Everything in planned in Singapore: where you put military training, the show farms, the university, the houses and the cemeteries. You can’t have cemeteries near the people because that is valuable land for businesses, for housing. You can’t have it near your temple, or church, synagogue or mosque because that may very well be on the fifteenth floor of a building. So the government put the cemeteries in the far west, near the military training grounds and the causeway to Malaysia. Near where the Japanese once invaded through the forest on bicycles.
Up to 1985, the government cleared 21 cemeteries and exhumed over 100,000 graves in order to make room for housing downtown. Even today, the government still limits the amount of time that someone may be buried. Since 1998, the government has limited the burial period to 15 years, at which point a grave will be exhumed and the remains can be cremated or re-buried, according to one’s religion. Additionally, in true Singaporean fashion, all burial plots consist of a concrete crypt without a base in order to “save space, make the cemetery more accessible and give the cemetery a neater and more pleasant appearance for many years to come”.
These days, there is only one cemetery in Singapore: the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. As you drive by on the main road, you pass signs for the Chinese, Christian, Ahmadiyya Jama’at, Muslim, Parsi, Baha’I, Jewish, Hindu and Lawn cemeteries. All neat, orderly and clearly defined to one section of the island, meant to sustain Singapore’s burial needs for the next hundred years.