Friday, October 31, 2008

Manholes Are Dangerous Too

Away from politics again, this Letter To The Editor was first published in January 2002 in the New Straits Times.

I refer to recent proactive measure taken by the new Datuk Bandar Of Kuala Lumpur to form a pothholes busting team to repair and resurface potholes in roads around the city.

The bold move seems to be a good start for the new Datuk Bandar and also good news to the long suffering motorists. The public wishes more of this action oriented initiatives will be taken with public welfare and safety in mind.

In is the hope of people in the other cities, towns and districts that their respective authorities will emulate city hall's bold initiative in the interest of public.

Although the measure to have a pothhole busting team on standby with information relayed through the hotlines introduced is a good move, the city hall has to look at the actual and overall conditions of the roads in the city where potholes is not the only problem.

Manholes along the roads in the city is also a problem and equally dangerous for both motocyclist and other motorists.

If city hall care to notice, manholes are usually located everywhere on the roads and majority of it were uneven with the road surface. The most probable cause is that the manholes perimeters were not covered evenly with the road surface when resurfacing of roads were done. The contractors or the JKR seems to be ignorant and leaves to manhole perimeters uneven after resurfacing the roads.

Many accidents happened due to motorist's action to avoid these uneven manholes. A very good example would be Jalan Ampang and Jalan Sultan Ismail. The manholes are everywhere and it is impossible to avoid every other manholes.

I would also suggest that the Datuk Bandar and other city hall authorities take a drive along these roads on a normal proton and he would understand that extend of damage these manholes can inflict to vehicles. He should also take a ride on a motocycle and try avoiding all the uneven manholes in a normal traffic situation.

The city folks has been suffering for a long time dealing with this menace and it is hoped that the new management of city hall will take notice and take some concrete measures to solve this problem.

RECAP : Sad to say, after 7 years, the sufferings continue with the problem gone from bad to worse. I am now working in downtown KL and still have problems avoiding manholes along Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan although I should have been familiar, been driving on these roads almost everyday.

I went back to Johor last week and did drive through an estate road. Surprisingly, the road, although narrow and leaves the tyres red, was far more easier on my wheels and to manoeuvre as compared to Jalan Raja Chulan.

Not sure why DBKL personnel don't feel the same. Maybe because they are now driving SUVs and MPVs (not sure why they need them though, maybe they need 4WDs to wade through KL's concrete jungle or even for the same reason, manholes would be easy on their huge wheels).

Again, the reason is development, new development requires additional laying of underground cables, drainage etc and due to this, more manholes are added.

There appears to be no effort to ensure that the manhole covers are on level with the road surface. Contractors who resurfaces the road after adding the manholes are not made accountable for the mess they leave behind.

Anyone still remember the pothole busting team? Whatever happened to them!

The same situation persists in all major and even small towns. Although Malaysia is known to have good road networks and connectivity, the quality is questionable. I would still prefer driving through the old granite roads.

Sounds trivial but these are the basic needs of the people, and these are the things that MPs, Councillors and media should be pressuring DBKL to deliver, not focussing on some road signs, 30% quota, which MP is buta, or even who is the next Mayor of KL. Somehow or rather, it leads to politics!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RECAP : Felda Sungai Buaya Residents Are Still Waiting

This letter, highlighting the plight of residents of Felda Sungai Buaya, Rawang was first published in the New Straits Times somewhere in December 2000.

I am writing on behalf of settlers of Felda Sungai Buaya. Currently there are about 300 families residing in this Felda Scheme which began in 1960. Each family was given about 425 acres and 4,845 acres of land for housing and agricultural activities respectively.
Over the years, the settlers of the Felda Scheme (Peneroka) lived moderately by cultivating rubber crops in their designated land areas with the assistance of Felda. In 1986 land titles were given progressively to settlers depending on individual remitance of development fees to Felda. By 1990 almost all settlers were proud owners of their land.
The settlers lived peacefully and moderately until 1990, when a developer (close to state & federal Government) offered to purchase their agricultural and also land where their houses are situated for a massive real estate development.
The promised purchase price would make each Peneroka an instant millionaire. The settlers found the offer too much to resist and agreed to sell their land, which were their life and soul for decades.
With the advice of developer and others, the residents formed a company that would represent all residents in all transactions related to sales and purchases of the land. The company would also handle all payments to the settlers from the developer.
Agreements to sell their land was signed in 1994 and each resident were also given 1,000 shares of the company. The first phase only affected their agricultural land and the residents still maintained their houses in the settlement. According to the agreement, payments for the land was to have been paid progressively for four years and would have been completed by the year 1998.
However, now, six years after the agreement was signed, only about 30% of total payment was made. The reasons given were many including non-payment from the developer and economic crisis.
Some of the directors of the company, who were once felda settlers themselves, still resides in their lavishly renovated homes in the Felda with luxury cars in the compound while few of the directors fled elsewhere to avoid the onslaught of settlers. Demands for explanation from other residents were either not entertained or they were told to wait for announcement by post.
The residents then sought the assistance of the member of parliment, state assemblymen and even the then Menteri Besar but none of them helped to take the cause to the responsible parties. The residents suspects that people in the high places are also involved in what perceived to be an attempt to deceive the settlers. The TV3 even highlighted the issue in the Buletin Utama news back in 1997.
Several meeting held by this company with the residents resulted in heated exchanges between the residents and the directors (ex-settlers).
The latest meeting few months ago ended abruptly with the police arriving at the scene to calm down the situation. A crew from a local television channel were also there to cover the event and even interviewed many affected settlers but strangely, it was never broadcasted.
The settlers also attempted to hire lawyers to take this issue to the courts but it was too costly and some lawyers hesitated to take up the case.
Many residents are struggling to make ends meet with only small plots of land left behind their houses for agricultural activites. Most of the residents are already too old to work and depended on their children.
The residents have exhausted all avenues and can only hope that justice will prevail one day but many worry that they may not be alive to see it happen or benefit from the sale of their precious lands.
Hope that the authorities will look into the plight of these 300 felda settlers who were unjustly treated and manipulated.

After about 8 years, no solutions seems to be in sight. Nothing has changed despite the issue being highlighted in the press and TV channels. The residents voted overwhelmingly to the opposition in the last elections hoping that Pakatan Rakyat will at least fight for some form of compensation.

Many residents and land owners had passed away not enjoying the fruits of their labour while many are too old to enjoy anything anymore.

The developer , Land & General has since gone down after the 97-98 crisis. We are still seeing such manipulations by huge conglomerates and well connected companies. In this case, the previous MP for the area was a deputy minister and he was powerless to do anything.

It's sad that Selangor State government (past and present) is more interested in playing the blame game, filing law suits for defamation for some trivial articles, playing politics over road names etc rather than solving real people issues like this, in Felda Sungai Buaya.

Monday, October 20, 2008

RECAP : Time To Rejunavate Malaysian Soccer

This Letter was first published in the New Straits Times somewhere in July 2001.

Over the last decade, Malaysian Soccer has seen a slump in performance owing to many factors which are some natural and some self inflicted, the second factor being more prominent.

Our own M-Leaque, modelled after the Japanese J-League was quite a success when it started especially when foreign players turned out for almost all the state teams. The presence of Singapore and Brunei only made the leaque more merrier. Singapore, especially, draws huge crowd whenever they play in malaysian states and who can forget the lion's very own 'Kallang Roar'. Droves of Singaporean fans also travels to malaysian states to watch and support their team especially when they are playing arch rivals Selangor and Johor.
The stadiums were always full and even small cities are congested during the M-League match days.
The crackdown of bribery, the ouster of Singapore from the M-League and the departure of foreign players in the mid 90s has made M-League uninteresting prompting fans to stay away from the stadiums. Even live telecast of matches has seen lower viewership. Back in 80s and early 90s, enthusiastic fans would be always waiting till match hours to check whether there are any live telecast, which are always kept a secret until the last minute.

Stadiums are now empty and only the top teams are capable of drawing big crowds but not as huge as before when the foreign players turned out for all teams.
The FAM seems to made a big blunder by stopping the teams from enggaging foreign players.

Malaysia seems to be the only country where their national football association felt that having foreign players in the league was bad. The decision was taken at the same time as UEFA decided to allow players from eroupean union (EU) free to play in any clubs in europe without restictions. Only players from outside of Europe are considered as foreign players.
The real problem faced by the malaysian soccer is the management of the game and lack of consistency and direction from the authority of the game, the FAM.

The FAM is seen to be always changing their plans and also rules and this unpredictable decision making process has led to lack of direction and inability of place long term programs to improve the state of soccer.
The presence of politicians in the FAM and the state football associations has made the situation worse. The politicians, some who hardly have kicked a ball always interferes in the planning and coaching of the teams and always jostles for posts and publicity. It is no secret that these politicians are ever present in almost all state FAs to meet their political agenda. There is no enthusiasm or honesty in them to help improve the standard of soccer in the country.

The lack of knowledge, passion for soccer combined with their political agenda results in poor management of the state associations and also state academies.
Hardly any of the state teams have enough funds to sustain on the own and depends on FAM grants every other year to compete in the M-League. Often the grants given by the FAM are mismanaged and usually not much is spent on youth development resulting in poor quality players turning out for state teams year after year.

These factors coupled with the lack of will by the FAM to taken stern action over mismanagement of state FAs has resulted in poor and sometime shameful performance of the national team.

It is now time to act. The FAM has to do something to correct the situation. The state FAs needs to be scrutinised and probably a professional advisor needs to be attached to state FAs so that their activities, management of academies and also funds are always scrutinised and not be subject of abuse by the state FAs.

The M-League needs to be rejunavated. The inclusion of foreign players is very much welcomed. The youngsters will definitely gain much by playing against the much bigger and skillful foreigners.
The FAM should also think hard on the sponsorship of the M-League. There are many companies out there who are willing to sponsor the state teams and also the league in whole but the the current sponsor's overwhelming presence is seen to be a drawback. Nobody would want to sponsor any teams if three quater of the stadiums are filled with billbords advertising only one particular sponsor.
The same applies when all team jerseys carries the same sponsor's logo. The FAM should take cue from the English Premier League where the main sponsor of the Premier Leaque is not forced upon to be advertised by the premier one clubs and only a certain portion of stadiums are filled with billboards from the main sponsor.

The FAM should also consider inviting Singapore back to M-League. Since now Singapore has their own S-League, FAM should consider proposing the merger of these two small leagues. This could lead to a bigger league and of course more matches all year round. Other proffesional leagues have players competing up to 60 - 80 matches a year. In both M-League and S-League players compete in only about 60 matches a year.

If this materialises, then sponsors from both Singapore and Malaysia will definitely come forward to sponsor and benefit from advertising to a bigger and broader audience. More matches also means more advertising opportunity. Teams should be asked to find their own sponsors while funds from the main sponsor should be strictly chanelled towards youth development. Teams who can't find sponsors should not be allowed to play in the league.

FAM should never neglect youth development. With the help of Olympic Council Of Malaysia(OCM), discussion should be held with the education ministry to encourage the game at schools level. Current education system does not allow students to prosper in sports and parents doubts that sports, especially soccer can promise a bright future for their children. This misconception must change.

FAM should take cue from other sports association like Bowling and Squash on their youth development programs. Perhaps a visit or discussion with these successful sports associations will do a lot of good for FAM.

Doing away from politics once in a while. Unfortunately, there are politics in Malaysian Soccer scene too.

RECAP : It has been a good 7 years since I wrote this article but nothing much has changed. FAM allowed foreign players in 2003 and again, in a shocking 'ala Flip Flop Abdullah' move, banned foreign player for next season.

Grass roots development leaves much to be desired. Parents and schools are not much of a help in this 'education first' society. Squash has produced Datuk Nicol Davids while our keglers has maintained their standing as one of the best in the region, if not the world. These are results of long term grass root development.

Bribery made a comeback recently and Malaysia, instead of becoming a soccer power, has now become famous all over the world for high technology match fixing.

FAM did not change much, just that Tengku Abdullah had since resigned from FAM. A well intentioned man, Tengku Abdullah simply couldn't bring about a change to the patronage-politics influenced state FAs.

When Khairy Jamaluddin joined FAM as it's Vice-President (won uncontested), many thought that Malaysian football will receive a boost and perhaps some Oxford inspired strategies to improve the pathetic state of soccer in the country. It was unfortunate that even with Khairy, FAM decided to go backwards with the ban on foreign players.

State FAs are still managed or rather mismanaged by politicians and they are still bent on putting brakes on club sides, which has shown good potential in recent times.

Singapore has seen reasonable success with their league and has done well in international tournaments.

I would still believe that merger of M-League and S-League would bring about benefits to the standard of soccer in both countries and may well be financially viable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Malaysian Hypocrisy

Malaysians apparently voted for more democracy, transparency, improved human rights, better judiciary, ACA and Police. Time and time again, we get bombarded by the same argument on why BN lost 5 states and lost their two third majorities in the parliament.

Some had used the same arguments into books and laughing all the way to the bank.

Normal wage earner like me begs to differ. If we look at the Merdeka Independent Survey, the bread and butter issues are the main worry for man in the street and not transparency, democracy etc. Only armchair analyst, opposition politicians and their supporters kept harping on saying that these elements that really influenced public to vote for the opposition.

How many people are affected by these (Judiciary, Police, ISA, Accountability , Transparency etc) on a day to day basis?

If these analysts are correct, then it would be also correct to say Malaysians are generally hypocrites. Do not get angry, please read on, you will realise why.

1. Malaysians love to park illegally everywhere. You can always see cars of all kinds parked and at times double parked illegally and the owners are in a shopping mall, lunch, supper, outside a bar etc. Malaysian don't mind paying more than 10 Ringgit for everything else but parking. The also forget that they are denying the RIGHT of way for others when they double park.

2. Malaysians pay their Astro bills, club memberships, fitness/slimming centre bills on time but delay paying assessment and quit rents. Malaysians don't bother about the RIGHT of local councils to collect their due.

3. Malaysians don’t know the difference between credit card and debit card. Most Malaysians spend what they do not have and yet complain, more often than not that the government is not doing anything.

4. Malaysians don't mind throwing rubbish everywhere except near their homes, then run to the nearest politician and claim that local councils are not doing their job. Malaysians don’t mind to deny the RIGHT of others to have a clean environment.

5. Malaysians don't mind demonstrating in public place disrupting businesses and movement of others. They don't mind to deny the RIGHTS of others to earn a decent living and move around in public places without disruption.

6. Malaysians jump to the defense of their children when they are disciplined by teachers in schools. The don't care about the RIGHT of teachers to discipline their children, who are with the teachers more than the parents nowadays.

7. Malaysians complain about higher fuel price but still line up to collect the rebates.

8. Malaysians don't mind paying bribes and yet support the call for Police reforms.

9. Malaysians don't mind believing half truths and rumors about anybody without thinking about hearing the other side of story, thus denying the RIGHTS of the aggrieved party to defend themselves.

10. Malaysians don't mind cutting the queue while taking the bus, trains and open houses, denying the RIGHTS of others who line up properly.

11. Malaysians talk about equal opportunity but practise discrimination when it comes to who they do business with, promotions in work place, job recruitments, denying the RIGHTS of other who fit the bill or have the necessary requirements.

12. Malaysians built anything everywhere illegally and cry that they are oppressed and discriminated and they do not care about the RIGHTS of the landowners.

13. Malaysians loves everything subsidised and complains when government exercise their RIGHTS to withdraw the same and redistribute it elsewhere.

14. Malaysians don't mind taking the short cut route for any dealings with officials or government although they realise that they may deny the RIGHTS of others who may have their request/transactions waiting in the queue.

15. Malaysians didn’t mind enjoying the prosperity during the Mahathir years and claims otherwise now, when he’s no longer in office.

16. Malaysians don’t mind under declaring when they fill the Income Tax form denying the RIGHTS of government to collect what is due, which could have helped another Malaysian elsewhere. Yet they clamor for accountability and transparency from government.

17. Malaysians moan about the lack of transparency and accountability by the government but do not ask the same from the Opposition Parties. eg, have any opposition leaders ever declared and published their assets.

18. Most Malaysians work properly two-third or even half of their working time (even though they claim to work late) but expect civil servants to be super efficient.

19. Malaysians don't mind help to destroy the environment to get hold of their dream property and yet complain and threaten the government with civil suit when another developer starts a project nearby, using the excuse of environment, safety and population density, something that we never heard of or concerned about before.

20. Malaysians don't mind nominating and voting in someone who can't speak Bahasa Malaysia, someone who's only expertise is in stopping Phantom Voters, someone who's an expert in double meaning, a sex-offender, someone convicted for corruption and abuse of power, and yet complain about the quality of elected representatives and debates in the parliament and state assemblies.

21. Malaysians seeks compensation three or four times the value when they are asked to make way for public development projects and yet complain about lack of accountability when government does the same eg, MAS and Maybank purchase of BII.

22. Malaysians don't mind spending on unnecessarily but complain when they perceive government or local councils are doing the same.

23. Malaysians complain about wastage of taxpayers money by government but the fact is only a fraction of the population pay tax. A large section either under-declares their tax statement or do not declare at all. So much about transparency and accountability.

24. Malaysians don't mind spending tones of money on sms on the favourite reality tv show but complain when the toll rates are raised by few cents.

25. Malaysians actually don't pay fines on time waiting for discounts, but complain when their pay, claims or refunds are a day late.

26. Malaysians are happy with the government when they (govt) announce free water but complain when there are no water, mainly due to their own wastages over the time.

27. Malaysians complain when they are not covered under any scheme of rebates for free books, free electricity (eg recent budget- for bills below RM 10.00) and exemptions under any other social Safety net schemes that are meant to benefit the needy.

28. Malaysians complain about RM 300.00 passport fee but don't mind paying thousands for their holidays.

29, Malaysians complain about high food prices but don't mind wasting food and drinks at home and public functions when it is free.

30. Malaysians don't mind paying RM 10 for coffee but complain when sugar price goes up by 10 cents.

There are many more. In summary, we should look at ourselves in the mirror. Before we ask for a better deal from the government and politicians in terms of accountability, transparency and good governance, we should be doing the same.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

RECAP : Temples & Hinduism

With all the uproar on Hindraf & temple demolition, I thought i should recall one of my letter to editor way back in 2001 which was first published on 1st June, 2001 in the The Star Daily and was also published in Malaysiakini, New Straits Times and The Sun Daily.

I urge my non-hindu friends to read this as they would be able to comprehend the complexity and multitude of problems facing the Hindus.

Nah, I would rather say complexity and multitude of problems created by the so called followers and believers.

Keeping tabs on HinduismFrom K. Balan, Batu Caves (via e-mail)

ISLAM is the official religion of Malaysia. However, Malaysians are free to practise other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity as guaranteed in the Constitution.
As a Hindu, I am grateful to be in a country where my religious belief is recognised and respected by various races.
In fact, people of other races also join in some of the religious celebrations such as Thaipusam.
While Islam is being monitored and regulated by the Jabatan Agama Islam, I regret there is no such institution that monitors Hinduism, its temples, priests and their practices.
There are thousands of Hindu temples built in the country where the Hindu population is about 1.8 million.
A large number of these temples have been built illegally over the years without much interference from the authorities because they are in secluded areas.
I remember the MIC did urge all the temples to register with them to enable these temples to be legalised and quite a number did not do so.
Looking at the number of temples and places they are built, it seems that it is not compulsory to register or obtain approval with any religious body before a temple is built.
It is only when the authorities take action that the temple committee will create an uproar and find ways to legalise their temple.
If I am not mistaken, there are at least eight temples in the small town of Labis, Johor.
In Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, there are two huge temples built near each other while in Jalan Ipoh there are at least three.
There are also temples like the ones in Brickfields and Bangsar whose unwritten rules state that they are to be patronised only by certain races.
Are they necessary for a very small Hindu population in our country?
Every year, committee members of these temples go around visiting Indian houses looking for donations.
Why build temples when there are no funds to maintain them?
The majority of these temples are headed by local politicians with prayers and rituals conducted by Malaysian priests trained in India or priests of Indian nationality.
These priests are trained by different gurus or schools of thought in India and practices which had been taught by their gurus and the legitimacy of their rituals and practices are in question.
From my experience, I find that almost all temple priests conduct the evening prayer sessions in different ways and the devotees usually have no clue whether it is proper and legitimate.
The same applies to ceremonies for weddings, funerals and house warming. There seems to be no standard procedure on how a prayers session or a ceremony is to be conducted.
Who is monitoring the conduct of the priests, temples and those unscrupulous companies who use the name of God to sell their products?
How do the followers find out who is saying and doing the right thing? Where do the public go to if there are any grouses related to conduct of some temples and their practices?
There may be articles and guidelines in the Tamil newspapers and magazines but usually they are confusing.
What about those who can't read Tamil?


Hindu Sangam doing the needfulFrom A. Vaithilingam, President, Malaysia Hindu Sangam. (via e-mail, The Star )
I REFER to the letter, "Keeping tabs on Hinduism" (The Star, June 1).
It is not surprising your publication, which has previously only provided sparse coverage on matters relating to Hinduism, has now found cause to provide such prominence to K. Balan's letter with what appears to be an intention to belittle the religion.
One wonders what treatment this letter will get from you.
Balan's ignorance of many of the issues concerning the administration and coordination of Hinduism and its practice in Malaysia is probably a direct result of his complaint in the last two paragraphs of his letter, that only the Tamil dailies and magazines provide extensive coverage on matters relating to Hinduism.
It is a fact that while generally all Malaysian media organisations obviously mainly focus on Islam, being the official religion of the country, the English language publications more often than not tend to publish extensive news mostly on Christianity.
Coverage on other religions tend to border on the negative.
It is unfair for Balan to compare the powers of the authorities governing Islam to that of Hinduism.
No religion in this country other than Islam has established official frameworks regulated by statutory provisions within which the workings of the religion can be administered.
As for the monitoring of Hindu temples, priests and all forms of ceremonies, the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, as the recognised national coordinating body for Hindus in Malaysia, is striving to do the needful.
Further, the Sangam has taken steps to form a National Advisory Board for Hindus consisting of top spiritual leaders and other experts in the various sects of Hinduism to advise the Sangam.
A guide book on funerals has been prepared and a book on wedding ceremonies is now in progress. There is, however, no law making it compulsory for a place of worship to be registered as such.
In recent years, the MIC, being the leading political party representing the Indian community most of whom are Hindus has, with the help of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, undertaken a survey (and not a registration) of Hindu temples in the country.
Balan has taken note only of the Hindu temples in Labis, Sentul, Brickfields and Bangsar.
He should take a walk in those areas and note the number of prominent traditional churches and the many small churches operating in shop-houses which far exceed the number of Hindu temples.
It is neither unnatural nor uncommon for places of worship of any religion to follow a particular sect or race.
Why just pick on Hindu temples only? Hindu temples in Malaysia are open to all Hindus for worship.
As a Hindu, Balan only seems to be aware of the numerous collections of funds by temples.
In Malaysia, the Government looks after the mosques, Islamic centres and the teachings of Islam.
All other non-Muslim institutions have to raise their own funds entirely and are largely dependent on their respective devotees.
It is true temples are facing an acute shortage of trained priests.
Parents prefer their sons to become professionals earning more than RM1,500 after graduation whilst a fully trained priest after three to six years of training will start off with only about RM500.
The Malaysia Hindu Sangam together with the Malaysian Achargars (Priests) Association and the Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram is looking into the possibility of training local priests to meet the shortage.
The Malaysia Hindu Sangam is now conducting nation-wide one-day seminars at district and state levels for leaders of Hindu temples to guide them on the proper management of their temples and the conducting of rituals.
These leaders will also be trained to place more importance on their temples becoming community service centres in their respective areas.
Balan and others who wish to know more about Hinduism and the activities of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam can contact us at: 40414669 or fax: 40447304, e-mail:


Dear Mr Vaitilingam,
I refer to my article in the Star (01 June 2001) and your reply to The Star (14 June 2001).
Thank You for the long reply.
The fact is that my letter was edited at lenght and not fully published. This is perhaps why you have answered in a very defensive mode.
Below is the full text of my letter.
Monitor Hindu Temples, Priests And Their Practices
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. However the Malaysians are free to practice other religion such as Hinduism, Buddha, Christian and others as guaranteed in the constitution.
As a Hindu, I am grateful to be in a country where my religious belief is recognised and respected by various races. In fact people of other races also joins in some of the religious celebrations such as the Thaipusam, which has also become one of the main tourist attractions of the country.
While religions such as Islam is monitored and regulated by agencies such as the Jabatan Agama Islam under the federal and state governments, I regret that there is no such institution that monitors the Hindu religion, temples, Hindu priests and their practices.
There are thousands of Hindu temples built in the country where the population of Hindus reach about 1.8 million. A large number of these temples are built illegally over the years without much interference from the authorities due to temples built at secluded areas. I remember the MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) did sometime ago urged all the temples to register with them to enable these temples to be legalised and quite a number did not do so.
In Malaysia, it is a believe that anyone can built anything and that includes temples, anywhere as long as the land area does not belong to others. Some Hindus even have their own personal temples near their homes and conduct their own prayers.
Looking at the number of temples in the country and places they are built, I don't think that it has been made compulsory to register or obtain approval with any religious bodies before a temple can be built. It is only when authorities takes action do the temple committee creates an uproar and find ways to protect and legalise their temple. So much freedom for freedom of religion in this country.
For example, if I am not mistaken, there are at least 8 temples in the small town of Labis, Johor. In Sentul, there is two huge temples built near to each other while at Jalan Ipoh there is at least three temples. That's not about it, there are also some temples like the ones in Brickfields and Bangsar whose unwritten rules states that the temple is to be patronised only by certain races.
Are these temples necessary for a very small Hindu population in our country. The same applies to other towns and cities where majority of these temples are hardly patronised except for on Fridays and days when they have their annual celebration.
Every year committee members of these temples goes around visiting Indian houses looking for donations. Why is it necessary to built temples when there are no funds to maintain it.
I usually receive no less than a dozen visits every year from committee members of various temples in Kuala Lumpur looking for donations. I usually refuse to contribute if they do not posses necessary permits to solicit donations, which many of them don't.
Majority of these temples are headed by local politicians with prayers and rituals helmed by Malaysian priest trained in India or priest of Indian nationality. These priests are trained by different gurus or school of thought in India and practices what been taught by their gurus. This is where the legitimacy of their rituals and practices are in question.
From my experience of attending prayers in many different temples, I find almost all of the temple priests conduct the evening prayers sessions in different ways and the devotees usually have no clue whether what is being conducted is proper and legitimate.
The same applies to other ceremonies such as for weddings, funerals, house warming and others. There seems to be no standard procedure on how a prayers session or a ceremony is to be conducted.
One example is the wedding ceremony. I have attended a wedding ceremony helmed by one of the most popular priest in the country. On that occasion, before the wedding couple ties the knot, the priest asked both the bride and groom to profess verbally their agreement to live together as husband and wife, similar to the way conducted in a Christian wedding.
I have not seen such procedure being practised by any other priest. Whether this is the correct procedure is anyone's guess. I asked few people who were present at the wedding and no one could give me an explanation.
So far I have not seen any consistencies in the way these ceremonies are conducted by the priests of different temples. And nobody seems to know which priest is doing the right way. Probably I lack religious education, but I can't accept the fact that there are many ways that a religious ceremony or rituals can be conducted. When this happens in almost all the temples that I have been, I have lost confidence in these priest whom I believe are not monitored and their practices are definitely not regulated.
Some of them have clearly deviated from the normal teachings that public knows and understands. Some of the priest claims they can chase the ghosts away and performs strange rituals where goats and chickens are sacrificed. There are also many other strange rituals conducted occasionally but nowadays it is confined to rural areas and estates.
The conduct of some of the priest are also questionable. I have also seen a priest who drinks and dances in a wedding procession in Rawang, a priest that goes to Casino, a priest who wears kilos of jewellery in Kluang, Johor and another priest who says men whose ears are not pierced are not a Hindu. I don't have my ears pierced and immediately I was declared a non-Hindu.
I also have experience where I was given different dates for a wedding ceremony by priest of different temples. Both priests told me that the date given by them are the most auspicious ones.
Only later that I found out that the dates given are those most convenient to the priest to be booked for the wedding ceremony and not really the most auspicious date as claimed. Basically I was conned by two priest from two reputable temples. I believe these priest have conned many people over the years for monetary gains.
There are also some popular priests who goes on air in local radio station to endorse religious products by local companies.
On the other hand, there are also some companies who claims that their products are clean and pure to be used by religious purposes. They use RTM Radio Six to promote their product and uses various religious verses, sayings and quotes with their own interpretation to substantiate their claims.
Who is monitoring the conduct of the priests, temples and those unscrupulous companies who uses the name of god to sell their product. How do the public clarify and find out who is saying and doing the right thing? Where do the public go to if there are any grouses related to conduct of some temples and it's practices?
There may be some writings and guideline in the Tamil newspapers and magazines but usually they are written in a way that confuses the public. What about those who can't read Tamil? Where do they go for information?
I hope the relevant authority will clarify and also start taking action before this goes out of control and more and more people get cheated and unknowingly deviate from true and legitimate Hindu teaching.

First I am obliged to give you some information on my background so that you will understand my opinions better.

I am a malay educated and only in my form five I managed to learn Tamil (on my own ) although I am not a Tamil. I came from a school where myself and two my brother was the only Indian in a school of 2,000 students in Felda Kota Tinggi, Johor. I have lived in at least 8 estates in my younger days as my father was a estate conductor who was always transfered every two years.

1. Belittling Religion ?

First, I would like to express my regret that you have accused me of attempting to belittle the religion. I have no such intention. I also regret that this accusation came from a President Of an organisation which represents (if it is true) a religion which is supposed to forgive, create awareness, clarify, be kind and polite enough make people understand clearly matters related to religion. As a Hindu I take it as an insult.

2. Being Ignorant

You also claimed that I am ignorant. Of course, not because I choose to ignore, it is because the activities and efforts by related organisation (if it is true that they are active as claimed in your response) were hardly publicised. Am I to blame if I never come across in any media (Radio, TV, Newspapers & Magazines) any reports, press releases, calendar of activities.
For your information, I read The New Straits Times, The Sun Daily, The Star and Malay Mail everyday without fail. I also buy Nanban (Sundays Only) , Makkal Osai, Vanampadi & Nayanam everyweek. Sure there are some articles but people like me with limited vocabulary in Tamil have a hard time trying to understand any article. What about those who can't read Tamil at all.
Do not blame the English dailies. There are many other ways to get heard.

3.Authority & Regulation.

I am glad that finally some form of regulation related to ceremonies are finally being undertaken, but what about enforcement. Who will oversee the conduct of temples & priest ? Do you think they will follow the guideline on certain ceremonies if they are not monitored, I don't think so.


My articles never mentioned churches, why drag churches into this? We are not even able to control the temples, why compare with other religion?

5.Too Many Temples

I think what I have mentioned do make sense. Just go to any temples around the country on any days except Friday and the days, special celebrations are held, there are hardly anyone. Is there a need for two different temple sitting next to each other, some in the same estate, same town and I also have seen neighbours having temples of their own.

6.Hindu Temples Open To All Hindus.

You have contradicted yourself by saying ' It is neither unnatural not uncommon for places of worship of any religion to follow a particular sect or race' and yet later in your letter you said Hindu temples open to all Hindus.
It it easy to declare that all hindu temples are open to all hindus, fine I agree. But the fact is people of different sect or race are made unwelcome at certain temples. We usually get a stare from the priest and others , sometimes our archanai request are denied and there was once where my request to put a villaku at a particular temple was not allowed.
This practice also contributes to people divided along their own ethnic groups.
Again here you questioned 'why pick on Hindu Temples only'. Of course I am talk about Hindu Temples because I am a Hindu. Why compare with other religion.
I expected your response to be proactive, of what is Hindu Sangam doing to minimise or even eliminate the above problem, so that the Hindus in the country are united and not reactive and defensive by again comparing with other religion.

7. Funds

I believe God never asked it's devotees to build temples all over the place. We should only build when we are sure that it will be manageable and that there are enough people to patronise it.
For example, there is a temple in Kluang, next to the Indian Association Hall along Jalan Renggam left idle for almost three due to insufficient funds and problems between committee members. The temple was in the process of renovation and reburbishment.
Do you think that the god has asked for all these to happen. It is the human, the people that control the temples that create all unnecessary problems.
Some people build temples to boost their ego, popularity and even to compete with leaders of other temples.
These are not mere accusations, I have lived in estates ( 8 estates with 14 temples) where numerous problems crop up every year during the temple committee selection/voting. Once some group lose their position, they refuses to contribute towards the temple funds and start doing all kinds of things to sabotage the temple. So the god becomes secondary.
Again, here you went on comparing other religion.

8. Local Priest & Priests From India

I never questioned on shortage of local priests or the intake of priest from India. I only questioned the legitimacy of their way of conducting ceremonies.

9. Companies & Advertisements

You never touched on this.
Have you ever heard of various companies advertising religious products over Radio Six RTM. Quite a number of them claim that their products are clean and pure and are the most suitable for prayers etc.
Had Hindu Sangam done anything to clarify and check on these products. What about this Agni Hotram, is it legitimate, approved and allowed. I read in the Makkal Osai where an Indian priest claimed that this ritual is illegal. Have you checked. The Aboorvas had been selling the Agni Hotram package in thousands and laughing all the way to the bank.

10. Kalvi Yathirai

What about Kalvi Yathirai, do you think it is necessary to group about one million students and conduct prayers to enable the students to do well in their exams. Many of my relatives and family members (students) who went for this occasion confessed that they went there just to have fun with their friends. Some of them said they do feel motivated after all the courses but the so-called motivation dies down after a week or two.
Do you think that the god will help the students to pass the exams. Nobody will do well in exams unless they study hard. God will not help those who don't help themselves.
My sympathies to parents who spent hundreds to sent their children to this event.
End of the day, the people at the Aboorvas, the main sponsors for the event, are the ones who benefitted most. They have managed to advertise themselves in a most convincing way (by using religion) to millions of Indians in such a brief period. What a good business strategy.
If there is really a need for special prayers for students who are taking exams, why don't we do it in a smaller scale, in towns, estates and villages. Then the smaller number of students will be more focused, the parents do not have to fork out a lot of money and people like Aboorvas will not be able to take advantage of the situation.
The Sri Murugan Centre, I believe is already doing a good job in giving tuitions to students. This is enough and they can do more by having more classes. This will be good enough.


I do remember you replying to my articles relating to the condition of Batu Caves. This place has been described as a Third World Mayhem by one of the tourist who stayed at the hotel where I worked before. It was very very embarassing. He asked me whether is this the way the Hindus pray.
In brief, the noise, the filthy stalls, crammed atmosphere, unnecessary entertaintment, has brought about a negative image to Indians in the country.
There are hardly any space to walk during thaipusam due to the stalls lining up all over the place. They were also stalls selling local Indian rock bands albums pleaced just next to the temple on the second day at the ground level blarring their music to the maximum. How do you expect people at the temple at the ground level pray.
To do an archanai people are forced to buy the archanai package at an exorbitant fee. Is this the way to collect funds, by forcing people to buy from the temple.
The fact is Thaipusam has become a money making occasion for many including the Batu caves temple commitee who rents out maximum number of stalls that can fit the area and that includes a Funfair where people gamble to win prizes, how religious.
I don't have to say more about the allotment of the stalls which are manipulated by the temple committee member and later sold to other people at high daily rates. This is an open secret and has been going on for years. The temple committee ( still headed by a man previously convicted of misaapropriation of funds but recently aquitted on technicality) denied this in their reply.
The conduct of the some followers of the Kavadi bearer are despicable. It is so embarrasing. They behaves like street rowdies. Half of them are. I also have seen some gangsters taking kavadhi year after year and later remains their old self, no improvements whatsoever. What is the point of taking kavadis then.
Why can't Hindu Sangam do something about this?

12. Valluvar Kottai & Kallai Kudham
Have you been to these places, the conditions are a digrace to Hindus. Aren't Hindu Sangam bothered about this?

13. Custom, Tradition & Religion

I believe majority of Hindus can't differenciate what is a religious practice and what is a Indian custom/tradition. A very good example is the Ponggal festival. It is now touted to be a religious festival when the fact is it a thanksgiving tradition practiced by paddy farmers back in India.
There are many other ceremonies like ear piercing, shaving hair of children, babies 16th day and 30th day ceremony which are more of a custom than a religious practice. But majority Hindus believe that these are a must for all Hindus.
The fact that a Hindu priest ( a very popular priest) told me that one is not Hindu if their ears are not pierced is shocking. Is this true, if it is then, more than half of the Hindu men in the country including me are not Hindus.

14. Keep Up The Work

On the other hand, I appreciate the effort done to hold seminars for leaders of Hindu temples. This must go on and there must be effort to reach general public so that they are aware what is going on, what are the right practices, what should be done and what should not take place.
I rest my case and just to summarise, I believe things will be out of control if nothing is done now. For me, I believe one do not have to go to temple to pray, we can pray anywhere . I will continue to pray at home and only visit temple when it is bearable and necessary.
Your reply will be much appreciated.

K.Balan Kuala Lumpur

HINDU SANGAM's Second Reply

Dear Mr.Balan,

Thank you for the response to my letter published in the Star (14 Jun 2001)
I feel relived receiving your e-mail on 15 June. Relived because I appreciate your genuine concern for the state of affairs of the many things related to Hinduism in Malaysia and the temples in particular.
I would be most happy if you can call at my office @ No.8, Jalan Duku, Off Jalan kasipillay, 51200 Kuala Lumpur as soon as possible. Please ring the office or my hand phone 012-2970765 before you come.
My colleagues and I share many of your views, especially your concern. Please do come.
May the Almighty God Bless you.
Thank You,


It's time to monitor all templesVIKNASVARAN of Kuala Lumpur (via e-mail, The Star) writes:

I REFER to the letter "Keeping Tabs on Hinduism" (The Star, June 1). I fully support Balan's idea and I really appreciate that he brought up this issue, which should have been addressed long ago.
The Hindu Sangam is doing all they can for the Indians and I think they have done a good job all this while.
I think now is the time for the Hindu Sangam, MIC and relevant organisations to work together to monitor all the temples, priests and their practices for the benefit of Indians in Malaysia.


Hinduism too diverse to monitorFrom Saravanan Karumanan, Kota Kinabalu. (via e-mail, The Star Daily)

I WOULD like to respond to K. Balan's letter, "Keeping tabs on Hinduism (The Star, June 1).
Is there a need to have a monitoring body to keep tabs on Hinduism similar to what is being done in other religions?
The answer to this question will result in another question. Can the Hindu religion be monitored?
K. Balan seems to forget that Hinduism is a religion devoid of accepted doctrines and dogmas.
It is a religion that has evolved over thousands of years and in the process it has found a place for varied practices and belief systems which collectively is called Hinduism.
Throughout the ages, many attempts have been made to reduce it to a single belief system or norm, but all these efforts have failed or met a natural death.
The Hindu religion is simply too big and diverse to be broken down into easy manageable parts.
Hence, K. Balan's confusion about which is the correct path is a dilemma that every Hindu goes through in his quest to understand the religion.
The solution to this dilemma is a matter of the heart.
As for the many unregistered Hindu temples, I agree with K. Balan that they should be registered if found to be operating illegally.
I also agree with K. Balan that something should be done to temples that seem to have unspoken rules on who should patronise them.
K. Balan also asked whether there is a need for so many Hindu temples when the Indian population is small.
Let me remind K. Balan that for a Hindu, a special bond exists between him and a temple.
For many, they actually feel a sense of restlessness if they are unable to go to their favourite temple.
Each temple is like a tiny spot for every Hindu to find his place in the universe.
Every Hindu feels that a temple is specially built for him to communicate with God.
Hindus donate to temples because like I said before, there exists a special bond between the two.
Hindus and Hindu temples have never been a problem for the Malaysian society.
In fact the many temples around the country have played an important role in keeping Indian youths away from the streets.
Temple worship in Hinduism is a very important and sacred duty.
Each time a Hindu walks into a temple, however humble, he is walking into the kingdom of God.
If one looks beyond the rituals and doctrines, one will feel the actual meaning of Love of Godhead.


Dear Mr. Balan,

And does that mean that one day to come, Hindus will not be allowed to use Gods name even to name their children. I will agree to this. Ya, first the name Samy (God) Vellu should not be in any media. Why not, because he is not behaving like a God. He is a disgrace(he drinks, he has keeps/pets, he is rich and he has mercedes-Gods dont have that), hence we should not allow anyone to use Gods name. Is this how we want things to happen in future.
The pathetic thing about Indian reformist in Malaysia is that they seldom look ahead - just like that old bunch of MIC fellows. In a country where the minority is not safe guarded by the constitution and being treated biasly by the existing leadership, it is only right for us to fight to preserve whatever little freedom and liberty we have and not to keep losing it. This is what I am totaly for.
Hindusim caters for all walks of man. The idiot to the intellect. So when we have became knowledgeable, it does not mean that we have to for get about the naive ones. Be it right or wrong it is up to the indiividual to determine. Bogus or not it is the individual right of every Hindus. You yourself Mr.Balan, dont know wether it is right or wrong but you say it is bogus. How am I to give you a break when you are trying to impose (not propose by leadership quality) on the Hindus. This is crucial. Our mind set has to change as we got to look from a wider scope. Dont only think about our self. Put your self in another persons shoe - those who are of lower ability to absorb the abstract elements of spirituality.
HIndu bussiness are directly connected with God and Godliness. Look at the Chettiars. Take them as an example in bussiness and the Malaysian Hnidu community can be a better lot. Their bussiness are named either to their own name or the name of God, usualy Lord Muruga. You go to their shop and there is Gods icon/picture etc. You open their safe box and you will again see some elements related to spirituality. Now this small community of Chetty has been doing very well in Malaysia since the time of Malacca Sultanate.
Dont turn Hniduism into a Semetic, dogmatic religion in Malaysia.


RECAP : If readers notice, all the issues relating to Hinduism and Hindu Temples was brought up in 2001 itself. Not sure where HINDRAF, DAP, PKR members who made all the noise recently, were at that time.

Again, it readers care to notice, almost all initial responses (including mine) were emotional in nature. I now do not really agree with some of the comments I made as I have lost touch with the practises as it has continued to evolve.

8 years has passed and nothing much has changed, the same people are there in Batu Caves, more and more temples are being built (recent report says that there are 7,000 temples in Selangor).

The saddest part is when authorities take action according to the law, politicians stand in the way, previously the BN and now Pakatan Rakyat has done exactly the same by taking action against someone who did what is required by the law.

This (political interference) would certainly encourage people to build more illegal temples and perhaps surpass India in terms of number of Hindu Temples available, no matter if they are illegal.

I have no hope that things will change, ever especially when people become emotional at every turn and can't think rationally, something that I do not think will change in my lifetime.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hindraf - Reader's Comments

I am saddened to hear of the negative comments to you two postings on Hindraf. A bitter lesson for us on the subject of open-mindedness of Malaysians. You already talked about, again twice, on maturedness of the Malaysian voters – let alone the emotional Hindraf supporters.

I am not a social psychologist or an anthropologists, but if there is a weakness amongst Indians everywhere in the world, it's that we are just too damned emotional. Emotion precedes rational thought.

Hindraf is a brainchild of Uthayamoorthy and his brother Waythamoorthy, who started the whole thing out of his own frustration against the Malaysian cops. They were famous for defending widow/mothers of dead prisoners, said to be killed by cops. Are they a rational-minded brave leadesr out to defend these poor families? I am not sure. I believeWaythamoorthy ran to UK when he was said to be threatened by cops.

A brave leader? I think not. I received forwarded mails describing him as William Wallace. Sir William Wallace was a Scottish freedom warrior who came from working class and, as you may have seen in the movie Braveheart, died for his people. Unlike the more glamorous death in the movie, he was drawn and quartered, pretty ugly death that the Hindraf supporters are probably not aware off.

And Waythamoorthy is compared to William Wallace. What did the other Hindraf leader do, when things were hot in Malaysia? He stayed on in cool UK, instead of coming here to face the realities. What is he, then? Salman Rushdie?

The mother of all ironies is the fact that the persons leading the organisation are not from the working class or materially poor. These are successful lawyers. And you may argue that it was a lawyer who led India to her independence. Of course, fellow Indian shot him later, but that's another story.

What Hindraf would have needed is a leader from the working class. Hindraf could have been a successful "union" for poor Indians. But no, we needed a hero to come along….
Let's face it; we are a race of hero-worshippers. We need hero, not from our own, but from a different category. Given a choice of a hardworking rubber taper with guts, or a successful Lawyer with easy entry to UK, whom would you choose? Okay, you and I will chose the rubber tapper, encourage him, give moral support and encourage him to be rational first.

But most people are drawn to the "higher" class of leaders. They supposedly have money and brain to match, and can buy them free beers. Alas, what can the poor rubber tapper give them?

I am merely repeating what you have wrote. All the good points in your point-to-point argument fell on the deaf ears. Again, a very ordinary reaction. We want to hear what we want to hear, other than that pay no attention. They probably caught your argument agreeing on few things, like education for example. Other than that, I can see them simply getting pissed, "how dare he disagree!" rather than taking that underused brain of theirs to task of understanding what you wrote, check the facts if they feel yours is wrong, or even counter-argue with their own facts.

Rational thinking is not an option. It is not even discussed in many Indian families. We are always told to not ask question and just follow. Our religious practises are thousands of years old, and are out of date, but lately they have been making a comeback in form of commerce, and you yourself have wrote many letters saying that these merchants are making use of Indians and their beliefs. Nobody listened.

We all know about Batu Caves and the money it made and where it went. Nobody went there to the Batu Caves management demanding to know what had happened. Nobody went to Samy Velu's house for peaceful demonstration for failing the Indians. No. They have to go to foreign embassy, which is there to protect the interest of its own countries and people.

And now, look at Hindraf. At odds with the opposition party for the same old, age old, temple issue! The whole world is in the brink of economic meltdown, with 100 plus years old corporations going bust, with economic uncertainties facing not you, not me, but the entire 6 billion plus populations.

And they are bitching about the temple, shrine, place of worship, or whatever you call it, which is probably frequented by less than 50 persons.

We cannot have an organisation. We have, how many, three or four parties representing us? Well, the big ones are MIC, IPF and PPP that has majority Indians. Then, someone split from MIC and formed MIC Baru and similar thing happened to IPF when Pandithan passed away. Oh, and Nallakaruppan started one on his own. And then, we have Hindraf, though not political…was very political and racist at the same time, and it too got split!

You want to know Indians, look at India. Look at the number of political parties, religious sects, NGOs, and not to forget the terribly buy unions. It just does not work. Best way is to work hard, do well and help each other…. as you have mentioned.

I read somewhere that late Tun VT Sambanthan said Indians and Chinese, outside of their homeland, are treated badly, almost second-class citizens, but it was Malays in Malaysians who took us in as brothers and sisters.

All baskets will have one or two rotten apples, but should we throw away those baskets?

My writing is here is certainly full of faults, mistakes and weak argument, but if other readers are reading this, please reread what Balan had wrote carefully and pay due attention. If needed, do independent check on facts and figures that he had argued. There are many sites, blogs (see the links) that can give you more perception on what is happening.

Here is something I agree with all of you Hindraf supporters: Samy Velu should go, should shut down MIC, and declare himself as a failure as Indian Malaysians leader. Work on that. Send

SMSes asking him to shut down MIC and apologise. After that, push for authorities to investigate whatever wrong doings he had committed in his time as minister in the cabinet. If you feel that it is too drastic, than do your usual peaceful assembly in front of his house asking him to hand over the administrations to one of your leaders, revive MIC, take control of it, and do what is needful in a more appreciated manner.

Oh, and get all the Indian organisations under one umbrella.

Do that if you still need a single powerful organisation to represent us all. Frankly, I think we can do without any organisation and just help each other as fellow human beings. In this world filled with wonderful flora and fauna, racial cards need not apply!

Rakesh Kumar

Balan : It was reported that there are 7,000 temples or shrines in Selangor and fewer that 50 Tamil Schools. What an achievement!! Imagine how much money could have been diverted to schools, students welfare or scholarship rather than building more and more temples, as a matter of pride and chest-thumping exercise for few individuals with bloated egos'.

Somebody said that 'common sense' is no longer common. I have to completely agree with that, at least in Malaysia.