And God Strikes Back!


Just a quick one before I am off for the holidays…

(It was good to see a very familiar face at the helm of, surprisingly a public demo – perhaps it was high time to learn a thing or two on public demo from Hindraf and Bersih. Unfortunately this was done before it was revealed that it was BN and not Pakatan who approved the development plans. It then turned to be a comedy piece from there onwards)

Happy belated Deepavali and happy holidays to all and since we are on the subject of religion & culture, let me tell you a story.

A long time ago or rather more than 100 years old someone “discovered” Batu Caves and decided to open a temple in one of the caves (thank God that no one lives in caves these days; otherwise we would have another cow-head incident). And over all those years, this temple have grown bigger, more organised and became one of the “must have” place for the Hindus in this country to visit and pray – more so during Thaipusam. And it has been so for damn good years until the 2012 when someone discovered that a private developer is going to build a 29 storey condominium project near the temple and started to make some noise. Religion fanatics, opportunists and issue-hunger politicians then decided to put their 2-cents words and squarely blamed the State Government and demanded that the project to be scrapped otherwise to face the wrath of the Indian community (hoo, are you scared now?) and legal suits. After all, Batu Caves is in Selangor and election is just around the corner – so who want to miss this rare opportunity to create some “inconveniences” to the State Government? Well they tried with the water issue and then with the Talam issue but nothing much happened, so this is not so surprising.

Former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu spearheaded today a demonstration at the Batu Caves Hindu temple, objecting to the construction of a 29-storey condominium project, in what is seen as a bid to pressure the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration ahead of the 13th general election.

The former works minister accused the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) of having approved the construction project without a proper study. He said legal action could be taken against the council.

“This project is not planned properly and without referring to any professional party,” Samy Vellu told a 300-strong crowd of Hindus and non-governmental activists who had turned up at the famous temple complex this morning to protest the condominium construction, saying the work was an environmental risk and would jeopardise the temple grounds.

(Source)

More accusations flew in the media and the long-lost political party readied themselves to come out from the political wilderness and to champion this great “danger” to the rights of the community. It is not a big secret that some Indians (there’s one in every community) are quite passionate (and brainless) when it comes to religion and any intrusion to their turf (despite having too many unregistered temples at the same place) and how the destruction of temples in Selangor was one of the key factor for the swing of Indian votes to Pakatan in 2008. The plan on paper was rather simple – highlight the great “danger” to the temple due to the development so to “unite” Indians from both divides, give a final option to the Pakatan led Government (well knowing that Pakatan Government cannot keep due to obvious legal implications and short of time) and once that deadline is passed, accuse Pakatan of selling out the Indians in the State and tell the Indians that the ONLY way out from the mess is to vote Pakatan out from the State (as predicted, with the usual I help you, you help me kind of pre-election promises thrown in for good measures).

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has given the assurance that Barisan Nasional will stop the controversial 29-storey condominium project in Batu Caves if it regains power in Selangor.

In making this promise, the Prime Minister said Batu Caves is a revered and respected site among the Hindu community in the country and worldwide. “I give you my assurance that if Barisan takes over Selangor, we will cancel this project.

“We do not want development of the surrounding area to pose a threat to this place,” he said at the MIC Deepavali open house held at the Batu Caves temple complex. The Prime Minister also said the Cabinet had decided to submit an application to Unesco for Batu Caves to be considered a World Heritage Site.

(Source)

Of course, during this chaos, the so-called community champions will conveniently forget some key questions – why no demonstration and objections when the development was approved back in 2007? It was not like they were kept in the dark. Why nothing was done in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011? Why nothing was done in the first few months of 2012? Why only now the Federal Government has plans to apply Unesco World Heritage Site status despite for donkey odd years BN ruled Selangor? Why only now Batu Caves is “deemed” a revered and respected site among the Hindu community in the country and worldwide? And doesn’t the World Heritage Site status irrespective of who govern the State is good for Malaysia (and the Indian community) as whole?

Of course, none of these questions would be made and heavily discussed in public by the same champions but the condemnation and accusations against the Pakatan led State Government will continue, hoping the Indian community will fail to see the bigger picture and will swallow whatever that is dished out by the crusaders of the community as the gospel truth.

Apparently God has been watching this for some time now and decided that the whack way back in 2008 was not enough. Nothing much has changed since then, nothing much is likely to change in the near future. He decided to throw in the spanner into the woodwork – just for the fun of it.

Its official – all 19 members who attended the full board meeting of the Selayang Municipal Council voted in favour of approving the Dolomite Avenue Park project in Batu Caves in 2007. Despite earlier denials and assertions by some councillors that they were neither party nor privy to the approval process, minutes of the meeting held on Nov 29, 2007 – obtained by theSun – show otherwise.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk A. Kohilan Pillai, who was a councillor between 1997 and 2008, had voted in favour of the project. So did the three councillors from the MIC – Rajakupal Sinnathamby, Jayakumaran Govindasamy and Rajandran Muniandy.

(Source)

Wonder who is having the last laugh now? It was interesting to see how the same crusaders and the 300 odd demonstrators are going to spin themselves out of this new found truth. Many thanks to good sensible journalism by theSun, we now know that out of the 19 fellows who approved the development way back in 2007 (before Pakatan came in power),  THREE were MIC councillors and also included Gerakan’s Kohilan Pillai.

As much as Kohilan must be given a chance to give his side of the story, equally important is that he gives plausible explanations.

Are we to assume that the Selayang council at one time or the other operated like a “secret society” keeping vital information away from the residents? Are we to assume that minutes are not recorded accurately? Are we to assume that the minute-taker took it upon himself or herself to “censor” the proceedings and only showed the “good side” of the council reflecting the buddy-buddy working relationship of councillors with no dissent? Are we to assume minutes of council meetings are nothing but pieces of formalities to record what had been previously agreed upon?

Something is certainly fishy. So many questions remain unanswered. The most important is: Why did the council, including its president and the councillors, defy the views of the Department of Environment which stated that development would cause imminent danger to the nearby limestone hills? Enough of pussy-footing. Let’s have some straight answers.

(Source)

In the end this is a story of how some people screwed themselves left, right and center. In the meantime, enjoy the up-coming wayang kulits and a string of memory lapses as the Pakatan State Government gets their hands into the mess left behind by the same community crusaders. Happy holidays to all.

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A-Famosa “Unplugged”


(The very common image of the A Famosa fort in Malacca – something we have seen since we were kids but what is in the inside? What happens if one walks past the famed entrance? Will we be transported to another era? Image source: http://www.maleisure.com)

We went to Malacca for holidays recently – we picked Malacca primarily because we have heard about it, have read about it, we knew it is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list and in fact, have several times passed through it (couple of years ago) but we had never really stopped and see the heritage places in Malacca.

So we decided for the holidays, we will actually stop and visit the heritage & historical places in Malacca. Sadly accommodation was not up to our expectations but it was my mistake anyway. I should have done more “research” on the so-called 3 star hotel before I booked it. By the time we realized our mistake, it was too late – most of the other better hotels have been fully booked and we even saw people coming over to our hotel looking for rooms to stay for the night, only to be turned away. Anyway we decided not to have our holidays ruined due to a “glitch” in accommodations. After all, we only need it to sleep for the night – we were out early in the morning and only come back late in the evening.

For those who have been to Malacca, you know the drill – the places to visit, the food to eat and things to do. We had done some planning ahead of our trip and basically knew what we were planning to do on daily basis and in a way we did. I say “in a way” because unlike many who ventured into Malacca for the first time, we did not ride on a beca (we rather walked – it was faster and cheaper), we did not buy the ticket to go up the Taming Sari tower (it was raining and I guessed there were nothing much to see from the top with the heavy clouds. Besides, the ticket seemed too expensive – we rather spent it on food and souvenirs), we did not go for the satay celup or the chicken ball rice (the queue was just too long) or the Portuguese food (my wife was not feeling well) but we did go for Peranakan food and a long waited steamboat treat.

And out of the many things we did, we finally managed to visit the famed A-Famosa fort. The reason I say this in an “excited” manner is because all this while, since the day I saw the picture of the fort in Buku Sejarah in my primary school, I only have the seen the front of the fort (or rather the front gate) – the rest of the fort was destroyed by the English in 1806 (and not the Dutch as I always thought in the past). What is inside remained a mystery and only now that question has been answered.

(What the fort looks like in whole on paper back in 1780 before the English decided to destroy it in 1806. Image source: Wikipedia)

(The entrance from the inside – it was empty except for bricks and white mortar – the air seemed stale as if it has been locked from another era)

(The exit reinforced with steel arch – it is a sign of the historical site starting to crumble down, perhaps with the increasing number of visitors trampling on site and change of weather)

(Another angle of the entrance close up – it looks clean but rather very narrow. Perhaps it was meant to be so 400-500 years ago when narrow entrance was easier to be defended against a more weaker rebels)

Yes in the end, there was nothing but only bricks and mortar (and an old man with a violin). But it was satisfying – I touched the bricks and imagined the Portuguese and the Dutch in the old Malacca with the full glory of the Malacca Sultanate with its famous warriors like Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat facing each other in the background. I imagined the guards staying at the front manning the cannons. Perhaps in time, someone will recreate the fort as whole – in its glorious days for the future generation. That would be interesting indeed.

If one wants to see the so-called 1Malaysia in a true sense from the historical pages – Malacca seems to be the place. Malaysian in many form, culture and background – Malays, Chinese, Indians,  Baba-Nyonya, and Portuguese descendants and yes, count the Singaporeans, Indonesians and Bangladeshis in as well – there were more Singapore registered cars than Malaysia registered cars at the hotel car lot. There were plenty of cars in the city indeed – made worse by the long public holidays.

Traffic was bad but it all depends on how far is the hotel from the heritage and historical places. Walking around town would be the best but if there is a kid tagging along (like in our case), struck that out. Taxi on the other hand was way too expensive (we were taken for a ride on the first day – a short trip cost us RM10). So we opted to drive instead – that solved one problem but created another – where to park especially along the narrow one way streets with limited parking lots dotted along in Malacca. We parked far and did some walking – thankfully my son was up to it – especially when we decided to go to Jonker Walk.

It was a good trip and we have promised ourselves for another trip to Malacca very soon – but this time with a better hotel of course and perhaps do things that we opted to miss in this trip (more on food than others).

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