Malaysia: Report on Hindu temples sought

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Singapore, Dec 26: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has called for a periodical report on Hindu temples in the predominantly Muslim country, according to Malaysian media reports.

Mr Badawi has told Works Minister and president of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) S Samy Vellu to submit a list of temples that might have to be demolished for various reasons to his ministerial cabinet. ''As the issue of temples is a sensitive matter, a new approach is necessary to resolve it and the MIC will completely take over the task,'' said Mr Vellu, pledging to travel through Malaysia to prepare a report on the number of temples and their problems. Malaysia's ethnic Indian Hindus protested on November 25 for being marginalised and their temples being demolished, some of which the government said were built illegally on state land.

''We will identify the illegally-built temples first and check on their status,'' Malaysian media quoted Mr Vellu as saying.

About 1,650 heads of temples in the Federal Territory and Selangor state in Peninsular Malaysia are expected to attend the first round of meetings with Mr Vellu, the de facto leader of the ethnic Indian community but facing pressure to step down from MIC following the ethnic Indian protest on being left out of the Malaysian prosperity. But Mr Vellu has assured that the first round of meetings with the temple heads in the two states would be to verify the status of the land where the temples were located, to secure land for them in all new housing areas and to seek registration for all temples.

''We will scrutinise all matters to ensure that no temples are demolished in the future or suitable alternative sites are allocated to temples that have to be demolished so that Hindus can continue to worship,'' said Mr Vellu in a statement.

''No temples, either legal or illegally built, will be demolished without a thorough check and discussions with the MIC,'' he stressed.

Separately, Mr Vellu has also expressed surprise that non-Malays, especially Indians were not interested in government jobs.

He was commenting on a local media report that only 2.5 per cent local Indians and 1.78 per cent local Chinese had applied for 486,802 civil service jobs last year.

The report quoted Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Ismail Adam as saying that the situation was difficult to change although the PSD had been trying to reduce the gap between the races in the civil service.

Mr Ismail pointed out that the government had never condoned sympathy or discrimination when hiring new staff, including those at the Diplomatic and Administrative level.

Prime Minister Badawi is preparing to hold General Elections early next year but the November 25 protest by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) has raised issues being faced by minority community in Malaysia and highlighted the government's policy on giving economic support to Bumiputras as the local indigenous Malays and Muslim are called.

This has raised a new challenge at the polls for the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional or National Front made up of several parties representing the cross section of the 26 million population, including two million ethnic Indians, and led by the United Malays Nasional Organisation, along with Malaysian Chinese Association and MIC.

The opposition political parties are trying to use issues raised by the Hindraf protest last month, which is estimated to have been the largest rally in the last three decades attended by some 20,000 ethnic Indians in the city centre of the Federal Capital of Kuala Lumpur.


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