Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DBKL staff armed with WMD - Legal?

Let’s re-examine the case of the DBKL enforcement squad demolishing the 60-year old Hindu shrine in Jalan Davis, an incident that I blogged in DBKL smashed statues of Hindu gods!

But before we start, let's examine a typical Malaysian problem regarding religious shrines. Sometimes roadside or public shrines that mushroomed in private residencies in villages or small towns had proven to be public nuisance because those shrines did not have proper building permits, failed to institute safety features, caused restriction to traffic flow or infringed on the privacy of neighbours, etc.

I know because once I had lived beside such a public shrine. My erstwhile village neighbour whom my family were (still are) on very good terms with, provided a ‘medium’ service with a ‘cure-all’ claim, as many shrines do.

The flow of visitors/devotees to the shrine was a problem for my family as in the kampong (village), where houses were seldom separated by 10-foot razor-sharp barbed wire fences, those visitors waiting for their turn to ‘consult’ the divine ones would spill over into our compound, and frequently helped themselves to the buah belimbing (star fruits or carambolas) on our trees. My family’s collective blood pressure would leap to startling altitudes during the rambutan (a lychee-like fruit) season because we had two rambutan trees as well.

I won’t blame the town councils or municipal authorities for requiring the dismantling of such unauthorised shrines which become public nuisance or hazards or infringe on municipality by-laws, and where the owners fail to comply, those be forcefully dismantled by the authorities.

But in the case of the Hindu temple in Jalan Davis, it has been there for 60 years, long before many of those DBKL stormtroopers and their officers were even born. What had led to such an aggressive raid action that omitted due consideration to the religious sensitivities of Malaysian citizens?

What are the duties of DBKL enforcement squads? If the allegation has been proven true that the DBKL enforcement squad were armed with rotan canes, we need to ask, are they authorised to carry such weapons designed to inflict corporal punishment on members of the public or wreck destruction of private properties?

The fact is DBKL enforcement squads are only for the enforcement of town council by-laws or ordinance, and not public security issues. Why were they then allowed to be illegally armed with such armful weapons when they went to the temple?

If the purpose of the demolition of the temple was to make way for the development of the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel Project, why weren’t the temple authorities instructed to move their statues of the deities and other temple valuables before the demolition commenced?

Even if the temple authorities had resisted, the DBKL enforcement squad should not and could not resort to violent suppression of such resistance. The DBKL squad has no such authority. Public order and its enforcement is the sole preserve of the Malaysian police.

In other words, assuming a worst case scenario, there should have been police personnel to restrain any stubborn/unlawful resistance by temple authorities, with the DBKL staff concentrating only on the demolition as ordered by the town/city council.

But the temple’s sacred and valuable items such as religious icons and jewellery should have been sensitively handled by one of the parties involved, namely the police, DBKL staff, temple authorities or even devotees present at the time of enforcement. The DBKL aggressive destruction of the statues of the Hindu deities by smashing them with rotan canes could only be termed as pre-meditated, deliberate, malicious, and unlawful.

As alleged, the DBKL enforcement squad went there in full force with WMD [weapons of malicious destruction] in the form of rotan canes, thus showing that they were hellbent on aggression, a conduct that was legally questionable and way outside their span of authority.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no Hindu personnel among the DBKL staff. Therein lies the problem of the DBKL unacceptable intolerant conduct against the properties and religious values of Malaysian citizens. They had exceeded their authorised powers in wilfully smashing religious symbols of Malaysian Hindus.

This should be a lesson for the powers-that-be, who ironically remind Malaysians regularly to back off on religious matters when they don’t belong to the religion or possess no knowledge of the religion, – see my posting
Nazri: Non-Muslims Stay Clear or Else! - that when embarking on the demolition of a Hindu temple, there should be Hindu staff in the DBKL or police to oversee the enforcement process, so that the religious rights and properties (temple jewellery) of Malaysian Hindus be not violated.

Minister Nazri, let's not have double standards!

But more importantly, I ask once again, why were members of the DBKL enforcement squad armed with weapons designed to inflict corporal punishment or violently smash up items? How did the unnecessary and unmitigated desecration of Hindu sacred symbols help the DBKL's Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel Project?

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