Apr 29, 08 3:57pm
Former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo today came under fire from MIC for saying that the party president S Samy Vellu had asked for the demolition of the Kampung Rimba Jaya Hindu temple near Shah Alam.
“I am surprised by his statement. How can I tell him to demolish a temple which was already demolished?” asked Samy Vellu today.
“It was under his order that more than 500 enforcement personnel from the local authorities from various districts came to demolish just one temple.
“If all local authorities were to send enforcement officers to Shah Alam, who could have given such a directive except him,” he told Malaysiakini.
Samy Vellu said that he met Khir at the Blue Wave hotel in Shah Alam on Oct 30 last year, asking for the demolition to be stopped but the former Selangor MB refused to budge.
“Even when the prime minister requested him to give time to shift the temple to a new location, he refused to budge.
“That indicated his determination to demolish the temple,” added Samy Vellu.
“I told him ‘You are destroying not only your political career, you will also destroy my political career if you continue with the demolition’.
“He just said ‘no, no such thing’,” said Samy Vellu.
Khir’s version of events
Samy Vellu’s clarification on this matter indicated that the controversial demolition of the temple was done just days before Deepavali day which fell on Nov 8 last year.
However Khir told Malaysiakini in an interview that he was not the culprit behind the demolition of the temple as he was instructed by Samy Vellu on Nov 15 to tear down the temple. He also said that he had ordered for the demolition work to stop on Oct 30.
“Samy Vellu called me on the night of Nov 15 and told me that Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) people had infiltrated the temple and that it must be demolished that night itself,” alleged Khir, who was Selangor menteri besar at the time.
Khir also denied that the temple had been pulled down days before Deepavali, saying the exercise had been carried out a week after the significant Hindu festival.
Furthermore, he said an agreement had been concluded with the priest, in that compensation of RM40,000 would be paid and an alternative site provided to rebuild the temple.
Khir also said that he had agreed to stop the demolition exercise after Samy Vellu met up with him at the Blue Wave hotel.
“Samy Vellu then met me and (premier) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the Blue Wave hotel (in Shah Alam) and we all agreed to stop the demolition process at the temple gate. Samy then made an announcement in Rimba Jaya, (asking) not to demolish the temple because in two days, the people would evacuate the site,” he said.
The demolition of the Sri Maha Mariamman temple was carried out in two stages, albeit not intentionally. As the illegal extension was being pulled down on Oct 30, a violent fracas ensued between devotees and enforcement personnel and forced work to be abandoned.
The original 100-year-old structure was demolished later - apparently on Nov 15, based on Khir’s account during the interview.
Saravanan’s open challenge
Later in a separate statement, Samy Vellu said that Khir had to take the major blame for having chased away the Indian voters to the opposition in the state.
"My request to him is stop talking about all this and let us rebuild the Barisan Nasional and the component parties to get back the support of the people," he said.
He said he had great respect for Khir's ability as a leader who had really turned around Selangor as a major developing state.
MIC information chief M Saravanan was also shocked by Khir’s remarks against the party president.
“This is news to all of us. I am shock by Khir’s remarks,” he told Malaysiakini.
“I issue an open challenge to him to face us and tell us this at our face,” he said.
Saravanan, also the Federal Territories deputy minister, said that he was with Samy Vellu when the latter met Khir at the Blue Wave hotel and witnessed Khir’s refusal to stop the demolition.
“How can he say now that he had stopped the demolition on Oct 30 and only proceeded to tear down the temple after receiving a call on Nov 15?”
“For us, he is clearly not telling the truth. We tried hard to save the temple but he was in no mood to listen to us. We told him that he would be angering the Indian community by doing so but he paid no heed,” he added.
Voters rejected BN
Saravanan said that the demolition of the Shah Alam temple was among the main reason BN lost control of Selangor in the March 8 general election.
“He was arrogant and didn’t bother to listen to anyone. Now he is trying to pass off as a leader who did all the right things for his people.”
The FT MIC chief also said that on Oct 30 Khir had issued a press statement that the temple was being demolished due to a court order.
“Why didn’t he tell about Samy Vellu’s involvement then? As it is he has already ordered for the demolition of the temple right before Deepavali and is now trying to blame others when he should be blaming himself,” said Saravanan.
The temple demolition incident has been cited by both opposition and BN members as a key factor in influencing the outcome of the March 8 polls.
BN and Umno took the brunt of voter anger over this and other issues, resulting in the state government falling into opposition hands for the first time in electoral history. Khir then resigned as Selangor Umno head, and is now leader of the opposition in the state legislature.