Oct 24, 07 Malaysiakini
The Hindu temple at the centre of the 1998 communal tensions in Kampung Rawa, Penang, is caught up in controversy again - this time, due to alleged dereliction of duty by the interim head of the temple committee.
Georgetown residents would remember that, on March 27, 1998, there was a tense stand-off when Muslims emerged from Friday prayers in an adjacent mosque and marched in numbers to the Sri Raja Raja Madurai Veeran temple.
However, their intention to demolish it was averted through the government’s timely intervention.
As the main cause of conflict was a plan to expand the temple, the dispute was settled when the state government provided an alternative site in Jalan SP Chelliah.
Pending construction of a new building - pledged within a year by Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon - the temple has been housed in a makeshift garage-like shed.
Devotees are now holding MIC branch chairperson K Karumalai accountable for the failure to get the temple built and handed over to them. However, he declined comment when contacted.
Karumalai, said to be a staunch supporter of former party deputy president S Subramaniam, was appointed interim chairperson of the temple committee when those originally responsible for the reconstruction project went missing. He has held the post for 10 years now.
Part of the structure was built after the state government allocated about RM30,000 late last year and appointed a lawyer to head the building committee.
Construction has since come to a stop due to lack of funds. Malaysiakini has learnt that the committee needs another RM80,000.
‘Get out’ call
Impatient devotees now wonder when the temple will be ready - more importantly, they want Karumalai off the committee.
Volunteer M Panniselvam (photo), 33, said he has been using his own money to buy garlands to be placed on the statues of deities. He accused Karumalai of letting down the devotees.
"Karumalai collected thousands of ringgit through various donation drives over the past 10 years, but the temple has not been built.Where all the money has gone, we don't know", he alleged.
Anothe volunteer, N Ganapathy, claimed that Karumalai has not spent any money on upgrading the current zinc-roofed structure.
“The roof leaks and the floor is cracked,” said Ganapathy, 33.
Sheela Peter, 43, alleged that Karumalai had failed to perform his duties as chairperson with a sense of responsibility.
"I have been praying in this shed for the past five years. I have never seen Karumalai buy a single garland, or camphor or incense sticks for the prayer services," she claimed.
A Kasiamah, 54, accused Karumalai of being a hypocrite while G Muthu Karupayee, 46, told him to step down “and let capable people take over as leader”.
What has irked volunteers the most has been Karumalai's attitude towards volunteers who offered to help renovate the ramshackle structure - he was described as having deliberately and “arrogantly” barred their involvement.
In one instance, some volunteers who are members of the Bukit Bendera Malaysia Hindu Sangam branch had approached the head of the NGO for help in raising funds for the temple.
However, when the fund-raising drive began, Karumalai lodged a police report alleging that the NGO had started a donation campaign without his consent, which halted the effort.