The Star Metro Tuesday October 14, 2008

By JADE CHAN

RENOVATION works on expanding a Hindu temple complex on Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya over the past few months is apparently posing a safety concern for nearby residents and the local authorities.

Petaling Jaya city councillors A. Thiru-venggadam and Derek Fernandez, together with officers from the Public Works Institute (Ikram) and the MBPJ town planning, building control, enforcement and engineering departments, visited the temple site yesterday to assess the situation.

According to Thiruvenggadam, the temple complex was originally supposed to be 1,400 sq m in size but now it is estimated to measure 5,700 sq m.

Safety concerns: Thiruvenggadam (right) and Fernandez (second from right) checking on the site with MBPJ and Ikram officers.

“A landslide occurred on March 21 last year after renovation works were carried out on the Sivan Temple on Bukit Gasing,” he said.

“The MBPJ immediately issued a stop-work order the day after the landslide, and directed the temple committee to demolish the extended part of the construction two days later – on March 23. However, construction work still went on,” Thiruvenggadam said.

“Our two primary concerns are public safety and the land ownership issue.

“There has been no approval for planning and building because the land the temple is located belongs to the state government,” Fernandez said.

According to Fernandez, the people of Section 5 Petaling Jaya acknowledge and accept the existence of the original temple, and have no objection with the original temple that was situated on the site.

“The present massive structure is a far cry from the original building as it involves the increased use of land. Planning control must therefore be followed with residents’ views taken into account, in accordance with the law,” he said.

“Problems arose because the extensions were done without getting the necessary approvals,” he said.

“In accordance with the state government directive, we will refer the matter to the relevant state executive councillor who has set up a committee to deal with religious matters,” Fernandez said.

“We are now in the process of gathering information for the state government,” Fernandez said.

“What Ikram has said on the present stabilisation methods on the hill being inadequate is worrying. This is a very dangerous slope and a major landslide could result in human calamities. We want to avoid such a problem,” he said.

According to Thiruvenggadam, the issue will be raised at a meeting of the MBPJ sustainable development committee tomorrow. Selangor health, plantation workers and caring government committee chairman Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, who is also a member of the state committee on non-Muslim religious affairs, is scheduled to attend.

Fernandez said that the problem was simply that of non-compliance with the necessary legal requirements, and had nothing to do with the issues of race or religion.

“We don’t want a situation where we are blamed for discriminating against a particular religion, because our concern is about public safety and the law,” Fernandez said.

“The proper process involves submitting an application for alienation of the land, followed by submission of proper land and building plans,” he said.

“I hope that whichever religious committee wants to do something, they should do it by the book.

“We’ll wait for the state government directive before we can make the next move, because we don’t want a repeat of the Ampang situation,” Fernandez said.

Last month, a Hindu temple in Ampang was demolished by the local council and caused a furore because of the religious sensitivities involved.

According to Thiruvenggadam, a regular worshipper at the Bukit Gasing temple for many years, the building design provides for some 8,000 people, which is not safe.

“We are concerned that overcrowding could result in another Highland Tower tragedy.

“An incident may not happen immediately, but the risk is there,” he said.

“As a Hindu and temple-supporting councillor, I will never recommend this kind of structures,” Thiruvenggadam said.

Thiruvenggadam said that he had spoken to leaders of Hindraf, MIC, MIC Youth and Malaysia Hindu Sangam to make them fully aware of the situation.

http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2008/10/14/central/2263887&sec=central

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