PUTRAJAYA: The lawyers of the developer involved in the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple riot had paid 50 Malay men RM150,000 (US$35,700) to "take care of things" at the Hindu temple, but the move ended up triggering the riots, said Malaysian Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday (Nov 28).
"Because they hired Malays to 'take care of things' at a Hindu temple, you can imagine the reaction it would trigger," said Muhyiddin, as reported by The Star.
"As an example, imagine what would happen if you sent Hindus to take care of a mosque?"
MEN HIRED TO TAKE CONTROL OF SITUATION AT TEMPLE
The developer, One City Development, and the temple administration committee are in dispute over the piece of the land on which the temple stands.
One City Development is the owner of the land.
Muhyiddin said the Shah Alam High Court had on Mar 11, 2014, recorded a consent judgment on the relocation of the temple and the return of the present temple site vacant to the owner.
Nevertheless, he said, the consent judgment could not be executed because of an objection by some Hindu devotees.
Based on the police investigation, two groups of Hindu devotees were involved – one in agreement to the relocation and the other against, he said.
Muhyiddin said those linked to the company had not complied with the process of acquisition of the temple site as planned in accordance with the legal provisions.
Muhyiddin said that after a series of negotiations between the parties failed to reach a consensus, the developer planned to take over the temple site as per the court order but failed because of the protests from the Hindu groups and commotion at the site.
The developer tried again to take over the temple site, scheduled for 7am on Nov 26, after having discussions on the matter with the temple committee, he said.
Muhyiddin said the police were informed of the plan and they were prepared to maintain order in the vicinity of the temple.
However, the police investigation found that the developer’s lawyers had hired a group of men who intruded into the temple and exercised control over the house of worship before the arrival of the developer and the police that morning, he said.
This angered the Hindu devotees and sparked the quarrel and ensuing fight as well as damage to property.
“If this rash and negligent action had not been resorted to, I believe there would not have been the clash between the Malay men and the Hindu devotees at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple,” he said.
The lawyers had paid RM150,000 to the leader of the group to "exercise control" over the temple, and each of the 50 men were paid between RM150 and RM300, Muhyiddin said.
MALICIOUS LIES: ONE CITY DEVELOPMENT
One City Development has denied its involvement in the riot, saying that the allegations are malicious lies.
The company also said it condemned both acts of violence and insinuations that it would resort to "such despicable acts", reported The Star, citing the statement.
"Most importantly, One City is committed to adhering to the rule of law in addressing the temple which is sitting on its land," said the company in its statement.
Legal firm Skrine denied any involvement in the violence.
The firm’s partner, Khoo Guan Huat, said in a statement that none of the firm’s lawyers have been arrested by the police, and that the firm had no knowledge of the alleged hiring of thugs.
“We categorically state that we are not the lawyers referred to by the home minister," said the firm's partner Khoo Guan Huat.
Skrine is the law firm acting for the developer in civil proceedings involving possession of the land on which the temple is located.
Khoo added that all steps taken by the legal firm have been and will continue to be strictly in accordance with the law.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that those responsible for the riots will be punished, adding that the incident had nothing to do with race or religion.
The police have also been instructed to look into how a firefighter was injured during the riot, amid allegations that he was hit by a fire engine, not beaten as reported.
“Police’s investigation is ongoing and we will use the forensic service to get fingerprints on the door of the Fire and Rescue Department’s vehicles to track down those involved," said Home Minister Muhyiddin.
“We will ensure Muhammad Adib receives justice ... we will identify those who attacked him and bring them to justice."
Nine more people were arrested on Wednesday, bringing the total number of suspects so far to 30.