SINGAPORE - Tags and raffia string spotted across most of the 15,000 graves in Jalan Kubor, Singapore's oldest Malay cemetery, have sparked fear among heritage enthusiasts this week that the site may soon make way for redevelopment.
But the National Heritage Board (NHB) told The Straits Times on Friday the markers are part of a new research project to document the 33,900 sq m plot off Victoria Street.
Also, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's spokesman said a time frame for its development has "not been firmed up yet", although the site has been earmarked for residential development in its masterplans since 1998.
The research project, which started last month, will include a land survey of the site, which is about the size of five football fields, a research report on the cemetery's history, plus a database of photographic and research materials.
The current interest in documenting the site, however, worries heritage enthusiasts like Mr Jerome Lim.
"I'm worried the documentation effort could mean the site might possibly be exhumed very soon,'' said the 49-year-old naval architect.
Jalan Kubor is the last sizeable cemetery in the area and is excluded from the Kampung Glam conservation district that was gazetted in 1989.
Dating back to the 1800s, the descendents and followers of Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor, are believed to be buried in a walled-up part of the compound, known as the Old Malay Royal Graveyard.
Sultan Hussein is best known for signing the 1819 treaty with Sir Stamford Raffles that turned Singapore into a British colony.
The cemetery is also the final resting place of traders from old port towns such as Palembang and other Javanese and Bugis ports. Some are buried in family enclosures, mausolea or clusters.