Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has slammed Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor for his “heavy-handed” and “unacceptable” defence of the demolition of a Hindu temple in Alor Setar.
LFL adviser N Surendran said Sanusi had previously ignored how the Sri Madurai Veeran shrine demolished in July was built during the colonial era and so was not illegally built at the time.
He said insinuating that devotees had deliberately built the temple on land that did not belong to them was a misrepresentation of facts.
“The situation of the demolished temple sums up the whole fraught problem of temple demolitions in Malaysia, in which temples originally built with permission during the colonial era were rendered ‘illegal’ by subsequent land sales or transfers decades later,” Surendran said in a statement today.
“The approach taken by the Kedah government in this case as well as the authorities generally, in hiding behind the ‘illegality’ of the temple structure, betrays insensitivity or ignorance of the religious sentiments of worshippers.
“A temple structure cannot be treated like any other building. It carries a religious and social value of great significance to the devotees who attend it as well as the larger Hindu community in the area.”
On Tuesday, the Alor Setar City Council demolished the Sri Raja Muniswarar Temple at Taman Bersatu, Kuala Kedah, which is said to be over 50 years old.
Sanusi said places of worship must be built with prior permission from the local government, adding that MIC should be banned if it incites people to break the law.
“Is the MIC formed to incite others to commit unlawful acts? If yes, it should be banned.
“I want to advise MIC, please don’t act like a hero, don’t be rude,” Sanusi said in a five-minute tirade against the party at a press conference at his office yesterday evening.
Sanusi said when mosques can be built in accordance with the law and careful decision by the state Islamic religious council, and taking into account the number of adherents nearby, people of other faiths should also abide by the law in building their places of worship.
“Why do people of other faiths build places of worship wherever they like? If we do not follow the law, then we are not doing things right.
“One cannot be doing things based on popularity. When you do so, despite it being illegal, then you do not deserve to be a leader.
“A leader cannot follow the whims and wants of the people. A leader should lead,” Sanusi said, alluding to the Barisan Nasional (BN) component.
“I want to advise MIC that it is a party governed by a constitution and approved by the Registrar of Societies (RoS). If the party’s activities are causing disharmony, then the party should be banned.”
Surendran also took Sanusi to task for his remarks on MIC, telling him that freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
He said state governments must be ready to accept and respond rationally to public criticism rather than making threats as they are elected by the people.
“We urge the Kedah government as well as other authorities in Malaysia dealing with disputes on temples to treat the matter with care, sensitivity and understanding of the circumstances and contexts in which the temples were erected.
“The authorities must engage all stakeholders and intermediaries to ensure amicable resolutions and avoid at all costs forced demolitions of places of worship,” he said.
The relationship between PAS and Kedah MIC had become sour recently after its state chief S Ananthan called for BN to “review” its cooperation with the Islamist party.
This was after Ananthan claimed that there was no allocation for non-Muslim places of worship in Kedah’s 2021 state budget tabled by Sanusi recently.
He also claimed there was no allocation for Kedah BN by the PAS-led state government, among others, in a report by Malaysiakini last week.