All sides slam cow head incident

(NST) SHAH ALAM: Various groups and politicians from both sides of the political divide have expressed regret at the use of a severed cow head by 50 people in protesting against the relocation of a temple here.

The action will be investigated under Section 27 (5) of the Police Act for unlawful assembly and the 1948 Sedition Act as it involved racial sentiments, Shah Alam district police chief Assistant Commissioner Nor Azam Jamaluddin said yesterday.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said such an act of religious intolerance was appalling and a step back in the efforts for mutual respect among the various races and religions in the country.

The group was protesting against the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Section 19 to Section 23.

The demonstrators had marched from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers and placed the head of a cow, a sacred animal to Hindus, outside the state secretariat building here.

"The state calls on the police to act without fear or favour, and conduct a fair investigation into the incident, including the threats issued by the demonstrators against state leaders," said Khalid in a statement.

He added that a directive had been issued to the Shah Alam City Council to hold an open discussion on Sept 5 for Section 23 residents, which would be attended by the council officials and Selangor Economic Development Corporation representatives.

The meeting will not only allow those affected to express their views but also provide the state an opportunity to present facts and reasons surrounding its decision to relocate the current temple in Section 19 to Section 23, Khalid said.

The Section 19 temple is about 150 years old and was located in a plantation, which the Selangor Economic Development Corporation decided to develop into a housing estate. The temple was left untouched.

Initially, the temple was to be relocated to an industrial area in Section 22, but it was moved to Section 23 to make it more accessible to devotees.


Representatives from several non-governmental organisations, who gathered at the Shah Alam district police station yesterday to lodge reports on the incident, expressed regret over the treatment of the Hindus' sacred symbol. However, they urged all to remain calm.

The chairman of the Section 19 Sri Maha Mariamman temple committee, R. Selvakumaran, said the temple management was ready to participate in a dialogue to resolve the matter as they had fought to have the temple relocated for more than 20 years.

The Coalition of Malaysian Indian Non-governmental Organisations secretary Gunaraj George hoped such an incident would not happen again.

While the coalition members were upset with the police for failing to stop the demonstration, he said they trusted the force would take action against those responsible.

Nor Azam said at a press conference that police could not take drastic action as it would have worsened the situation.

"If we had taken action, it would have sparked more anger. It was not suitable to take action at the time. We have proof and witnesses and will take action against those involved.

"The witnesses include not only the public but also police officers who were there. We will also investigate the participation of certain parties."

Section 23 Residents' Association Action Committee chairman Ahmad Mahyuddin Abdul Manaf denied that they were responsible for bringing the cow head.

"It could have been brought by a resident who was upset with the way the state government was handling the temple relocation matter."

At the same time, he said the picture published in a news web portal, which showed two men carrying the cow head, was taken when they were removing the cow head as instructed by the police.

Mahyuddin said the residents' aim was to convey their dissatisfaction and not to stir racial sentiments.

In Kuala Lumpur, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said he regretted the actions of the demonstrators, especially as they had resorted to such an act during the month of Ramadan.

"They should have known better than to resort to such actions. We must respect the culture and religion of other communities," he said yesterday.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the demonstrators had committed a despicable and disrespectful act that could harm the country's peace and harmony.

"This is not acceptable in Islam, a religion that upholds moderation and respect for others' beliefs," he wrote in his blog yesterday.

"The Malay Muslims, who organised and were involved in the demonstration, should stop and think how they would feel if a proposal to build a mosque in a non-Malay area leads to non-Malays burning or stepping on the Al-Quran.

"Would the Malays not rise in anger? If the answer is yes, then isn't the parading of a severed cow head just as insulting?"

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said he regretted the incident and that his priority would always be the people's safety and peace among various races.

"What happened was insensitive, and I hope that it will not adversely affect the country's racial harmony."