Quirky Chempaka garden theme park in Tanah Merah to be taken down within next 2 weeks
It's goodbye after 26 years for this garden.
This quirky little garden in the East, which was built by 63-year-old Cheong Boo Wee at his house will officially be no more within the next two weeks.
The theme park is affectionately referred to as the Chempaka Mini Zoological Garden.
Consisting of a hodgepodge of animal and cartoon sculptures and plants, it has attracted many curious onlookers and visitors, who marvel at the quirky but endearing garden.
In the spirit of fostering kampung spirit among his neighbours, Cheong had slowly put it together over more than two decades, at a cumulative cost of S$150,000.
News of the dismantlement had come as early as June in 2018, but it seems its curtain call will finally happen this month.
Cheong is working to progressively remove the garden from the roadside by next Sunday (March 17).
A long, drawn-out spat
In a recent Facebook post, Cheong described his reflection on his journey in building his garden, and their attempts to appeal for a waiver of summons that were eventually rejected.
The post also included an email Cheong wrote to PM Lee Hsien Loong.
It’s been made known that things have been going on a downward spiral ever since Cheong and his neighbour, the father of Singaporean artiste and host Chua Enlai got into a huge spat.
It’s a long and confusing story, but here’s the gist of what transpired in the last 4 years or so between Cheong and his neighbours.
A hit-and-run, and a cat-feeding misunderstanding
It all started in 2015 when Chua Enlai was involved in a hit-and-run incident with Cheong.
The case then spiralled into a civil suit, and Cheong said he was only paid “damages and cost” of an unspecified amount from Chua’s auto-insurance company two years later.
Another confrontation happened between the families in 2015, where a “misunderstanding” with Chua’s father happened regarding the feeding of stray cats.
A helper living at another neighbour’s house had left food outside the elder Chua’s house, but he confronted Cheong about it anyway, aggravating the unhappiness and tension between them.
Complaints rolling in
In February 2017, Cheong received a letter from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) requesting the removal of his garden statues from the public pavement, following complaints raised by neighbours.
He learned that they started rolling in three years ago, the same year the car accident happened.
Cheong had since shifted his items off the road, but in April 2018, he received a notice from the LTA that insisted he remove everything from outside his home.
Cheong’s Member of Parliament Cheryl Chan had also arranged a meeting between the neighbours, LTA, the National Parks Board (NParks), and Bedok Police Station to help mediate the situation, but a compromise couldn’t be reached.
He tried to appeal to the LTA by rearranging his items to form a walkway, but according to Cheong, he was still ultimately told to clear everything as the neighbour was still complaining.
S$1,400 in summons
Cheong has since racked up S$1,400 in summons so far, from three separate ones given to him in April, June and July respectively.
He had written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to ask for the waiver, but they received a reply that the PMO was unable to assist with the matter.
Speaking to Mothership.sg, Cheong said he is currently trying to raise funds to pay for the summons. He said he has met with kind supporters like one man who read about his story and went up to him, offering to pay off the fines in full for him.
He told us he eventually declined the offer, but was deeply touched.
Cheong also added that he appealed for the fines to be waived so he could redirect that money to clearing his garden and restoring the sidewalk to its original state.
“I said that no, uncle can afford to pay, my intention was to drive the point to the PM office is that eh look, we all do this is for the public… I just want them to empathise with us because we did it with good intentions.”
In reflecting on his difficulties in dealing with back and forth exchanges with the authorities, Cheong said he wishes the younger Chua never hit his car in the first place:
“All these things are very unfortunate. That’s why I always say that how I wish he don’t have to hit my car. If [Chua Enlai] didn’t hit my car in 2015, there would be no lawsuit, the old man [referring to the elder Chua] will not be so revengeful. I think that today I would have been still at peace.”
Previously in response to Mothership.sg queries, Chua’s artiste management company FLY Entertainment confirmed that the elder Chua and Cheong were neighbours, and the matter regarding the accident in 2015 was resolved.
The management company had also mentioned that the issue of Cheong’s theme park is “before the authorities and Enlai and his family are not in a position to comment” on it.
Read our previous stories on the Chempaka theme park garden:
Top image via BW Cheong’s Facebook page