KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is drawing up regulations to make it compulsory for all proposed houses of worship to get government approval before they can be built, in an effort to stamp out possible disputes in the future with land ownership.
Minister for Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin said the government is also getting ready to register all existing houses of worship and their location.
"If they are located at sites that do not belong to them, we will advise them to move to other locations," she told the media yesterday.
Tensions shot up in the country in the past week in connection with the relocation dispute of a Hindu temple in Subang Jaya, about a 40-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur. This happened after temple devotees refused to move out although the land owner had secured from the Malaysian court full ownership of the land.
A group of some 50 people last week entered the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at around 2am and threatened devotees there, in an apparent attempt to force them to relocate the temple.
Riots broke out when the two groups fought, with 20 vehicles burned. Later, groups of people who had massed at the temple apparently attacked and badly injured firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, who was there with his team.
The temple issue has not been resolved, with finger pointing involving government officials, temple management committee members and the land owners. The police say 58 people have been nabbed in investigations into the riots.
Number of people police arrested while investigating the riots over the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that the Cabinet has agreed to allow the police to use certain Acts that are under review to handle the rioting cases at the Sri Maha Mariamman temple.
The six-month-old government has a moratorium on Acts deemed unjust by rights groups, such as the Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) 2017, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Sedition Act 1948 and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
But Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the Cabinet at its meeting last Friday decided to withdraw the moratorium so that action could be taken in the rioting cases.
"There is a moratorium on these Acts but in the current situation, considering what happened at the temple, they can be used by the police even though they are being thoroughly re-evaluated," he told reporters after meeting police officers on duty around the temple and later, the temple's management for discussions.