SEVERAL Hindu non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are calling for a full audit of the Batu Caves temple management committee accounts over the last 20 years after learning that the committee is not registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS).
The NGOs headed by the Persatuan Hindu Agamam Ani Malaysia said the accounts should be audited and checked by a parliament select committee.
Association chairman Arun Dorasamy said its members were not alleging misuse of funds, however, they felt an investigation should be conducted, especially since the committee is not registered with the RoS.
He said this was vital as the committee oversees the administration of three famous temples in the Klang Valley with a large number of devotees; namely the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Jalan Bandar, the Kortumalai Pillayar Temple in Pudu, both in Kuala Lumpur, as well as the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple in Selangor that is internationally renowned.
“We will follow the findings put together by the select committee following the audit. We want to know what happened to donations received from the people in the form of cash, gold and silver,” he added.
He said the committee called the Sri Mahamariamman Temple Devasthanam has been operating based on a 1930 court order from a civil suit with the latest amended order done on April 27, 2017.
“The order defines the makeup and the structure of the committee and is under the purview of the Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers,” said Arun.
However, he said the judgment did not say the committee could refrain from registering with the RoS.
Arun also said the structure of the committee was outdated and needed to be looked at again. In the past, the committee members were elected based on professions that were valid during that particular era.
Each representative called the ubhayakarars are to choose three people from their kind (natamai) to form the board. Today, there are 73 board members running the operations of the three temples.
Arun said most of the members were related to each other, raising doubts over its credibility.
The association, he added, believed that the system needed reform for better check and balance.
“There is no election to determine the best suited person for the job, it is merely a pick-and-choose system that is both unhealthy and questionable,” he added.
Based on these arguments, the association will submit five fundamental criteria to temple committee chairman Tan Sri R. Nadarajah.
The first is for the committee to be registered; secondly for it to be run in accordance with the Hindu religion and customs, while the third is for the management to be transparent; fourth for the leaders to be held accountable and the fifth for the temple to uphold its social welfare responsibility to allow it to become public property.
Their idea to set up the Reform Batu Caves movement caught like wildfire among Hindus nationwide following the Thaipusam lunar eclipse controversy this year involving Nadarajah and devotees.
The Batu Caves temple was the only one left open during the eclipse on Jan 31 during the Thaipusam festival while others closed based on the Hindu rites and customs.
The temple committee’s decision drew flak from Hindus especially after the Malaysian Hindu Sangam sent out a reminder for all Hindu temples to close that day.
“Following that episode we set up the Reform Batu Caves movement and collected over 100,000 signatures. We are also asking Nadarajah to step down,” added Arun.
To get the ball rolling and to get feedback from temple devotees, a special conference will be held on Sunday. Over 700 people are expected to attend the event.
Arun said the association would disclose contents of a few documents to the attendees for them to make an informed decision.
They will seek the assistance of the AG to suspend the entire board members of the Batu Caves temple committee pending investigation.
However, this may not be possible without the AG’s cooperation as it is a statutory requirement to get prior consent of the AG before commencing a suit or relief.
Apart from that, the association has also conducted a study done by an independent investigator on public safety and structure.
The association said checks revealed that the entire Batu Caves temple land was divided between the state government and the temple, and that the main temple area was under the state and was not gazetted as a place of worship.
“We want to follow the law to ensure we have a strong case to build against the actions of the temple committee,” added Arun.
Thaipusam Task Force coordinator G. Gunaraj, who is also Sentosa assemblyman, said he would raise the issue with the state government.
He said he hoped the temple had submitted all their documents for the building's approval to the Selayang Municipal Council as requested by then Mentri Besar of Selangor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in 2013.
“The time has come for a massive clean-up of Batu Caves temple management now that the Federal government has changed.
The special conference will be held at the PJ Civic Centre from 2pm to 5pm on Sunday.
There will also be a special memorial for Thamboosamy Pillai, the founder of the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Kuala Lumpur at the event.
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