Najib promises Indians no Batu Caves condo if BN regains Selangor

Ida Lim, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Najib Razak promised today to cancel a controversial luxury condominium being built near Batu Caves that was approved by a Barisan Nasional (BN) administration in 2007, if the BN coalition wins back Selangor from Pakatan Rakyat (PR), stepping up the game in the battle for votes ahead of the coming general elections.

“I want to give an assurance that if BN is successful in taking over Selangor…the 29-storey project will be cancelled,” Najib, who is also the BN chairman, told the crowd at the MIC’s Deepavali open house here.

Noting that the Batu Caves temple complex is “very close to the hearts of Indians who are Hindus”, Najib said that the complex must be defended from any threats to its position.

Selangor has ordered a temporary halt to the construction of the 29-storey condominium near Batu Caves pending the findings of an independent state-level task force to be set up soon, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said on Octber 30.

Khalid, however, offered the state’s assurance that the matter would be resolved as soon as possible, admitting that the stop-work order would cost the developers financial losses.

The 29-storey Dolomite Park Avenue condominium project has turned into a political crisis as Batu Caves is the religious focal point of Hindu Indians, who form the majority of the 1.7 million Indians and are a key voting group in many urban seats in Selangor.

About 300 Hindu and non-governmental activists joined a “Save Batu Caves” rally in the Batu Caves temple complex to protest against the condominium construction on October 26, saying it was an environmental risk that would jeopardise the temple grounds but did not furnish proof to substantiate their allegations.

The project was given the nod by state authorities in 2007, but MIC and Barisan Nasional (BN) have in recent weeks pressured the current Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration into calling a halt to the project amid a battle for Indian votes.

Najib today said the BN government would apply to make Batu Caves a UNESCO World Heritage site, as a second step in defending the complex.

“We decided that through the Culture, Information and Communications Department, that this Batu Caves can be considered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO,” Najib said today.

But he said that an application could only be made after Malaysia’s term as a member of the World Heritage Commission ends in 2015, saying that this was to avoid a possible “conflict of interest”.

Najib also announced that Deepavali will now also be a public holiday in the Labuan, the federal territory off the coast of Sabah.