Man demands apology after offerings were cleared prematurely at columbarium , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Man demands apology after offerings were cleared prematurely at columbarium

This article is more than 12 months old

Before they could finish paying their respects to their late mother at a columbarium, three brothers were incensed to find that their offerings had been cleared – barely 20 minutes after placing them at the niche.  

One of them was so upset that he grabbed the cleaner’s arm and demanded he apologise to his “late mother”, sparking an incident that involved the police. 

Peng Hongmao (transliterated), 61, and his two older brothers, told Shin Min Daily News that they visited the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium on April 15.

The group had set up cakes, fruits, tea, wine and other offerings on a small table leaving to burn paper offerings nearby.

When they returned less than 20 minutes later, they found that the offerings, along with the table, had been cleared. The offerings had apparently been thrown into garbage bags.

Peng questioned the cleaning staff present, but they told him they did not know what had happened.

"Subsequently, a staff member called me to explain that the food had been cleared so it would not attract birds," Peng said.

However, he was unconvinced by the explanation, as he said birds were rarely spotted at the place. 

He was so upset over what had happened that he grabbed a cleaner's arm and demanded he apologise to his late mother.

The police were later called in to assist.

Peng said his family planned to offer tea and wine to his late mother after burning the paper offerings. They also intended to bring some of the food home as per tradition.

"This was disrespectful to [my late mother]," Peng said. "This incident has saddened us greatly, and I couldn't sleep well that night.”

Since the Qing Ming period is over, Peng said his family cannot pay their respects again.

"Perhaps the situation can be remedied if the columbarium's management arranges for Taoist priests to perform rites for my mother," he said, adding that the cleaning staff at the columbarium should have a good understanding of traditional Chinese customs and taboos.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) told Mothership it was aware of the incident.

"The cleaner had cleared and disposed of the food offerings, as they were left unattended on the floor and were attracting birds," an NEA spokesman said. 

"This was done in accordance with our protocols, and there were signs in place stating that unattended food would be cleared.

"We would like to remind all visitors to observe general safety and not leave their food offerings, lit candles and live fires unattended."

NEA emphasised that they will not condone any verbal or physical abuse of their officers, and will call the police if such incidents occur.

disputeColumbariumsQing Ming Festival