Malaysian Tamil minister refutes temple demolition charge


Kuala Lumpur : Refuting charges that thousands of Hindu temples had been demolished in Malaysia, a Malaysian Tamil minister said only temples built on government land had been shifted and compensation paid.

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Minister for Works Sami Velu refuted the charge levelled by Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which has been distributing a CD worldwide alleging that 35,000 temples had been razed in the country.

Velu, who heads the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), reiterated that any temple in a development area would be shifted and compensation paid, The New Straits Times said Tuesday.

He also urged Malaysian Indians to go through newspapers of the last 20 years and to know for themselves the number of temples demolished.

“There are so many temples which were built illegally. For instance, along the double-tracking project between Ipoh and Rawang, 76 such temples were shifted and compensation paid.

“I have been working on temple matters even before he (Hindraf adviser P. Uthayakumar) was born,” said Velu.

The government is seeking legal opinion on whether it can press sedition charge against Uthayakumar, one of the three Tamils who organised a massive rally Nov 25 alleging discrimination of the Tamil community.

The rally was peaceful according to media reports. But it was declared illegal and the police dispersed the protestors with water canons.

Prime Minister Ahmed Abdullah Badawi has said that no “reasonable Malaysian” believed the charge of ethnic cleansing of Indians.

Speaking to civil servants at the Prime Minister’s Department’s monthly assembly Monday, Badawi, for the second time in recent days, criticised Hindraf.

“Malaysians are not stupid, they know if we have indeed done the things that Hindraf accuses us of, we will not be a peaceful, prosperous and politically stable country today.

“Reasonable Malaysians know the truth. They know how we have brought development and eradicated poverty and we will eradicate hardcore poverty by 2010,” he said.

“While the police are taking the appropriate action, it is important for us to continue our efforts to build this country for all Malaysians, regardless of race.”

He said it was hard to imagine that there were people who could believe Hindraf’s claims. He said these people were “gullible” and acted according to their emotions or were used by other parties for their political agendas.

Meanwhile, Cameron Highlands MP S.K. Devamany expressed regrets for criticising the policies of Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition.

A day after the Hindraf rally, Devamany had told parliament that 50,000 people had attended the rally and that there was discrimination against Indians in the civil service recruitment, including in the armed services.

The issue has impacted Malaysia’s relations with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, using diplomatic language, expressed “concern” at the developments.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, a partner in India’s ruling coalition, has also reacted sharply to developments in Malaysia.