Shrine moves from illegal railway site to new location

A Hindu shrine which illegally occupied land along the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks for five years has finally started moving out.

The Sri Thandavaalam Muneeswaran Alayam shrine now rents a space on the top floor of a three-storey building in Upper Bukit Timah Road for $350 a month.

The shrine started relocating its deities to the new site on Tuesday, and the management hopes to finish moving items by next Monday, three days ahead of the deadline to vacate the state land.

This comes after the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) last month issued an encroachment notice to the shrine's representatives, stating that they had to move by next Thursday.

Otherwise, SLA will have to take legal action to take possession of the land.

Civil servant Adaikalam Annadhurai, the shrine's treasurer, told The Straits Times that the move from Queensway "isn't easy".

"We've been here for so long," he said. "We feel a sense of belonging, but we have no choice but to go."

The new site, also near the former KTM railway tracks, is a 15-minute drive away.The management said the location is temporary.

They are still on the lookout for a permanent place around Bukit Merah, said Mr Annadhurai, 65.

The shrine was originally under a flyover at the intersection of Queensway and Portsdown Avenue. It was built by workers of Malaysian train operator KTM more than 20 years ago.

In its advisory last December, SLA said it had been engaging the shrine's representatives since 2011, after KTM stopped train services there and the land was returned to Singapore.

SLA said it gave them ample notice to relocate, and also worked with other agencies to find alternative options, including sharing space with temples.

But the shrine's management committee of about 20 people rejected those options.

The shrine previously stood on land that is not zoned for religious use.

The land is also part of the Rail Corridor, which is earmarked for redevelopment, SLA said.

This article was first published on Feb 10, 2017.
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