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Temple issue still burning bright

THE temple demolition in Ampang continues to steal the spotlight in the week of 27 Sept to 3 Oct 2008 in the Tamil dailies. Besides that, the ongoing demand to seek the release of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders from Internal Security Act (ISA) detention, and the tussle between Hindraf and the MIC were also highlights.

MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu continued to play up the demolition of the Sri Maha Kaliamman temple on Jalan Baru, Kampung Tasek in Ampang. On 27 Sept, Makkal Osai reported him reiterating his stand that the 19-year-old temple could not have been demolished without the Selangor government’s knowledge.

The temple issue has been major news in both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban, with the state government denying it had ordered the demolition, which took place on 9 Sept. According to Makkal Osai, Samy Vellu also questioned if the state government had ever given a written order to the local council authorities not to demolish temples in the state.

Responding to Samy Vellu’s statement, Makkal Osai quoted Ampang Member of Parliament Zuraida Kamaruddin as saying the allegations by the MIC president were untrue.

Still on the issue, Selangor executive council member Dr Xavier Jeyakumar was reported by Makkal Osai on 29 Sept as saying the state would offer the present site or an alternative space to rebuild the Sri Maha Kaliamman temple.

Both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban reported that around 300 people staged a demonstration against the temple demolition outside the Selangor state secretariat on 29 Sept. The demonstration was organised by MIC Youth and led by its chief, T Mohan.

The temple management has also taken issue with the MIC for playing up the demolition. On 29 Sept, Makkal Osai reported temple chief S Vijayaletchimi as saying the party did nothing when the same temple was demolished twice by the previous Barisan Nasional state government.

Vijayaletchimi added that in contrast, the Pakatan Rakyat government approved the temple’s application for land title within a month after forming the state government.

But the issue appears to finally be drawing to a close. On 3 Oct, Makkal Osai reported that Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was planning to discuss the issue with the Sri Maha Kaliamman temple committee.

He also said the demolition was reportedly carried out without the state’s approval or knowledge. According to the newspaper, Khalid gave an assurance that the temple will be given land either in the same spot or in a different location, and that the matter will be addressed during the meeting.

Demands to release Hindraf five grows

The ISA detention of the Hindraf leaders also continued to hog the headlines. On 26 Sept, Malaysia Nanban frontpaged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s response to the demands for the release of the five detained Hindraf leaders.

According to the paper, the prime minister said the matter is being referred to Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as he is responsible for internal security.

On 27 Sept, Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban both carried the statement by M Kalaivani, wife of detained Hindraf leader K Kenghadharan, demanding for all concerned Indian Malaysians to be united in demanding for the release of the five.

She said the movement to free the ISA detainees was gaining momentum. However, she was sad to see many parties starting to make unwanted statements on the issue and possibly even derailing ongoing efforts.

The papers also carried other statements by local Hindraf coordinators who questioned the sincerity and credibility of MIC leaders who are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon and demanding the release of the Hindraf leaders.

The front-page news on 28 Sept in both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban highlighted the ongoing fight between MIC and Hindraf leaders. Malaysia Nanban reported that Hindraf national coordinator R S Thanendran asked Samy Vellu not to provoke Hindraf leaders by claiming that they (the leaders) are selfish.

This was in response to Samy Vellu’s earlier statement published in the same newspaper, which accused Thanendran of acting selfishly; besides alleging that the Hindraf leader was afraid he would lose his ability to raise funds for the cause should the five be released from detention.

According to Makkal Osai, Samy Vellu also accused Thanendran of being a liar and claimed his plan was to keep the Hindraf leaders behind bars. Responding to this, Thanendran in Makkal Osai told Samy Vellu off for making empty statements, and challenged him to have an open debate on the credibility and sincerity of the movement’s struggle to release the Hindraf five.

To muddy the waters further, Malaysia Nanban on the same day reported that one of the detainees, P Uthayakumar, said he would rather remain in detention than go free due to the efforts of the MIC.       

20,000 without MyKad

On 29 Sept, Makkal Osai reported Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam as saying that there are 20,000 Indian Malaysians without MyKad.

According to the minister, these are all Malaysian citizens, but they face difficulty in applying for MyKad as they do not have proper documentation.

The MIC is looking into the issue, he said.

Responding to this statement, on 30 Sept Makkal Osai reported Perak executive councillor A Sivanesan as saying that Subramaniam’s announcement was neither helpful nor proactive. What is more important is the number of people whose complaints have been attended to and whose problems have been solved, he said.

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