Interview with MHS President

January 14th, 2008 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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However, we disagree that there are too many temples/shrines in the country.

– anyone keeps a record? MIC, MHS, or state govt/municipal councils?

 I would like to state categorically that Hindus should not build a temple or shrine at their home or compound.

– hmm…wonder how many people will agree with him on this.

Except for the recently established Malaysia Hindu Council, the rest are affiliated to us. There is no problem in their numbers as long as we take a common stand and champion the same cause. Malaysia Hindu Sangham is in the forefront when comes to matters relating to Hinduism, much to the fact that it is the earliest Hindu organization established in the country, that is in 1965,and is well represented throughout the nation.

– so, if anyone to be blamed, it is MHS and its affiliates?

Practicing Hinduism, or any other faith for that matter, is no problem in Malaysia. …We must appreciate the fact that the Malays (Muslims) being the majority have accommodated us in many ways. … MHS is of the opinion that this should not be happening in a society that boasts for liberal attitude in religiosity and blames the lack for inter-faith dialogue for this poor state of affairs.

– meaning need to establish Inter-Faith committee/panel etc? I thought PM clearly said no need to have such things.

…Beforehand, one must understand how these temples ended up in such predicament. This is very much an inherited problem from the colonial past when the Indians were brought here by the British to work in plantations and build railway lines. These people built temples … that exist till today in the plantations that they toiled and along the railway lines that they built.
However, it is most unfortunate that the British failed to alienate or gazette the land occupied by these temples. It is also most unfortunate the fate of the places of worship was not taken into consideration during the bargaining process for independence. Today when estates make way for progress and railway lines are expanded, everyone blames the temples for standing on the way. Another thing to be noted is that while the British gave the Indians in Malaya a free hand to build temples wherever they wanted, they imposed strict prerequisites in Singapore from the onset. Thus, the temples in Singapore are free from problems like what we are facing today.

– blame it on the British. So, can we sue them ala Hindraf? Then, blame it on independence negotiators. Now blame development.

In fact MHS had launched the 2004-2008 Hindu Renaissance Action Plan to get the temples involved in their community. Under this plan we have established 22 pre-schools in temples and are encouraging them to improve and modernize their administration. We also want to see temples being accountable and the public has the right to know how their donations are being spent. Temples should not exist in isolation, they should be seen as part of the institutions of a society. Thank you Datuk.

– perhaps MHS can provide details of the progress of the plan so far. I’ve heard of such kindergarten classes in temples. How about other measures in the plan?

source

THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL     

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 January (Bernama) – What is the future of Hindus in the country and their temples? Is freedom to practice one’s faith is very much alive? Is there a solution to the host of woes faced by Hindu temples? These are the questions that linger in the mind of an average Hindu in the country today.

Bernama’s writer Ravichandran D.J Paul speaks to Malaysia Hindu Sangam’s (MHS)President and the man who has been at the forefront in advocating Hinduism affairs in the country for the last 50 years, Datuk A.Vaithilingam.

Q: Datuk, your hopes for the Malaysian Hindus in 2008.
A: Hindus in Malaysia welcomed 2008 after an unprecedented emotional upheaval. The demolition of a temple in Kampung Jawa served as a wakeup call for Hindus in particular and Indians in general over their rights and position in a plural society. The incident also, inadvertently, diverted them to the problems plaguing the community. I see the year 2008 being pivotal for the Hindus in determining the way forward not only in their faith but in their socio-economic standing as well.

Q: Datuk, is there any statistics on the number of Hindu adherents in the country and the number of temples and shrines? Do we have too many temples/shrines?
A: Our estimate points that there are about 1.5 million Hindus in Malaysia but we are not sure on the number of temples and shrines, and I would not give any figures to add to the current ambiguity on their numbers. However, we disagree that there are too many temples/shrines in the country.

Q: But Datuk, there are some who even build temples/shrines right at their home and are they accounted for?
A: I would like to state categorically that Hindus should not build a temple or shrine at their home or compound. It is only proper to have a prayer room or an altar at home to be strictly used by the family members only and not outsiders. If they are keen to invite outsiders to pray along, then it’s only proper that they organize a special prayer (oobayam) at a temple.

Q: Though Hindus are a minority why do we have so many organizations representing the religion – MHS, Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram, Malaysia Hindu Council and Malaysia Hindu Youth Council. Does this reflect the lack of unity among Hindus? Anyway who do the Hindus consider the formidable front when comes to advocating Hinduism in the country?
A: Except for the recently established Malaysia Hindu Council, the rest are affiliated to us. There is no problem in their numbers as long as we take a common stand and champion the same cause. Malaysia Hindu Sangham is in the forefront when comes to matters relating to Hinduism, much to the fact that it is the earliest Hindu organization established in the country, that is in 1965,and is well represented throughout the nation.

Q: Looking at the case of R.Subashini over the divorce and her rights over her children when her husband converted to Islam, the tussle over the body of Everest team member Maniam Moorthy (Mohammad Abdullah), the demolition of non-Muslim worship places to make way for development and the other legal conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims that we have seen over the years, do you feel non-Muslims are still free to practice their faith in this country?
A: Practicing Hinduism, or any other faith for that matter, is no problem in Malaysia. I don’t see it being a problem now and also in the future. Despite the differences in our belief system, Malaysians remain tolerant to one another and respect each other’s faith. Remember, each year we celebrate our religious festivals freely and major celebrations are accorded public holidays. And getting a permit for religious procession or congregation is no problem as long as they stick to the guidelines. We must appreciate the fact that the Malays (Muslims) being the majority have accommodated us in many ways. Nonetheless problems do crop up from time to time testing the tolerance limit of the freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution. MHS is of the opinion that this should not be happening in a society that boasts for liberal attitude in religiosity and blames the lack for inter-faith dialogue for this poor state of affairs.

Q: It is obvious that there are many temples/shrines all over the nation built on someone’s land and when they are demolished controversies are bound to arise like what happened in Kampung Jawa.
A: I beg to differ on this point. Beforehand, one must understand how these temples ended up in such predicament. This is very much an inherited problem from the colonial past when the Indians were brought here by the British to work in plantations and build railway lines. These people built temples (especially Maha Mariamman, Kaliamman and Muneswarar temples) that exist till today in the plantations that they toiled and along the railway lines that they built.
However, it is most unfortunate that the British failed to alienate or gazette the land occupied by these temples. It is also most unfortunate the fate of the places of worship was not taken into consideration during the bargaining process for independence. Today when estates make way for progress and railway lines are expanded, everyone blames the temples for standing on the way. Another thing to be noted is that while the British gave the Indians in Malaya a free hand to build temples wherever they wanted, they imposed strict prerequisites in Singapore from the onset. Thus, the temples in Singapore are free from problems like what we are facing today.

Q: Datuk, is there a solution to this problem?
A: I personally feel that the best solution would be to gazette the land occupied by the worship places and this must be done fast. This problem is prevalent in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur much to the rapid development. It seems that nowadays the authorities are doing all for the satisfaction of the developers and not the people. Places of worship demolished and dwellers resettled in low cost flats that I could only best describe as no more than pigeon-holes all in the name of development. The emphasis is on physical and not spiritual development and this is probably why our society today is plagued by social woes. I personally believe demolishing places of worship should be avoided altogether or an amicable solution sought through dialogues with all parties concerned. A good example will be the Federal Territory, after the incident where three temples/shrines were demolished on the same day about two years ago, and the following outcry, a special committee was established involving representatives of MHS, MIC, MCA, Taoism Federation, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur and other relevant departments. Since then the fate of 65 temples, including about 20 Taoists temples, that were on the demolition list to make way for the KL-Batu Caves double tracking and other development projects were settled in an amicable manner. That is why compared with Selangor, we don’t see much problems relating to temples in Kuala Lumpur.

Q: Lastly Datuk, temples in this country seem to solely serve as a prayer avenue but what is their contribution to the society?
A: In fact MHS had launched the 2004-2008 Hindu Renaissance Action Plan to get the temples involved in their community. Under this plan we have established 22 pre-schools in temples and are encouraging them to improve and modernize their administration. We also want to see temples being accountable and the public has the right to know how their donations are being spent. Temples should not exist in isolation, they should be seen as part of the institutions of a society. Thank you Datuk.

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