Plan to demolish ashram for a new hall scrapped

THE Penang Hindu Endowment Board has scrapped its plans to pull down the 80-year-old Gandhiji Ashram in Jalan Kebun Bunga, Penang, to build a double-storey multipurpose hall at the site.

Its chairman Dr P. Ramasamy, who is also Deputy Chief Minister II, said there was “no way” the ashram would be demolished.

“We will not allow that.

“We need to preserve this building, as this is a living place,” he said when opening the inaugural meeting of the Penang Gandhi Peace Centre (PGPC) at the ashram on Friday.

It was reported in 2010 that the then board chairman A. Tanasekharan had said the RM5.5mil hall would be built on a 1,858sq m plot of land within the Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple grounds, and would cater to those who wanted to hold weddings or other functions there.

Dr Ramasamy said the PGPC could host other activities, including those for youths, at the ashram.

“Just because the centre is located on temple grounds, it does not mean that it has to exclusively hold religious activities only.

“We have to move forward to bring young people in.

“For instance, we can look into setting up a Peace Cafe here, where we can draw young people to come and learn about peace efforts by world leaders, and their successes and failures.

“We can also invite speakers to the cafe to share ideas with the youngsters,” he said, adding that the state government was ready to back the idea with the necessary funding.

Dr Ramasamy pledged a RM20,000 donation to start off the activities at the centre.

Also present was PGPC chairman Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, who said the centre was a platform for teaching and sharing of ideas for changes that people wanted to see in the world.

“We also want to open the centre as a place where regular programmes can be held by various organisations to promote peace and for a sustainable, just and peaceful world,” he said.

Representatives from Soka Gakkai Malaysia, Brahma Kumaris and the Hindu Mahajana Sangam were also present.