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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Temple Demolition

AN OPEN APPEAL TO THE PRIME MINISTER

A letter by P. Uthayakumar in Malaysiakini of 1.2.2007

Dear Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,

I refer to your interview with the BBC on Jan 24 upon which this report PM: Non-Muslims not marginalised is based.

YAB, with all due respect may I bring to your kind attention once again that your statement is not true and we beg to differ when it concerns the ethnic minority Hindus in Malaysia on the following grounds.

Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution guarantees religious freedom and when read together with Malaysian Penal Code’s Section 295 (defiling a place of worship), Section 296 (disturbing a religious assembly), 298A (causing racial disharmony) and Section 441 (criminal trespass) means that the Malaysian authorities do not have the legal authority to demolish Hindu temples or any other place of worship for that matter.

From Feb 22, 2006 until Nov 30, 2006 alone, 74 Hindu temples have been recorded by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) to have been either demolished, threatened with demolishment, served with eviction notices, had their deities broken, been torched and burnt down or forced to relocate next to sewage tanks, among others.

These incidents have never happened to any other place of worship in any other part of the world. These acts by the Malaysian authorities are in direct violation of our aforesaid constitutional and legal provisions.

Most of these temples have been in existence for 100 over years or before Malaysia’s independence in 1957 (50 years ago). It has been estimated by Hindraf that about 90 percent of these Hindu temples risk demolishment as they are situated on state or private land.

This matter has been brought to the attention of the DYMM Yang Di Pertuan Agong, the Malay rulers, your goodself as the prime minister, the minister in the prime minister’s department, the attorney-general, chief ministers, the inspector-general of police, mayors, local council chiefs and other officials and relevant parties, etc. More than 60 letters or memorandums have been submitted to them throughout 2006. Yet, there has been no official response from your government.

Having exhausted all avenues, a public interest litigation was filed which has now been fixed for hearing on Feb 15 at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. But despite this High Court proceedings been filed (praying for amongst others an interim order to halt these unconstitutional and unlawful Hindu temple demolishments until the High Court makes a final decision) even as late as Dec 29 last year, temples have been demolished or served with eviction notices or had their deities smashed to pieces.

Mr Prime Minister, in November 2006 at the closing of the ruling party Umno’s general assembly, you had proclaimed that you are a prime minister for all Malaysians. In 2006, Malaysia was also made a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The year 2007 is Visit Malaysia Year and over the last few years Malaysia has been advertising itself as ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’.

On Aug 31, we will be celebrating our Golden Jubilee of 50 years of independence. Today, we are celebrating our world-renowned Thaipusam festival. With all these occasions and especially in light of your above mentioned media statement, we seek your kind indulgence to order all authorities to immediately stop all Hindu temple demolishments in Malaysia. And to also order especially that pre-independence Hindu temples to be sanctioned as Hindu temple reserves and gazetted the same with land titles as what is being done for all Muslim places of worship in Malaysia.

Please Mr Prime Minister. The world is watching us. Please also act as a prime minister for your ethnic minority, Hindu Malaysians.

The writer is legal adviser of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

STOP DEMOLISHING HINDU TEMPLES WHEN THERE IS A COURT INJUNCTION.

I WOULD URGE THE PRIME MINISTER TO DISCUSS THE MATTER AT THE NEXT CABINET MEETING. THE MINISTER OF WORKS (MIC PRESIDENT) , THE MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR TEMPLES IN THE CABINET, THE MALAYSIAN HINDU SANGAM AND THE VARIOUS STATE GOVERNMENTS WHERE THE 74 TEMPLES ARE SITUATED SHOULD HOLD A MEETING AND JOINTLY TAKE ACTION BASED ON THE RELEVANT LAWS.

IF NECESSARY, COMPENSATE WITH SUITABLE SITES AND BUILDINGS AS IS BEING DONE FOR INDIVIDUAL SQUATTER HOUSES BY DEVELOPERS.

TEMPLE DEMOLITION HAS BEEN IN THE PRESS FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW. THAT IS BAD PUBLICITY FOR THE COUNTRY. THIS YEAR WE ARE 50 YEARS OLD AS A NATION AND IT IS VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR.

WHAT WILL FOREIGNERS READING THE NEWS THINK OF MALAYSIA? THEY WILL THINK THERE IS NO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND THE GOVERNMENT IS INVOLVED IN TEMPLE BASHING.

THE TEMPLE ISSUE IS A VERY PERTINENT ISSUE FOR HINDUS. SO SETTLE THIS SENSITIVE MATTER ONCE AND FOR ALL AT A MEETING OF THE RELEVANT PARTIES AND DISPOSE OF THE 74 CASES EXPEDICIOUSLY. DO NOT PROLONG THE MATTER ANY LONGER. IT IS VERY DISHEARTENING TO HEAR TEMPLES BEING DEMOLISHED.

ANY NEW TEMPLES BUILT WITHOUT PROPER PERMISSION AFTER THIS WILL NOT BE PERMITTED AND SHOULD BE MADE KNOWN TO ALL BY THE MEDIA.

WELL DONE MR. UTHAYAKUMAR AND MALAYSIAKINI FOR HIGHLIGHTING THE ISSUE. MAY GOD BLESS YOU !

RAJAHRAM