By Susan Loone - Malaysiakini,

Hindu devotees in Seberang Jaya are up in arms over a plan to construct a funeral parlour beside their Hare Krishnan temple, which is a religious taboo.
A group of about 100 representing 10 NGOs, led by Pertubuhan Gegaran Azam Pulau Pinang, staged a rally at the site today, condemning the Pakatan Rakyat government for being insensitive to religious sentiments.

radha krishnan templeThe parlour, a private entity to be managed by a Chinese association, is planned only several metres away from the temple, which is still under construction on a one-acre site
The 1.3 acre land proposed for the six-compartment (20 x 20 ft) parlour - which can hold 12 caskets at any one time - would be built on a plot which is part of a linear park.

The area, smack within the Seberang Jaya township and close to the area's industrial park, is considered a religious enclave with several places of worship and religious organisations.

Problems arose when the committee for the management of non-Muslim places of worship in the area received a notice from the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) on Jul 11, requesting them to submit their objections within 21 days to an application to build a funeral parlour there.
The objection period ends next week.
Parlour proposed since 2004

During a press conference at the site, Radha Krishnan temple president Kalesha Lim said he was "shocked" to receive a notice from the council saying that a funeral parlour would be built in the vicinity.

kalesha lim, funeral parlour protestLim (left) said the issue had come up in 2004 during the BN administration, and in 2008, when Pakatan took over the state.

Lim added that in 2009 the council had written to them to say it would be considering an alternative site for the parlour, but it seems the authorities have reverted to the original plan.

He added that the temple had written letters and sent emails to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his deputy, P Ramasamy, but have not received an official reply yet from either one.

"We have also suggested an alternative site. We understand that the Chinese community needs a funeral parlour and we have nothing against the association that wants it," said Lim.

"However, for Hindu devotees, it is a taboo to have a funeral parlour near their place of worship. It would disrupt our celebrations and would create some tension among our devotees," he added.

"Moreover, if it is taboo, it would be difficult to collect funds for our RM12 million temple, which is still under construction," he said.

Lim said he was not out to condemn the BN or Pakatan governments, as both are involved in the matter, adding "we will not politicise this temple issue, as it involves religious sensitivities".

MPSP to consider objections

MPSP councillor Amir Ghazali, who received a letter of protest from Malaysian Hindu Sangam chief RS Mohan addressed to the council's planning department on Jul 19, said he will raise the group's objections with the relevant authorities.

MPSP councillor Amir Ghazali, funeral parlour protest"What is important is that no development should disrupt racial harmony or create religious tensions," said Amir (right in photo), who is also state PKR youth chief, when met at the site.

Meanwhile, Gegaran Azam secretary A Loganathan condemned the Penang government for not looking into the interests of all ethic groups and religions.

He criticised PKR advisor Anwar Ibrahim and Guan Eng for preaching about caring for the interests of all races and religions, when at the same time the state's administrative policies in practise "insult the Hindu religion".

"The Indian members in Pakatan have no shame. Their religion is being insulted but they remain cowards. They have no belief in God and they are afraid of Guan Eng," he told reporters after the rally.

"They are afraid of losing their seats in the election, and so do not dare speak out. If they do, there is no need for us NGOs to get involved in the matter," said Loganathan, who claims to represent the collective voice of the 10 NGOs.

"Since Pakatan has been insulting our religious beliefs, we have decided we will not support their leaders in the coming 13th general polls," he added.
Ramasamy willing to talk

In an immediate response, Prai MP Ramasamy said that the MPSP has yet to approve the land for the parlour, and reminded that the objection period for the plan is yet to be over.

p ramasamy 160211He added that the state government would be meeting the temple committee soon to resolve the issue and to discussed proper solutions to the problem.

"Let's meet to resolve the matter, as even I do not have any real solution yet. The association bought up the said land about two years ago from the council," said Ramasamy, who is also Hindu Endowment Board chairperson.

"We have tried to find alternative sites for the parlour, but everywhere they go, there is a protest," he added.

Ramasamy however dismissed the NGOs’ allegations that the state did not care about the community, saying he regretted the "racist" comments by Loganathan, who accused him and Guan Eng of being anti-Hindu and against the Indian community.

He insisted that the Pakatan government has done much for the Hindu and Indian community, questioning the NGOs on their misplaced anger.

He added that Loganathan "does not know head or tail about the issue, and has only jumped into the bandwagon" to join the protest.