One of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples investigated for 'suspected criminal offences'

The popular Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Serangoon Road, built in 1855, is a famous icon in Little India, attracting as many as 5,000 devotees on Sundays. Devotees whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were surprised by the news that the temple
The popular Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Serangoon Road, built in 1855, is a famous icon in Little India, attracting as many as 5,000 devotees on Sundays. Devotees whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were surprised by the news that the temple was under investigation.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Commissioner of Charities looking into way temple is run after it found 'areas of concern'

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of Singapore's oldest Hindu temples, has become the subject of a criminal inquiry by Singapore's commercial crime busters.

Along with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), the Commissioner of Charities (COC) is looking into the way the Serangoon Road temple is being run.

The Office of the COC said yesterday that its inquiry comes on the back of a review it conducted after receiving "feedback".

The review had identified "certain areas of concern with regard to governance and administration" which warrant an inquiry, its statement said.

It added that it had been notified by the CAD that the department was investigating the temple for "suspected criminal offences".

"As investigations are ongoing, it would be premature to comment on the inquiry or the possible actions that the COC may take," the Office of the COC told The Straits Times.

SURPRISED BY THE NEWS

It is a big shock, especially because it is this temple that was recently renovated and is very well known. It is the main temple in Little India.

MR K. SAMINATHAN, 58, a taxi driver.

It added that it is working closely with the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) and the temple's governing board members to ensure that religious activities will not be affected, and the temple can continue with its operations and daily services.

Measures will also be put in place to ensure the temple is properly managed even as the inquiry is carried out.

A spokesman for the HEB said it will assist the COC to ensure that temple operations run smoothly.

"Devotees' interests are paramount in our minds as the COC continues with the investigations," he added.

The temple was first built in 1855 by Indian pioneers and became a famous landmark in the Little India area. It attracts as many as 5,000 devotees on Sundays.

It obtained charity status in 1988 and, in 2014, it reopened after a two-year renovation.

The temple is also one of 75 buildings conserved as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan in 2014.

According to the Office of the COC, the temple's management committee comprised seven individuals, four of whom are trustees, as of Nov 20 last year.

The Office of the COC's charity portal also indicated that the last time the temple's committee submitted its financial statement was for the financial year July 2013 to June 2014.

Charities are required to submit statements of accounts every year, within six months of the end of the financial year.

Temple devotees who The Straits Times spoke to said they did not know about the investigation and were surprised by the news.

"It is a big shock, especially because it is this temple that was recently renovated and is very well known. It is the main temple in Little India," said Mr K. Saminathan, a 58-year-old taxi driver.

Ms S. Chelvi, 51, who works at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, said: "I am disappointed that this happened. Transparency is very important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Charities watchdog, CAD probe Hindu temple'. Print Edition | Subscribe