200 stage protest over altar demolition

Pathma Subramaniam, fz.com

About 200 MIC members and activists staged a protest outside the Selangor State Secretariat today over the demolition by the Sepang Municipal Council (MPSp) of a Hindu altar within the gated compound of a house.

Led by MIC Youth chief T Mohan, the group marched from the nearby Dataran Shah Alam at 11.15am and gathered there for about an hour under the scorching sun.
Security personnel prevented them from entering the building to meet Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.
After several rounds of negotiations with the police, Mohan handed over a memorandum to state executive councillor Dr Xavier Jeyakumar’s aide, Abdul Razak Ismail.
MPSP enforcement officials demolished the altar located in the compound of M Gobikumar’s house at Taman Seroja in Bandar Salak Tinggi on Nov 20, according to news reports.
The family had earlier received a notice from the council to tear down the structure for alleged violation of council by-laws, followed by another letter warning them that they could be fined RM250 a day if they did not demolish it.
News reports quoted Gobikumar as saying that the council enforcement staff demolished the altar even while he was negotiating with the council.
At today’s protest, the participants blamed the Pakatan Rakyat state government for the high-handed action, with Xavier in particular coming under strong attack. 
Many of the protesters were seen hoisting up banners and placards calling for Xavier’s resignation over his alleged remarks that local governments had the right to take action against illegal structures built inside or outside a house and that the state government could not meddle in such matters.
However, in a statement yesterday, Xavier said the state government had in 2008 instructed all local councils and the land office not to destroy any place of worship. 
Xavier added that the altar demolishment was carried out by certain MPSP officials without the knowledge of the state government and the MPSP president, and that there was reason to suspect that their action “bordered on sabotage.”
Mohan, however, claimed that Pakatan representatives were present when the demolishment took place. 
“At the time of the incident, a PAS councillor representing the Sepang Municipal Council was also there together with the constituency’s coordinator from DAP,” he said.
“Is it a crime now to build an altar to worship in our homes? Why must we apply for permits when it is within our compound?” asked Mohan, demanding that the councillor and the enforcement officers involved be sacked immediately.
He also demanded that the menteri besar issue an open apology to the Indian community. 
Mohan said the Barisan Nasional lost power in Selangor in the 2008 general election after the BN-led state government demolished a Hindu temple in Shah Alam a few months earlier, which led to the Indian community taking part in a massive protest rally in Kuala Lumpur.
“We did it before and paid for it in kind, but we learnt our lesson. I can assure you that BN will never do this if we make a comeback in the next general election,” he said.
“Don’t take this issue lightly. Resolve it once and for all for all our good,” he said.