Home' Greymouth Star : January 5th 2019 Contents Greymouth Star
“In ageing, one becomes more foolish and more
wise.” — Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld,
French author (1613-1680)
4 - Saturday, January 5, 2019
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
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Phone 03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
Editor Paul Madgwick
Sports Editor Viv Logie
Chief Reporter Laura Mills
Reporters 03 769 7913
Hokitika reporters 03 755 8422
TODAY IN HISTORY AMY JOHNSON
TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS DIANE KEATON
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
“Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have, because
God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I
forsake you’.” — Hebrews 13:5
350 words or less
No noms de plume. Full name, address and
phone number required
One letter per week
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth
E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shah Jahan, Mughal emperor
who had Taj Mahal built in India for
his queen (1592-1666); Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto, Pakistani prime minister
(1928-1979); Robert Duvall, US
actor (1931-); Raisa Gorbachev,
wife of ex-Russian leader (1932-
1999); Umberto Eco, Italian writer (1932-2016);
King Juan Carlos I of Spain (1938-); Athol Guy,
Australian musician of Seekers fame (1940-);
Peter Luck, Australian TV personality (1944-2017);
Diane Keaton, US actress (1946-) .
1066 - Death of Edward the
Confessor, king of England (and later
1589 - Death of Catherine de
Medici, widow of Henri II and one-
time regent of France.
1922 - British Antarctic explorer
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton dies in the Falkland
Islands as he attempted a fourth expedition to
1941 - Pioneer aviatrix Amy Johnson goes
missing while flying over the Thames. She is
1964 - Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Benedictos of
Jerusalem meet in Holy Land on Mount of Olives
— the first meeting in five centuries between
a Roman Catholic pope and Eastern Orthodox
1972 - US President Richard Nixon orders
development of the space shuttle.
1975: Hobart’s Tasman Bridge partially
collapses into the Derwent River after being
struck by a bulk ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra.
Seven of the ship’s crew and five motorists die.
1981 - Truck driver Peter Sutcliffe, is arrested
over the Yorkshire Ripper murders of 13 women
makes his first appearance in court. He is later
convicted of the murders.
WEST COAST YESTERYEAR
Grey County Council was almost “beyond
coping” with requests for water when the
drought broke two days ago.
With only one truck available for carting water
and it making eight or nine trips a day, the
county council was almost “beyond coping”
said the country engineer, Mr D C Forrest, this
He had five requests in four minutes when he
went to work on Friday morning and after that
he had had to tell callers the council could not
help till Monday morning.
“By Monday nobody needed to call,” he added.
The long hot summer has ended.
With 3.15in of rain recorded by the Greymouth
Harbour Board in the 24 hours to 9am,
Greymouth’s rainfall for the year climbed almost
three times the figure for the same period last
At the other end of town, at the Karoro weather
station 2.85in of rain was recorded.
It has been received with mixed feelings. While
the stage had been reached where the county
council was carting around 5000 gallons of
water a day making moves towards outfitting a
second truck to increase this figure, it knocked
back sheep shearing and hay cutting plans on a
number of farms in the district.
At the time it afforded welcome relief to many
farmers by ensuing feed growth.
This has been a problem on the West Coast for
some time, ironically enough at first because of
the near incessant rain. However, the dry spell
allowed the ground to warm up and growth
began. This week’s rain has given it just the boost
“badly needed” by local farmers.
For many farmers, last year was so bad that
their hay is still not ready. For others, those
who managed to get in a quick cut before the
weekend, there is still the prospect of a second
cut in early February.
The weather change has also been a blessing to
the firemen on the Coast.
Fears were expressed by Hokitika’s chief fire
officer, Mr M Davidson, following Friday night’s
fire hazard near there, but the potential fire
hazard has been substantially reduced by the
No rest for the dead
Singapore digging up graves for highways
it would exhume
about 4000 graves
in the defunct Bukit
Brown cemetery for
an eight-lane highway, an unusually vocal
campaign grew quickly to save one of the
last remaining artefacts of the past in the
The cemetery, a rare patch of jungle
surrounded by manicured gardens and
high rises, has about 100,000 graves,
including hundreds of early Chinese
immigrants. It is also considered an
important relic of the Japanese occupation
and World War Two.
Although the cemetery closed for burials
nearly 50 years ago, descendants still visit
their ancestors’ graves. That ritual will soon
end, as Bukit Brown is scheduled to be
cleared for housing by 2030.
“This is a living museum,” Darren Koh, a
volunteer with advocacy group All Things
Bukit Brown, which has offered guided
walks in the cemetery since 2011, when
the exhumations were announced, said.
“ We lost a lot of history and heritage
in the other cemeteries that were cleared,
so we were galvanised into action to save
Bukit Brown,” he said, fighting to be heard
above the roar of traffic and construction
on the new highway.
With some 5.6 million people in an area
three-fifths the size of New York City —
and with the population estimated to grow
to 6.9 million by 2030 — Singapore is
running out of space.
The island nation has long reclaimed
land from the sea, and plans to move
more of its transport, utilities and storage
underground to free up space for housing,
offices and greenery.
It has also cleared dozens of cemeteries
for homes and highways.
“P lanning for long-term land use in
land-scarce Singapore often requires us to
make difficult decisions,” the city’s Urban
Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the
Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a
Bukit Brown has been earmarked for
residential use since 1991, and while the
government is committed to “retaining
and protecting our natural and built
heritage, we need to also balance it against
other needs such as housing,” officials said.
The Chinese have traditionally believed
that the dead must be buried, and that
without a proper burial the soul will not
rest, but will wander about as a “hungry
The burial practice has changed in
increasingly crowded cities from Hong
Kong to Taiwan to China.
Traditional grave burials gave way to
cremation, and the use of columbaria to
store urns with ashes. As even columbaria
became crowded, city authorities
encouraged people to disperse the ashes in
the sea, woodlands or parklands.
“The conception of cemeteries as
space-wasting activity takes precedence
over the idea of cemeteries as sites of
leisurely activity,” Lily Kong, a geographer
previously at the National University of
“ To depart from the practice of grave
burial requires a significant cultural shift.
In many ways, it may be said that this shift
has been made,” she wrote in a 2012 paper
on burial rituals.
Singapore in 1998 announced a 15-year
burial period, after which bodies are dug
up and cremated or interred in smaller
Hong Kong — where even the
columbaria are running out of space — has
a six-year limit. Taiwan has similar limits,
and has long encouraged cremations and
In China, authorities said in 2014 they
were targeting a cremation rate of close to
100% by the end of 2020.
They also encourage on-line
memorialisation, where family members
can set up a website for the deceased,
and make virtual offerings of flowers,
incense and wine, including during the
annual Qing Ming “tomb sweeping”
That is when families clean the tombs,
bring offerings of food and drink, and
burn joss sticks and paper money to give
their ancestors a comfortable afterlife.
Following the announcement of the
exhumations of 4153 graves in Bukit
Brown, Singaporeans rallied on social
media, and showed up in the hundreds for
walks in the cemetery.
The cemetery, dotted with headstones
bearing fading Chinese inscriptions
among the raintrees and thick
undergrowth, was added to World
Monuments Watch, which lists heritage
sites under threat — a first for a Singapore
The United Nations Special Rapporteur
for cultural rights wrote to the
government, asking it to preser ve Bukit
Brown’s “remarkable natural, cultural and
To no avail. The graves were exhumed,
and the first section of the new Lornie
Highway opened in late October.
“ We shouldn’t always have to choose
between heritage and development,” Claire
Leow, who also volunteers at All Things
Bukit Brown, said, citing old hawker
centres and other landmarks which have
“More people are choosing to be
cremated; it ’s all the more reason to
preser ve Bukit Brown as a public space for
all,” she said.
Much of Singapore is built on old
graveyards, including Orchard Road, the
city’s main shopping belt.
The Bidadari cemetery was cleared of
more than 100,000 Christian and Muslim
graves for a new housing estate, while
Choa Chu Kang — Singapore’s biggest
and only active cemetery — will be
cleared of more than 80,000 graves for an
expanded air base.
At Bukit Brown, the graves were
exhumed individually and the remains
cremated. The ashes were put in urns that
were placed in a columbarium.
Authorities first consulted with clan
members and historians to agree on a way
to document the graves.
“ Without such documentation and
research, it is difficult to assess the heritage
value that is at stake, and make informed
decisions,” Hui Yew-Foong, a fellow at the
Institute of South-east Asian Studies, who
led the effort, said.
“And if the government does make the
decision to clear the cemeteries, at least a
good record is made for posterity. ”
More than two-thirds of the exhumed
graves were not claimed because relatives
had died or forgotten, Leow said.
However, others are still claimed.
One such grave “stood unmarked and
forgotten” for six decades before being
“ Finally, I can place a name to the grave
that is my grandfather’s and be a dutiful
grandson,” Norman Cho, a 40-year-old
Singaporean, wrote in a blog on All Things
It is these moments that give Leow hope.
“Cemeteries should not be seen as a
waste of space, but as a part of our history
and culture,” she said.
“ In losing them, we lose little bits of
ourselves.” — Reuters
“Independence for Taiwan would only
bring profound disaster to Taiwan,”
China’s President Xi Jinping said in
Beijing on Wednesday, and he ought to
know. He is the one who would make
sure the disaster happened.
Speaking on the 40th anniversary of
United States diplomatic recognition
of the Chinese People’s Republic, Xi
said that Taiwan was “sacred territory”
for Beijing. He would never tolerate
“separatist activities” there. “ We make no
promise to renounce the use of force and
reser ve the option of taking all necessary
Well now, that would be exciting,
would it not? Start with Chinese air and
missile strikes on Taiwan, presumably
reciprocated by the Taiwanese forces.
Probably no nukes, although China
does have them, but the first major sea
battle since World War Two, followed
by a Chinese assault landing on Taiwan
involving several hundred thousand
troops. Quite a lot of death and
destruction, in fact.
No? That is not what he meant? Okay,
then, what did Xi mean by “all necessary
means”? Harsh words and a trade
embargo? Then why not say so? Is the
Trump thing catching?
There is a peculiar ambiguity to Beijing’s
official statements on Taiwan. On the one
hand, nobody in the communist regime is
in a great rush to gather Taiwan back into
the fold. It will happen eventually, they
believe, and they can wait.
On the other hand, the regime’s
credibility (such as it is) comes from only
two sources: Its nationalist posturing, and
its ability to deliver rising living standards.
With the latter asset rapidly depreciating
— the Chinese economy is heading
south — the nationalism becomes more
important, so a bit of chest-beating is
Many people will therefore discount Xi’s
words as mere rhetoric that the Chinese
communist leader was obliged to use on
a significant anniversary, but not a real
threat to invade. After all, the deal made
40 years ago pretty much ruled out the
use of force.
The US agreed in 1979 that there is
only one China, and that it includes
Taiwan. There just happened to be two
rival Chinese governments at the time:
the communist one in Beijing which won
the civil war in 1949 and has controlled
mainland China ever since, and the
previous Nationalist government which
retreated to the island of Taiwan when it
lost the war.
Both of these governments agree
there is only one China. In practice, the
one in Taipei can never regain control
of the mainland, but it claims to be
the legitimate government of China,
not of Taiwan. Almost everybody
else, including the US, agrees there
is only “one China” and recognises
the communist regime in Beijing as
The 1979 deal assumed that this
conflict would be resolved peacefully
at some unspecified future time, and
Beijing made some helpful comments
about how Taiwan could enjoy a special
status if it reunited with the motherland:
Democracy, a free press, the rule of law
— the same promises made to Hong
Kong when Britain returned it to China
in 1997. Then everybody settled down to
wait for time to pass and the generations
to roll over.
Beijing assumed that the Taiwanese
would eventually see the light and rejoin
the mainland. The Taiwanese assumed
that communist rule on the mainland
would eventually either mellow or just
collapse. Either way, we will all just
get on with our lives in the meantime.
It was a very sensible, moderate deal
— but those assumptions proved to be
Communist rule in China has not
collapsed, and Xi is the most powerful
and authoritarian leader since Mao.
Taiwan has not grown resigned to reunion
with the motherland; on the contrary,
a separatist Taiwanese nationalism has
grown stronger with the years. At the
moment, in fact, the party in power in
Taipei is separatist, though it is careful
not to say so explicitly.
It can never happen: China has 1.3
billion people, Taiwan has 23 million.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen takes
positions that appeal to the local
nationalist/separatists, but she is not
going to declare independence. Xi Jin-
ping threatens bloody murder if she
declares independence, but he knows she
will not actually do that.
What Xi is really trying to do with
his fierce talk is to reinforce the anxiety
many Taiwan voters feel about defying
China too openly. They do not want
reunification, but they do want a quiet
life. His strategy is working: Tsai’s party
lost badly in the recent local elections, and
may be voted out of power in the national
elections next year.
It is just a game, most of the time, and
each player plays his or her allotted role
safe in the knowledge that the script has
not changed for decades. The status quo
is more secure than it looks. But let just
one player deviate from the script, and
everybody would suddenly be in a new
and very frightening world.
It probably would not happen, but it
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
The entrance to the Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore.
Xi’s target: Taiwan
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
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