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Pakatan : ‘Khalid,why so silent?’

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KUALA LUMPUR  –   Despite the onslaught of public criticism and protest against the Selangor government over the Sepang Municipal Council’s (MPS) demolition of a Hindu altar in a house compound three weeks ago, Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has remained elusive on the subject.

Despite being slammed even by his Pakatan Rakyat colleagues over his ‘hands off’ approach on the issue, the MB has yet to voice his stand on the matter.

Efforts to obtain the MB’s response to the criticisms proved fruitless, with the state government simply reiterating that the matter was being looked into.

Abdul Khalid’s press secretary Arfa’eza A. Aziz said the issue was raised at the Selangor Economic Action Council (MTES) meeting last Thursday.

“The findings will be tabled in the same meeting next week.

“The MB has stressed that all local councils must adhere to the standing instructions, whereby the local authorities are to refer to the special action committee on any contentious temples or shrines before taking action,” she said.

Arfa’eza said any misconduct made by the officer involved in the demolition would be dealt with internally by the relevant local council.

However, when asked on the MB’s stand on the matter and what action he plans to take, Arfa’eza replied that any response now would be akin to jumping the gun.

“Any statement made by the MB regarding the issue would be premature and unethical as the special action committee is still investigating the matter,” she said.

The MB’s political secretary Faekah Hussin, also declined to elaborate on the state government’s stand on the issue, and reiterated the existing standing instructions governing shrines and temples.

Calls for Abdul Khalid to voice his stand on the matter surfaced not long after the incident took place.

His silence has frustrated even his Pakatan colleagues, who have questioned his ‘aloof’ manner in dealing with the controversial subject.

Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, who is also DAP national legal bureau secretary, had stated that the silence from the state administrator is “unacceptable”.

His colleague, Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam had also followed up by declaring that the state government had reneged on its promises to keep places of worship intact in Pakatan states.

The criticism against Abdul Khalid however, isn’t limited to within the party. On Dec 7, hundreds showed up at the State Secretariat building in Shah Alam to demand a public apology to the Indian community.

The group, comprising several NGOs, was led by MIC Youth chief T Mohan, urging the state government to rebuild the altar.

On Nov 20, MPS had demolished an altar within the compound of a house in Taman Seroja, Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi.

House owner Umah Devi claimed she had received a notice from the council to demolish it as the structure had violated council by-laws. A second letter warned that she could be fined RM250 per day if she did not tear it down.

Selangor executive councilor has since claimed that it could be an “act of sabotage” as MPS did not sanction the move, and the council president had no knowledge of the matter beforehand.

In 2009, the Pakatan-led government had promised that there would be no demolition of any places of worship.

A special action committee was then set-up, co-chaired by Selangor exco members Teresa Kok, Dr Xavier Jeyakumar and Ronnie Liu, which then subjected the places of worship through an approval process to legalize temples and shrines which fit the approval criteria.

However, critics have noted that since Pakatan assumed control of the state, seven temples have been torn down, with the Sepang case being the most recent. – MD