Monday, August 01, 2005

An afternoon of Ubin

Today we met up with the Moving Gods and Find German Girl documentary director, Ho Choon Hiong today at the NUS science canteen. It was altogether an animated discussion about supernatural (or really fear and guilt induced reactions!) happenings during the filming at the German Girl Shrine on Ubin. There were also lots of interesting behind-the-scenes action such as Choon's phone call to LTA and SLA every six month to find out its well being.

According to Choon, the shrine requires a TOL (Temporary Occupation Licence)*, a title that cost $600 every 6 months and at the moment, it is owned by a self-designated caretaker on the island who luckily kept his day job as a taxi driver on the island while apparently moonlighting as a medium/caretaker of the german girl. Of course throughout their interactions, there were much conflict and tension and much skepticism towards ethics of the caretaker's sustaining, maintaining and even upgrading the shrine through donations. I believe my favourite moment of the 2 hour chat was finding out that the current TOL is sponsored by the owner of Katong Laksa!

(l-r clockwise) Marcus, Airani, Choon Hiong and Sivasothi at the NUS science canteen. Photo by November. 1 August 2005.

Much of Choon's interest and work in the German Girl, his hunt for the name of the girl and his attempt to trace the family and its descendants back to Germany has seen him visit the National Archive, German Embassy and even a trip to Germany! He has even been brought by a villager on Ubin to see a house that alledgedly belong to the german family! Unfortunately, lack of exact location of the house, the tracing back of land title records showed 2 possible German families but who supposedly left before the war.

Still, arrest warrants, British interning records during WWI are all possible record traces. According to Choon's research, Germans in Singapore and Malaysia during the time were interned in Australia. Hopefully we shall soon be able to find a trace of the mystery through what Siva described as the "voluminous records" kept by the British!

* According to the SLA FAQ page, a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) is a Licence issued by SLA for the temporary use of State land or for the purpose of the retention of minor encroachment from private properties onto State land. Some examples on the website for need of a TOL includes "continued occupation by owners of properties already acquired by and reverted to the Government which are not required for immediate development". This might be what the temple's location fall under, considering that it is standing in the middle of development. As Choon mentioned, if a TOL is not paid for, the temple will be considered as standing illegally on state land and will be dealt with accordingly by SLA.

1 comment:

chinatownboy said...

Great report! I am interested in following the trail of the German Girl too. Looking forward to more updates. If you could share with, it would be great too!