10 held during demolition of temple

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 1, 2013): For six hours today, high drama prevailed at a 101-year-old Hindu temple in the heart of the city as temple authorities and Indian leaders from both sides of the political divide negotiated with 100 City Hall officers intent on demolishing an illegal extension.

After a series of scuffles, 10 arrests including that of two gangsters from the notorious 08 and 36 gangs and much wrangling between the politicians and City Hall, a "deal' was struck to allow former Teluk Intan MP M. Manogaran to seek an amicable settlement to the issue.

But not before City Hall enforcement officers hacked statues of four deities from their pedestals and placed them in the compound of the Sri Muniswarar Kaliyaman temple in Jalan Tengan off Jalan P. Ramlee besides barricading the extension.

Members of a 80-strong police team arrested MIC Youth chief T. Mohan and his secretary C. Sivaraj, PKR human rights and legal bureau deputy chairman S. Jayathas, temple secretary Nalini Rani and her husband identified only as Prem for obstructing City Hall officers from carrying out their duties.

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Zainuddin Ahmad said those detained were freed after their statements were recorded.

It all began about 8am when the officers arrived to cut open the locks of the main gate and tear down the extension.

Temple chairman R.A. Balasubramaniam said the officers did not produce a court order.

"They just barged in. This plot of land (where the temple sits) does not belong to City Hall," he said, adding that the temple was built in 1912.

The demolition came to a halt for the next five hours when City Hall officers, the politicians and temple committee members tried to amicably resolve the matter and when this could not be reached, the authorities moved in again at 1pm resulting in a stand-off.

At this point Mohan arrived and tried to block the officers from barricading the extension but failed.

For 90 minutes, an intense confrontation took place where Mohan, Sivaraj, Penang MIC youth chief J. Dhinagaran, K. Nagarajan, who is political assistant to PKR vice-president N. Surendran, and an unnamed MIC member were detained.

As tempers flared, three female devotees held a prayer ceremony with bells tolling in the middle of the melee seeking divine intervention.

About 3pm, the episode came to an end with Manogaran announcing that he would pursue the matter with the authorities.

The demolition of the extension was carried out to enable work to be carried out on drainage for a nearby 30-storey office building being built by Hap Seng Land Sdn Bhd.

According to City Hall officers, who declined to be named, temple authorities had been given notice over a year ago to vacate part of the land as it was meant for drainage for the new building.

"We even told them we will repair and beautify the demolished part but they refused to accept. The initial plan was to relocate the whole temple as it sits on federal land but the prime minister intervened and ordered us to allow the main temple to operate," said a City Hall officer who declined to be named.

Surendran, who claimed to have been roughed up by unknown assailants, said the demolition exercise was illegal as it did not come under the purview of City Hall.