Sunday, February 3, 2008

Malaysia (Najib) apologises on Hindu temple demolition

Temple demolition: Malaysia apologises

P. S. Suryanarayana (The Hindu, 4 Feb. 2008)

SINGAPORE: Malaysia on Sunday apologised for the demolition of a Hindu temple on the eve of Deepavali last year. This was widely believed to have been a major factor that sparked the current unrest among ethnic Indians.

Describing the demolition of the temple in Klang last November as “wrong,” Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said, “We are sorry for that.”

Addressing the press after inaugurating a special convention of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Najib said such an event should not be repeated. The government would ensure orderly practices in relocating temples that might have been built without proper authorisation.

24,000 temples

It is estimated that there are nearly 24,000 Hindu temples in Muslim-majority Malaysia. Initially, temples were built on plantation estates following the induction of Indian workers there during the British colonial rule.

In recent years though, alleged illegality in the construction of temples and other places of worship, at sites not properly acquired, has become a political issue.

Addressing another major concern of nearly two million ethnic Indians, who constitute about eight per cent of Malaysia’s multiracial population, Mr. Najib said Malaysian Indian children without birth certificates should have access to education.

He also emphasised the need to consolidate Tamil schools that were now suffering from under-enrolment.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was on Sunday quoted as telling a Malaysian newspaper that he had instructed the Selangor state authorities to “let the Hindu organisations decide for themselves how they intend to tackle the number of illegal temples.”

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