives joy to many people. During our breaks, we like to sit outside under the shade of the tree.

'The tree also bears so much fruit and you can see the smile on people's faces when they pluck the fruits.'

Mr Tan said he would bring the matter up at an upcoming AGM.


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