GEORGE TOWN: A group claiming to be disgruntled members of Hindu temples forcefully taken over by the Penang Government have demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his deputy P Ramasamy outside Komtar today.
Arriving in three buses, some 100 people protested outside Komtar at 10am, raising black flags and calling for the resignation of the two leaders.
They held banners, one of which read: “P Ramasamy you have no right to comment about Thaipusam. Is it fair for you to demolish a temple which is historic at the Byram Estate to build a refuse depot?”
“Please resign and go back to Sitiawan, get out Ramasamy!” the protesters chanted for nearly two hours. Ramasamy is from Sitiawan, Perak.
The group claimed to be from five Hindu devotees’ committees and associations: Batu Kawan Sri Maha Muthumariamman temple, Balathandayupani Batu Kawan, Maha Muthumariamman Ladang Byram, Prai Siti Vinayagar, and the Sri Kaliamman Temple Ladang Simpang.
Their spokesperson, insurance unit manager M V Mathiyalagan Veeriah, 60, claimed Ramasamy had told residents of Batu Kawan that he would resign from all posts if the Penang Government lost the case on a temple management and ownership issue late last year.
“On Dec 10, 2015, in front of residents of Batu Kawan, Ramasamy challenged and promised that he would resign as Deputy Chief Minister II and the chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board if he loses the case with Sri Maha Muthu Mariamman Temple, Batu Kawan, in court.
“On Aug 11, the High Court decided that the Hindu Endowments Board had no rights over the temple and told the Penang Hindu Endowments Board to pay costs to the committee members of the temple.
“We are also unhappy about Lim’s recent corruption charge and hence we would like Lim and Ramasamy to resign voluntarily to protect the sanctity of Penangites and its government,” Mathiyalagan told reporters outside Komtar.
Mathiyalagan later handed over a two-page memorandum outlining the grouses of the five groups to state government officer Elemperu Vuluthi Kuppu.
Meanwhile, in an immediate response, Ramasamy denied saying he would resign if they lost the temple case.
“I wish that I was so powerful and had the powers to control the decisions made by the judiciary, to blindly say that I would resign if we lost.
“And by the way, we are appealing against the decision by the High Court.
“These protesters are from the MIC and IPF. I would like to ask them to show proof when I had said I would resign. I did not say such a thing,” he said when asked at a separate press conference in Komtar.
The temple issue began in July 2015, when the Penang Development Corporation, a state-investment arm, handed over Hindu temples and Hindu burial grounds on its land to the Endowments Board.
In the case of the Batu Kawan temple, as with the other temples taken over by the board, an interim committee was appointed to manage it.
After the takeover, the former temple committee was unhappy that it was deregistered by the Registrar of Societies. To date, hundreds of police reports have been made by the members of the de-registered committee against the board.
Even after the takeover of the Hindu properties, the board never directly managed these and allowed the interim committees to do so. Former estate workers within the temple’s area were appointed to the committee.
Ramasamy was reported as saying that as soon as the board assumed management control of the Hindu properties, the earlier committee refused to hand over to the board accounts regarding the two temples and burial grounds.
Until today, the committee has not handed over the accounts, including details about temple money and jewellery.