Posts Tagged ‘Vaithilingam’

plans to streamline construction and demolition of places of worship

April 25th, 2008
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It doesn’t make any sense to build a mosque where there aren’t many Muslims, or a house of worship in the middle of nowhere

Strong comments indeed. We have seen places of worship located next to unhygenic facilities. But is what the minister said applicable? Religion is something personal. For some religion, place of worship can be a small as a corner in a wall. It will need a lot of maneuvering to convince relocation and positioning of place of worships. » Read more: plans to streamline construction and demolition of places of worship

Interview with MHS President

January 14th, 2008
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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.

samy says indian workers banned then say no

January 8th, 2008
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Something funny went on now. News started to trickle in that all visa for foreigner workers from India and Bangladesh (including professionals) were suspended since end of last year, Dec 2007. Read below articles from Reuters ( 6.20pm) and BBC. However, a newer article on Reuters at 7.05pm says that no such thing happened. Looks like Samy Vellu made a big blunder. Telling the indians that their workers are not wanted, in their own country!

Earlier, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) issued a statement expressing shock that permit for temple priests, sculptors, and musicians will not be removed by the govt. Read about it at:

http://poobalan.com/blog/religion/2008/01/08/no-more-work-permit-renewal-for-religious-workers/

Malaysia denies ban on India, Bangladesh workers

Tue Jan 8, 2008 7:05pm IST
source
 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A Malaysian minister denied on Tuesday that his governmenthad suspended the recruitment of workers from India and Bangladesh.

"I just spoke to my prime minister … There is no truth in the statement released by Reuters … It's not true means everything is status quo," Works Minister S. Samy Vellu, the only ethnic Indian member of the cabinet, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.

"Indian workers are already there. When it is needed, they are welcome."

Earlier, a Malaysian Home Ministry official told Reuters that the cabinet had decided about two weeks ago to freeze the intake of workers from India and Bangladesh. Other ministry officials had then confirmed the ban but gave no reason.

About an hour before his denial, Vellu had said the country had enough foreign workers.

"The government decided it is enough and we don't want to recruit any more because we have enough workers," he told Reuters at the conference. "Is it wrong?"

The minister's press secretary later said those comments should be "disregarded", saying they were made before the minister had adequate information.

Relations between India and Malaysia have been hurt by recent allegations of discrimination against the ethnic Indian community in this Southeast Asian country.

Ethnic Indians staged a mass anti-government protest in November, alleging that the authorities had sidelined the community under an affirmative action policy that favours the majority ethnic Malays.

From Reuters: Malaysia bans intake of India, Bangladesh workers

Tue Jan 8, 2008 6:20pm IST
 

Source

By Jalil Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia has suspended the recruitment of workers from India and Bangladesh, the government said on Tuesday, in a move one official said could be linked to a recent uproar about Malaysia's treatment of its ethnic Indians.

The ban, which took effect on Dec. 31, 2007, could further strain India-Malaysian relations after some Indian politicians sympathised with ethnic Indians who complained they had been marginalised by the Malay-majority government.

"The cabinet decided about two weeks ago to freeze the intake of workers from India and Bangladesh," a Home Ministry official told Reuters.

"Those already in the country will not have their work permits renewed," he said. "The ruling applies to all workers, including expatriates."

The news came as Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony ended a three-day visit aimed at boosting defence ties.

Other ministry officials confirmed the ban but gave no reason. The government had said in October it was trying to determine exactly how many foreign workers the country needed.

"Frankly speaking, we have got enough workers," Works Minister S. Samy Vellu, the only ethnic Indian minister in the cabinet, said on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.

"The government decided it is enough and we don't want to recruit any more because we have enough workers. Is it wrong?

Malaysia also decided on Tuesday to ban foreign workers at all major airports in the country, state news agency Bernama reported, citing Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib said the ban must be complied with as soon as possible, although the government realised that companies carrying out various works at the airports had to make some adjustments.

"We will issue rulings to Malaysia Airports Bhd to ensure that the workers are Malaysian citizens," he said.

Latest figures up to last Sept. 30 show Malaysia was home to about 2.2 million legal foreign workers, with 35 percent employed in factories and 17 percent in plantations.

Indonesians made up the highest number at around 60 percent, followed by Nepalese (11 percent), Bangladeshis (9 percent) and Indians (7 percent), government data showed.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was due to visit Malaysia on Friday, seeking to smooth relations between the two neighbours following disputes over cultural theft and ill-treatment of migrant workers.

"DRASTIC STEP"

Indians are mainly employed in restaurants and in the construction, information technology and financial services industries.

The Indian government said it had no immediate comment but some Indian professionals said they were upset.

"They (the Malaysian government) should not take such drastic steps. They should recognise the contribution made by Indian workers and professionals in the economic growth of the country," said one Indian professional who declined to be named.

A Malaysian inter-faith group criticised the ban, which it said would hit the intake of foreign priests and temple workers.

"This sudden decision without any dialogue or consultation with us is unprecedented," said A. Vaithilingam, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

Relations between India and Malaysia have been hurt by recent allegations of discrimination against the ethnic Indian community in this Southeast Asian country.

Ethnic Indians held a mass anti-government protest in November, alleging that the authorities had sidelined the community under an affirmative action policy that favours the majority ethnic Malays.

Some Indian politicians, including Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, voiced concern for the ethnic Indians.

Around 7 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people are ethnic Indians, whose forefathers were brought over as labourers by British colonial rulers.

From BBC:

Malaysia bans Indian recruitment


Malaysia has suspended the recruitment of workers from India amid rising domestic tensions.
source

A government official said the decision might be linked to the actions of a group that led protests complaining of discrimination against ethnic Indians.

But the official did not say why the decision had been made, nor how long the restrictions would last.

The ban will affect thousands of manual labourers as well as professionals, including religious workers.

There are currently about 140,000 legal workers from India in Malaysia.

"The government decided it is enough, and we don't want to recruit any more," Malaysian Works Minister S Samy Vellu told Reuters new agency, while at a conference in Delhi.

The Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur told the Associated Press it had contacted the relevant authorities but did not give any further details.

'Unprecedented'

The move to freeze visas for all workers from the two countries was taken three weeks ago, the government said.

But Tuesday's announcement took many people by surprise.

A Vaithilingam, president of a Malaysian inter-faith group, said that the decision came without dialogue and was "unprecedented".


The BBC's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Robin Brant, said it was a significant diplomatic move by the Malaysia government.

A Home Ministry official told the BBC that the decision "may be linked to Hindraf", the Hindu activists group which organised recent rallies by Malaysian ethnic Indians.

Thousands of ethnic Indians took to the streets late last year in protest against perceived social and economic discrimination by the Malay-Muslim majority.

The announcement came on the final day of a visit to Malaysia by Indian Defence Minister AK Antony.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Mr Antony "did not raise the issue of ethnic Indians in Malaysia," reported the French news agency AFP.

An unnamed Indian professional told Reuters that the Malaysian government should not have taken such a drastic step.

"They should recognise the contribution made by Indian workers and professionals in the economic growth of the country," he said.

Our correspondent said that tensions are high with a general election expected to take place early this year.

Many people fear a repeat of the racial violence which has broken out in the past.

another indian coalition is born

January 3rd, 2008
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like it or not, Hindraf is a success. Now every samy, palani and vicky want to jump in the bandwagon and submit proposals/memorandums albeit in a air-conditioned room. Before this all were sleeping, but now since HINDRAF has paved the way, these fellows have become a bit more bold.

This coalitions seems to be a bit anti-MIC. Let's see how long they last.

Indian NGOs' community wish list
http://malaysiakini.com/news/76639
Yoges Palaniappan | Jan 3, 08 4:31pm

The Coalition of Malaysian Indian NGOs has submitted a proposal requesting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to establish a non-political independent task force to assist the government to overcome the plight of Indians in this country.

Coalition chairperson A Vaithilingam, at a press conference in Petaling Jaya today, said the nine-member task force was to help the prime minister design and develop specific programmes to aid the Indians.

"The terms of reference of the task force should include undertaking the programmes, monitoring, evaluating and submitting periodical reports on the implementation and progress (of the programmes)," he said.

The suggestion to form the task force was made in a preliminary statement submitted to Abdullah last Friday by the coalition, comprising of more than 120 Indian-based NGOs. A more detailed memorandum will be submitted to the premier within one month.

Vaithilingam, who described the statement as a "friendly and moderate approach to the government", said the Indian-based NGOs are willing to work together for the betterment of the community and national unity.

Asked whether the coalition will be upset if the government does not form the task force and direct MIC to handle the proposals, Vaithilingam said: "We're not dictating, we're just requesting. If the government wants to do it through the MIC, we cannot stop it."

"We're willing to work with MIC. We will send the memorandum to all political parties and ministries when it is prepared," he said.

Funding for the community

The preliminary statement also proposed the establishment of a community development fund under the PM's department to be administered by the task force.

Vaithilingam said incentives via the fund can be given to non-political NGOs to implement community empowerment programmes.

"Among the areas of concern are the problems affecting single mothers, orphans, homelessness, and squatters," he said, adding that Indian-based NGOs in particular should be given funding and other incentives to address problems where Indians are disproportionately affected.

The coalition also listed several other proposals, namely:

• Moratorium on demolitions of places of worship throughout the country pending the formulation of comprehensive guidelines and land alienation for all existing established places of worship

• All Tamil schools to be fully funded by the government; increase the proportion of non-Malay students in residential schools and vocational and technical schools

• Suitable and affordable housing made available on an equitable basis to disadvantaged Indian households: sufficient trade license to all deserving applicants irrespective of race

Commenting on the similarities of the proposals to Hindu Rights Action Force's (Hindraf) demands to the government, Vaithilingam said: "Yes, the demands may be similar. We're very open."

He also said that Hindraf is not a member of the coalition. However, he did not deny the possibilities of accepting the organisation as a member should the leaders approach the coalition.

confusion still exist over Subashini judgement

December 29th, 2007
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President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism Datuk A.Vaithilingam said it amounted to “a gross injustice''. 

“The other non-Muslim parent will not be able to re-convert the child out of Islam. The child will also be deprived of its right to convert out of Islam at the age of 18. “A child's religion should not be changed without the consent of both parents. Failing to do so will cause much heartbreak,'' he said. 

What is obvious for now is that there is a very unhappy woman who is staring at the prospect of losing both her sons to her estranged husband as a result of the views made in the majority judgment. 

As for me, I'm still confused why a Hindu couple gave a Christian name to their son 🙂 Truly muhibbah?

Recourse for spouses who don’t convert

source

ANALYSIS BY CHELSEA L.Y.NG

IT MAY have been a 2-1 majority decision by the Federal Court, but the final result was the landmark ruling that the Family Court has exclusive power to decide on matters involving divorce and custody rights of a couple of which one spouse has become a Muslim. 

That makes it both an affirmative and encouraging situation. Malaysians have been waiting for some time for a stand to be taken on this issue. 

In an immediate response to the news, Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenivasan described the apex court’s decision as a positive move. 

“It recognises that the Syariah High Court has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims.  

“These include upholding the judicial precedent of the Tan Sung Mooi vs Too Miew Kim case in the Supreme Court in 1994, which ruled that conversion to Islam did not allow a person to avoid his legal obligations under his non-Muslim marriage,” said Ambiga. 

Stemming from the divorce and custody tussle between R. Subashini, a Hindu, and her Muslim convert husband, T. Saravanan, the case became a public interest matter. 

The case which began in the civil and Syariah High Courts last year finally reached its climax this week with the delivery of the judgment by the Federal Court. The much-awaited judgment is lucid and there is no doubt that it gives some sort of recourse for non-Muslims whose spouses have converted. Prior to this, there have also been decisions to the effect that the civil marriage ends when a spouse has converted. 

In this latest judgment, the panel was unanimous that there was nothing to stop the Muslim spouse from appearing as a respondent in divorce proceedings at the civil High Court as the jurisdiction of that court extends to him. On the other hand, it ruled that the non-Muslim spouse could not go to the Syariah High Court because its jurisdiction is restricted to persons professing the religion of Islam only. 

The court also unanimously ruled that civil courts could grant Erinford injunctions to the disputing parties, to temporarily halt orders from the other courts, pending an appeal to the appellate court. 

Essentially, two judgments were handed down – one by Justice Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman to which the third judge Justice Azmel Maamor concurred with, while the other was by Justice Abdul Aziz Mohamad. 

Both supported the view mentioned so far but they disagreed on the point that a Muslim spouse would be committing abuse of court process by seeking custody recourse in the syariah court. Justice Abdul Aziz was of the view that such acts amounted to an abuse of process as the dissolution of their civil marriage were matters “not within the syariah court’s jurisdiction”. 

Justice Nik Hashim ruled the opposite. He said Saravanan had a right to seek remedies in the syariah court as a Muslim and that his filing for dissolution of the marriage in the syariah court was not an abuse of the court process. He was, however, quick to add that Saravanan could not shirk his obligations under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 by hiding behind the rights to freedom of religion. 

“It must be noted that both the husband and wife were Hindus at the time of marriage. Therefore, the status of the husband and wife at the time of registering their marriage is of material importance. Otherwise the husband’s conversion would cause injustice to the unconverted wife, including the children,” Justice Nik Hashim said. 

Although these were seen as rather constructive developments, there were concerns about the view in the majority decision that Saravanan, whose Muslim name is Muhammad Shafi Abdullah, was not wrong in converting his elder son to Islam without the consent of the boy’s mother. 

Ambiga labels this a “worrying” situation. “Overall, I believe the judgment may not have actually resolved the dilemma of people with similar problems,” she said. 

President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism Datuk A.Vaithilingam said it amounted to “a gross injustice''. “The other non-Muslim parent will not be able to re-convert the child out of Islam. The child will also be deprived of its right to convert out of Islam at the age of 18. 

“A child's religion should not be changed without the consent of both parents. Failing to do so will cause much heartbreak,'' he said. 

What is obvious for now is that there is a very unhappy woman who is staring at the prospect of losing both her sons to her estranged husband as a result of the views made in the majority judgment. 

But all is not lost for the mother of two. The majority judgment did say that it was throwing out her case on a legal technicality and she could file her divorce petition afresh at the Family Court. 

The reason the court had thrown out her appeal and declared her current petition invalid was because she had filed it prematurely – two months and 18 days after her husband’s conversion, instead of waiting at least three months.  It however, added that Subashini was entitled to proceed with her application for custody rights of her children but it would be most appropriate if she filed her petition for divorce afresh. 

In the meantime, there is nothing to stop Saravanan from going to the syariah court to seek recourse and remedies, which included converting his younger son to Islam. He has two sons from the marriage with Subashini. They are Dharvin Joshua, four, and two-year-old Sharvin. Saravanan claims that he converted the elder child to Islam last year.