Putrajaya can't take over temple land, says Dr Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR: The federal government has no authority to acquire the land on which the Seafield Sri Maha Mariaman Temple stands as issues pertaining to land lies on the prerogative of the state government, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Land is a state matter. We have no right (to take over the land). We have rights only with regards to the riots,” said the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday (Nov 28), sources told The Star that the Selangor government will acquire the land and allow the temple to remain at the location.

Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari is set to make an announcement with regards to that matter at a press conference on Thursday (Nov 29) afternoon.

According to Dr Mahathir, the High Court had given the green light to the owner of the land to relocate the Hindu temple three years ago.

“But the people in charge there (of the temple) has not done anything for three years. For three years, they refused… so, I believe the developer is trying to move the temple by themselves, where in the process, they have used the Malays.

“We don’t ask Malays to protect Hindu temples as much as we don’t ask Hindus to protect mosques. So this incident is a result of that,” he said at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday (Nov 29).

“But we are still bound by the court’s decision. If the state government wants to do it (acquire land), it has to take action to do it, if they can take back the land,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, the High Court rejected a bid to block the relocation of the USJ 25 temple, which has been the centre of riots this week.

Commenting on the High Court’s decision, Dr Mahathir said that the temple has three layers of courts to appeal against the ruling.

“We have three layers of courts. If the first layer makes a decision, you can appeal to the second and then you can appeal to the third.

“Finally, if the third layer says something, that is final,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also reiterated that the federal government will find ways to address issues pertaining to land and places of worship, in order to ensure that similar incidents to the USJ 25 temple fracas do not repeat itself in future.

“One of the problems with such incidents is that places of worship are built on land that does not belong to them.”

Dr Mahathir said that in future, all places of worship must acquire the state government’s permission before any constructions can be commenced.

A scuffle occurred in the wee hours of Nov 26, stemming from a dispute between the temple’s committee and a developer, who is the owner of the land where the temple is located.

So far, 30 people were arrested and on Wednesday (Nov 28), Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin alleged that the lawyers of the developer had hired Malay thugs, which had led to a two-day riot.  Several people were injured and vehicles were torched.

The temple is sitting on a land owned by One City Development, a subsidiary of Bursa Malaysia-listed MCT Bhd through MCT Consortium Bhd.

One City has since denied Muhyiddin’s allegation.

Asked if the Federal government would take action against One City, Dr Mahathir said, “If there is any law that is broken, the law will apply.”

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