Kuala Lumpur authorities zoom in on culprits behind temple riot

Policemen at the site of the Maha Mariamman Temple, where a riot broke out on Monday. In the background are some cars that were badly burnt in the incident. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warns that those responsible will face stern action.
Policemen at the site of the Maha Mariamman Temple, where a riot broke out on Monday. In the background are some cars that were badly burnt in the incident. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warns that those responsible will face stern action.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Home Minister says developer's lawyers hired thugs to forcefully evict temple management

Malaysian Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday blamed lawyers for property developer One City Development for hiring thugs, whose actions sparked a riot at a Hindu temple on Monday.

Two lawyers are among 30 people arrested so far to help police investigating the incident.

One City, which owns the land on which the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Subang Jaya sits, denied involvement.

Two legal firms also came out to say that none of their lawyers were involved in the incident.

"Police investigations found the developer's lawyers had hired a group of Malay men to trespass and take control of the temple before the developer and police arrived on Monday morning," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said in a statement.

"RM150,000 (S$49,750) was handed to the leader of the group to conduct demolition work, take over and control the temple," he added.

About 50 men were hired to do the job, with each paid between RM150 and RM300.

DEMOLISH, TAKE OVER AND CONTROL

RM150,000 was handed to the leader of the group to conduct demolition work, take over and control the temple.

MALAYSIA'S HOME MINISTER MUHYIDDIN YASSIN, who blamed lawyers for One City Development for hiring thugs.

While Mr Muhyiddin said the police had yet to determine whether the lawyers were acting on their client's instructions, he added: "I don't think the lawyers are so generous, so surely there is a link to contributions from the company."

In its statement yesterday, One City, "a subsidiary of MCT Berhad, categorically denies hiring or authorising the hiring of 'thugs' to initiate the riot" in the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

"The personnel onsite were directed to provide logistical support and assist in the orderly relocation under police watch," it added.

Similarly, law firm Skrine issued a denial to say that none of its lawyers had been apprehended by the authorities.

Skrine was engaged by One City to handle civil proceedings related to possession of the temple in Subang Jaya, about 40 minutes away from downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Another law firm, Thomas Philip, said it was no longer servicing One City after the temple management and One City reached a court settlement in 2014, which included a relocation site and monetary donation for a new temple to be built.

MCT Berhad, which owns One City, convened its annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday but its directors gave reporters the slip when it ended.

Shareholders who were at the AGM told reporters later that company executives had said to leave the matter to the police.

The Malaysian Insight, citing unnamed sources, said the state government may take over the land, offer compensation to the developer and give the land to the temple.

Crowds at the temple have swelled since Monday's attack, in which unidentified men with weapons tried to forcefully evict temple management staff at 2am.

On Tuesday morning, a mob attacked the developer's office.

Police have advised people not to gather in the temple vicinity after a fireman was seriously injured on Tuesday. A fire engine and ambulance were vandalised.

Clashes between devotees and the attackers saw almost two dozen vehicles torched on Monday and Tuesday.

Riot police have been deployed in the area every night since an estimated 2,000 people gathered outside the temple on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has warned that those responsible for what happened, including the "puppet masters", will face stern action according to the law.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'KL authorities zoom in on culprits behind temple riot'. Print Edition | Subscribe