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Furore over temple rule against wheelchairs

 | April 10, 2014

Temple taken to task in violating the rights of wheelchair bound devotees.


Anthony SB ThanasayanPETALING JAYA: A Hindu temple in Petaling Jaya has irked wheelchair bound devotees by putting up a notice barring them from bringing in their wheelchairs into the proper temple premises to carry out their prayers.

The temple located on Bukit Gasing had put up a signboard detailing the rules devotees need to adhere to during their visit there.

Nevertheless, one of the rules on the list had explicitly spelled out the following:

“Wheelchairs are not permitted within temple premises as with the general rule of shoes and slippers”.

One of those affected by the rule is wheelchair bound activist and former Petaling Jaya councillor Anthony SB Thanasayan, who is furious with the temple for comparing wheelchairs to shoes and slippers.

“You have a choice when you are wearing shoes but we cannot choose… you can’t give an apology and expect everything to be fine after creating such distress,” said Anthony on behalf of all those who are wheelchair bound.

“This is full blast ugliness and horror, coming from a temple that is supposed to be setting an example of how a place of religion should behave in a secular world.”

Meanwhile Francis Siva, president of Independent Living and Training Malaysia, shared the same sentiments as Anthony, and reiterated that they will take alternative measures if no action is taken against the temple.

He called on the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to take necessary steps to solve the issue.

“MBPJ should be working to solve this problem. If they fail to do so, we have no choice but to plan out a protest at the temple for their discrimination.”

“The temple should be a holy place with spiritual leaders. What they are doing right here is against what they should stand for.”

Meantime, when contacted, Petaling Jaya councillor Cynthia Gabriel promised to look into the situation but hopes that the public will give her a few days to tackle the issue.

“I am aware of the situation but I have not been at the site to see it for myself yet. I will do so within one or two days and decide how best to tackle the situation.”

Lack of space

Meanwhile, Sivan temple management president T Maharathan said the decision to not allow wheelchairs into the temple was because the lack of space at the place of worship.

“We are not so inhumane as to disallow those with a disability to pray. The sign is indicated because of the limited space in the temple which, as a place of prayer, should be kept clean.

“Devotees are allowed to pray at the side of the temple as well and are not limited to only conducting their prayers inside the premises,” he said.

Maharathan said since news broke out “the situation is spiraling out of control and becoming a media circus’.

“I have even received death threats on Facebook. This is because some people want to turn this into something which is not. They want to create a ruckus.

“The temple or God does not discriminate against anyone, wheelchair or otherwise. You can pray, that is not a problem. Please visit the temple and see for yourself if bringing in a wheelchair is advisable. Also if we allow a wheelchair bound, we must also guarantee his safety in the small space.

“If we fail to do this, we would be blamed too. So, what else can we do except bar wheelchairs,” he added.

The Sivan temple has been around for more than 50 years and was mired in controversy for causing landslides due to its structure since 2006.

It is perched at the tip of Bukit Gasing overlooking the Petaling Jaya city.

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