Gone in 20 minutes: Man seeks compensation after offerings for late mum at Choa Chu Kang Columbarium binned

Gone in 20 minutes: Man seeks compensation after offerings for late mum at Choa Chu Kang Columbarium binned
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

The annual Qing Ming or tomb-sweeping festival is a time where the Chinese pay respects to their deceased loved ones.  

Typically, food and other offerings are presented in front of the graves or tablets, with some time allotted for the spirit to 'partake' in the feast.

One man was outraged, however, when he found out that the offerings he'd placed in front of his late mum's tablet at Choa Chu Kang Columbarium were cleared prematurely, and in less than 20 minutes.

The incident occurred last Saturday (April 15), Shin Min Daily News reported.

Speaking to the Chinese daily, the 61-year-old businessman shared: "This is the 13th year that we as a family have come to pay our respects. We brought along a table and set it up with cakes, fruits, tea, wine and other offerings."

The family then left the items on the table to head to a separate area to burn the paper offerings.


When they returned to the hall less than 20 minutes later, however, they found the space had been cleared and the offerings dumped in a bin.

"I asked a cleaner there what had happened, but the worker professed not to know," said the man, surnamed Peng.

Peng added that two columbarium staff members subsequently arrived on the scene and apologised, but they were still unable to provide the family with an explanation.

"A staff member called me up later and said it was because they were worried that food would attract birds. But the place was devoid of even mosquitos and flies, much less birds," Peng countered.

He stated that "it's disrespectful" that the family were not able to complete the ritual of offering tea and wine to the deceased. Peng added that as a result of the removal, family members were also not able to bring the food offerings home to eat, as per custom.

Peng admitted to being so agitated at the time that he'd grabbed hold of the cleaner's arm and demanded that he apologise to his late mum. Police were later called to the scene, reported Shin Min.

"The incident has made us heartbroken and we have not been able to sleep well," he shared.

Peng stated that he's still waiting on staff from the government-run columbarium to provide him with a satisfactory explanation or compensation.

He shared that as Qing Ming is already over, it wouldn't make sense for the family to redo the ceremony. 

"If the management can arrange for a priest to conduct some rites for my mum, maybe that can remedy the situation," he added.

Don't leave food unattended, NEA warns

When contacted by Shin Min Daily News, a spokesperson from the National Environment Agency (NEA) stated that the cleaner had acted according to regulations, as leaving food unattended will attract birds.

NEA stated that there are also signs placed in the area warning members of the public against doing so.

It added that due to the altercation that ensued between Peng and the cleaner, the police were called in and they are currently investigating the case.

Besides advising the public not to leave food unattended and observe property fire safety measures at such venues, NEA also warned that it does not condone any physical or verbal attacks on its staff and would report such incidents to the police where necessary.

ALSO READ: 'At least he asked for permission': Man filmed taking altar offerings along HDB corridor


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