KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi has written to Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali, seeking an urgent meeting with him, in the wake of a threat by Sime Darby to demolish a century-old temple in the vicinity of its Serena City Township in Sepang District. The threat, according to Hindraf Chief P. Waythamoorthy, followed the failure of the company to get those affected to accept a unilateral agreement. “Hindraf Selangor Secretary Rajasegaran Marimuthu has sent the urgent letter to the Selangor Menteri Besar’s Office.”
“The proposed relocation of the temple contravenes the guidelines of the Town and Rural Planning Department of the Selangor Government on such matters, the Selangor State Structure Plan 2020 and the Selangor State Structure Plan 2035.”
Briefly, added Waytha a senior lawyer in private practice, the letter expressed shock that the Selangor Government was virtually in cahoots with the developer, Sime Darby, to make arbitrary decisions. “They seem to have no intentions to consult the people affected and provide comprehensive and practical solutions on sensitive issues,” he complained during a telephone interview.
“The Temple Committee is not agreeable to the unilateral and arbitrary decisions made on the fate of the place of worship, among others. They want to be engaged, representing the local community and devotees, on the temple and related matters.”
The company, he alleged, reportedly threatened the temple caretakers and residents in the affected area with demolishment of several structures on the grounds that they were occupying them as squatters. “The people affected were told that Sime Darby would evict them and demolish the temple if they don’t sign an agreement that was given to them on May 23 this year.”
The Hindraf Chief referred to the historical value of the temple and the area and the fact that the three divisions of the Ampar Tenang Plantation in the vicinity housed over 900 families. The temple itself hosts thousands of devotees during auspicious religious occasions, signifying the cultural and religious continuity of the local community. “The Temple Committee is not against development,” said Waytha. “They just want to be consulted on matters which affect them.”
“They want to be part of the discussions to arrive at solutions before any decisions were made on sensitive issues which affect the faith, culture and history of the local community.”
He said that the people affected had informed Hindraf that the major issues including the relocation of the temple, land area that was to be allocated, the compensation amount, and reconstruction of a temporary structure for the temple, among other issues, “were unilaterally decided by Sime Darby representatives and a Selangor Government Exco at a meeting on 23 September last year”.
“The Temple Committee in fact wrote almost immediately to the Exco concerned for a meeting but the letter was re-directed to Sime Darby,” lamented Waytha who was briefly in the Federal Cabinet and the Senate after the 2013 General Election after returning from political asylum in the UK.
During a meeting at the Exco’s Office on May 26 this year, continued Waytha, the Temple Committee was informed that if the place of worship was not voluntarily removed, the developer would seek a court order to demolish it without any further reference to those affected.