Kedah MB defends demolition of Hindu shrine

The Sri Madurai Veeran shrine in Alor Setar.

ALOR SETAR: Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor yesterday defended the recent demolition of a Hindu shrine near the rail station here, saying the move was legal with adequate notice given to the caretakers.

In a press conference, he said the Alor Setar City Council (MBAS) had issued four notices since Jan 10 last year.

He said the most recent one was dated June 17.

He also said the Kedah government had offered the caretakers an alternative site for the shrine, but that they had refused the request due to what he called “needling” by third parties.

“There was a place they could have moved out to, but they were poked with needles by parties such as P Ramasamy,” he said, referring to the Penang deputy chief minister II.

“There are unresolved matters in Penang – he should go back to Penang.”

The shrine, located under a tree opposite the Alor Setar rail station, was demolished by MBAS in the early hours of July 9.

MBAS had served an eviction notice on the demolition plan a few weeks earlier, saying the shrine was built “illegally” on road reserve land and was disrupting traffic flow.

Ramasamy was among those who had protested the demolition.

Sanusi said the shrine would have expanded and posed “a bigger problem” had the state government not acted.

He also denied the caretakers’ claim that the shrine was close to 100 years old, saying it was only about 70.

“I am sorry to the devotees there, but the (construction of the) shrine was against the law and we had to take action.

“We are not racist,” he said. “This is a matter of law.”

Adding that the shrine was 8 by 12 feet in size, he said: “You can bring it back home if you like. It is not that big.”

He said the shrine’s caretakers had met him earlier to appeal against the demolition order given by MBAS. They were given a month to move out, but when he learnt that the shrine had been illegally built, he told them to clear out in 10 days.

He said the state executive council had also given them an additional seven days.

“They promised me that they would move out. The city council was merely following the law.

“Now, they are praying to the tree (where the shrine once stood). They are causing disharmony in Kedah.”

Adding that those who wished to live in such conditions could “move to Penang”, he said Kedahans “must follow the law”.

When asked if the remnants of the shrine had been returned to the caretakers, he said: “Do you want it? I see the statue’s leg has been broken. The statue is very small, about knee-high.”

To questions of a police report lodged against him regarding the matters preceding the demolition, he said he had done nothing wrong and was willing to be investigated.

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