KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) - 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.
The minister for Housing and Local Government Ministry, Madam 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 on Sunday (Dec 2).
Madam Zuraida said regulatory procedures should be introduced before houses of worship were built.
Tensions shot up in the country in the past week over the relocation of a disputed 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.
On Monday (Nov 26), a group of some 50 people 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 burnt.
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.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week blamed criminal elements for the violence that occurred at the temple site, and issued a stern warning against perpetrators of the incident.
"The criminals who tried to create disturbances and injured our security and rescue personnel, as well as damaged public property, will face stern action according to the law," Tun Mahathir said in a statement. "And if there are puppet masters behind these incidents, they too will not escape from receiving appropriate punishment."
The incident was not the first time that the relocation of a house of worship had raised tensions between devotees and land owners who wanted to develop the site.