By Bhavani Krishna Iyer
PETALING JAYA, May 13 – Head of MIC Puchong and MIC Selangor Informaton Chief Awtar Singh has locked horns with Selangor State Exco Ganapatirau Veraman over a temple’s multi-purpose hall said to be abandoned midway into construction in Puchong.
According to Awtar, he had highlighted in a video about the multipurpose hall undertaken for construction by Kuil Mahamariamman, in Batu 14 Puchong and that the building had been abandoned for five years now due to financial difficulty.
In the video he had called on the Puchong Member of Parliament and the state assemblyman under whose area the building sits to source for funds to have the building completed so that it can provide rental earning to the temple.
However, he said his message in the video had received a negative reaction from Kota Kemuning state assemblyman Ganapatirau who responded with another video “using unsavoury words” to criticize Awtar.
Since then, there have been two other videos with both parties attacking each other verbally.
According to Awtar, his second video was to point out that “Ganapatirau had failed to understand the underlying message” in his video and that he “had gone on a needless rampage of accusations in his video.”
Ganapatirau in his video is reported to have accused Awtar of cheap publicity and political gimmicks to fulfill his political aspiration.
Disputing this, Awtar said, “All I did was highlight the fact that lots of money had gone into putting up the building as an investment and income generator and it would be a waste if it is allowed to rot and the ruling political parties should come up with the funds needed to complete the building.
“Ganapatirau could have conveyed his response in a more respectable manner.”
Awtar also said Ganapatirau’s claim that he had managed to help gazette 180 temples since Pakatan Rakyat had been in power was not a true justification of their performance and delivery as the land for the gazettement was provided for by the BN government.
“Gazettement of the land does not mean the temple owns the land, instead the it is still owned by the respective Land Office (PTG) and no title has beens issued to the temples,” he said.
“Rather, the yardstick of performance should be the number of land parcels alienated for non-Muslim places of worship in new Kebenaran Merancang ( Planning Approval) which is a requirement for all new townships.”
Meanwhile, Weekly Echo contacted Ganapatirau for his comments and he explained that the handling of non-Muslim places of worship in Selangor was a “legacy from the BN government inherited by the PH Government.”
He said the state government received about 500 applications for funds annually from various temples in Selangor but due to limited funding allocation, each temple, subject to proper documentation will be given anything between RM3,000 and RM10,000.
In rare cases, up to RM20,000 is granted to deserving cases to cover their operating cost.
In the case of the temple in question, the temple proper sits on a three-quarter acre piece of land with another quarter acre adjacent to the temple gazetted as land for the hall.
“It was the PH Govt that managed to degazette the land to be reissued to the temple for its use,” he said.
“It was then that the construction of the multipurpose hall began. He said the cost of building such a facility can go up to RM4 million and the state government does not indulge in such expenditures.
“My point is, if the temple committee did not have sufficient funding, they should not have started the construction in the first place,“ he said.
On the gazettement claim of some 180 temples in Selangor, Ganapatirau said it was not in the Selangor State Government’s practice and policy to issue titles for land distributed for places of worship.
“What must be appreciated is that from nothing we managed to obtain the gazettement and the temples are now operating legally.
“The issuance of title to temple land had been abused in the past by political parties and in the end the land goes to individuals rather than the temple. Hence, it is best for the land title to remain with the Government, he said.