Inter-faith and inter-racial relationship is NOT easy!

November 2nd, 2010 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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I read the coverage of the final hearing for Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) draft plan as reported by The Star below, and could only shake my head in wonder. There’s so many complications and factors involved in deciding things like location of places of worship , crematorium and cemeteries, and schools. Have to consider the feelings of the various stakeholders, and the “relative” rights of individual (we live in an unequal rights country).

Its well-known that approval for non-Muslim place of worships is rarely given, thus some of them are located in shoplots and houses (can easily find many churches in my area).  Even the statistics are not proven to be correct, and often misused to say that there’s too many temples for population ratio. I think the government should fund an study to count the number of places of worship in the country. Can arrange for some research company to do it, and overseen by relevant ministries, respective state/district authorities and NGOs.

Another problem is cemetery. No one wants a cemetery next to their house (I think even mentioned in Hinduism scriptures to built house away from cemetery and crematorium) as it brings a negative conotation and usually leads to lower property value. Problem is, the people also want to have a burial place/crematorioum “nearby” for convenience, but as long as not “too near”. Its not easy to find such “ideal” location that can please everyone, but the effort must be undertaken. Let more public participation to take place so that can brainstorm better suggestions. Maybe MPAJ (or other authorities as well) can’t solve every problem because they are not smart enough or lack manpower.

Same goes for school relocation. If the majority population in an area is Chinese or Indian (or even if not majority,  25% and above will do), then should allocate enough space for both national school and vernacular school. If not, how to relocate schools from rural/underutilised areas? You can’t expect many sizeable areas to be 70-80% population by Chinese or Indian community, and then only want to relocate schools there.

THE Buddhist and Christian communities in Ampang are worried over the lack of space to build temples and churches following the final hearing for the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) draft plan yesterday.

Selangor Buddhist Development Committee (SBDC) secretary Chua Teck Seong said the Selangor Planning Guidelines and Standards from the Town and Country Planning Department, released in June 2006, stated that for non-Muslims, there should be a place of worship for every 2,600 devotees or 5,000 residents.

“Taking the figures from the 2000 census carried out by the National Statistics Department, there are 160,748 Buddhists in Ampang and therefore there should be 62 temples here,” he said.

He pointed out that there were only three sites in Ampang allocated in the draft plan for non-Muslims’ places of worship.

Another religion-based issue discussed at the hearing was Charis Christian Association spokesman Chok Poi Fong’s request for a Christian crematorium in Ampang.

Making his point: Ee speaking at the hearing as Lee (seated right) looks on.

“The nearest one is in Cheras and there is one in Petaling Jaya and Seremban respectively. Not only is the one in Cheras far away but it often breaks down and has a long wait-list,” Chok said during the hearing, adding that the crematorium could be shared by churches in the area.

State Housing, Building Management and Squatters Committee chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad, who chaired the hearing, said there was a discrepancy in the statistics provided by the religious groups who attended the hearing.

“For instance, we have been told at the hearing by SBDC that there are fewer than 10 temples in Ampang, but we know of two registered ones and another 24 which operate in homes and shoplots,” he said.

He said that according to state records, there were 10 Hindu temples, two Gurdwaras and 22 churces in Ampang.

“The state Town and Country Planning Department will have to meet with these groups and figure out these discrepancies,” he said.

Another issue heard was the proposal to allocate land for a Muslim cemetery in Taman Bukit Permai 2 that was met with both objections and support from the residents who turned up.

Pangsapuri Anggerik Joint Management Body (JMB) chairman A. Karim Mohd Esin said there was a critical need for a Muslim cemetery in Ampang.

“We support the gazetting of the land which is just next to our apartment and separated by a ditch.

“However, we would like to suggest that the community hall that will be built in the buffer zone to also have a surau and a funeral parlour,” he said.

Opposing the cemetery plan was resident Julia Long, 48, who said that it was unfair to the residents who had been living there since 2000 to have to put up with a cemetery beside their homes.

“When we bought our houses, the master plan indicated that the land next to our area was a forest reserve. I would prefer it to remain as such,” she said.

She added that bulldozers and excavators had tried to level the forest in 2008 without residents’ knowledge and it was only stopped after the latter appealed to MPAJ.

“A cemetery will mean increase in traffic in the area, she said, adding that she did not want any kind of development taking place at the site.

Another resident, Sara Chan, 44, said she would approve of the building community facilities like playgrounds at the site.

Our property value will drop if a cemetery is built and I do not think that is right,” Chan added.

Another hot topic at the hearing was the issue of primary vernacular schools.

“We have received objections from five residents of Bukit Indah who do not want SJK (T) Ampang to be relocated to their area.

“We have also received petitions from residents who want part of a land to be used for a national school in Taman Saga to be given to the building of a Tamil vernacular school,” said Iskandar.

Taman Pandan Glades Residents’ Association chairman Terence Ee and Teratai assemblyman Jenice Lee voiced their support for the construction of a vernacular Chinese primary school in the open space along Jalan Perdana 6/2 in Pandan Perdana.

“I believe only a portion of the 2.45ha land is needed for such a school. The rest can still remain as an open space,” said Lee.

Iskandar said that the hearing, the last of four held for the MPAJ draft plan, was very good as residents came armed with facts and relevant arguments.

“All the information, suggestions and objections we have heard will be discussed at the State Planning Committee along with experts in December,” he said.

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