for The Times of India on Nov. 20, 2007
This landmark Malaysian Maha Mariamman Temple was demolished just in time for the congregation's celebration of Diwali.
KUALA LUMPUR: A top Malaysian minister has urged local authorities in this Muslim-majority country to immediately cease demolition of Hindu temples after a 100-year-old shrine was pulled down early this week.
Works Minister and head of the Malaysian Indian Congress Samy Vellu, who is of Indian origin, said that Hindu temples built on encroached land were still being demolished despite his appeals to the various state chief ministers.
Vellu said the Indian community had no choice but to build their temples on private or government-owned land, as they did not own any land of their own to build the temples.
Referring to the demolition of the Maha Mariamman Temple in Padang Jawa on Tuesday, Vellu said it had hurt the feelings of the Hindu community in the area.
Four people were reportedly hurt and dozens detained following scuffles between devotees and the city authorities over the century-old temple, the local media said.
"Temples are still being destroyed even though I have repeatedly brought the issue up during meetings with chief ministers," the minister said in a statement, the New Straits Times said today.
He added that the government could not penalise those who merely wished to practise their religion and exercise their right to believe in God.
"It is a well-known fact that the majority of Hindu voters, and almost the entire Indian community in fact, are Barisan Nasional (the ruling coalition) supporters.
"As such, I am pleading with the government to not resort to drastic measures like demolishing temples, even though they have been constructed illegally."