KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police were out in force at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Selangor on Tuesday (Dec 18), amid fears of racial and religious tension following the death of a firefighter who was seriously injured in last month’s riots.
Selangor deputy police chief Abdul Rashid Wahab said almost 400 policemen are on standby at the temple area as well as a developer’s office nearby to maintain order.
“We have given our number one priority to the temple, to safeguard the area as we monitor the situation,” Mr Rashid told The Malaysian Insight.
“We have also increased the number of police personnel and we are ready to maintain peace.”
Those deployed include the uniformed police, plainclothes policemen and the Federal Reserve Unit.
Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim's body was flown to his hometown in Kedah on Tuesday. About 1,000 people reportedly turned up to attend the funeral rites.
The state government will provide assistance for the funeral expenses, said Kedah Health, Rural Development Religion and State-Government Linked Companies Committee chairman Ismail Salleh.
“Preparation for the burial ceremony are being done completely by the Fire and Rescue Department. The state government will look into other needs,” he told reporters when met at Muhammad Adib's family home.
Mr Rashid had said on Monday night that the firefighter's death will be reclassified as a murder case.
In a statement, he said the fireman’s death will now be investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder. It was previously investigated under Section 307 of the Penal Code for attempted murder.
Muhammad Adib, 24, died at the National Heart Institute on Monday night.
He suffered serious injuries on Nov 27 while he was part of a team responding to a fire in front of the temple. Rioters had allegedly pulled him out of his vehicle and attacked him.
The temple administration committee and the developer, One City Development, are in dispute over the piece of the land on which the temple stands.
The developer’s lawyer was accused of paying 50 men to "take care of things" at the Hindu temple, but the move ended up triggering the riots. The developer has denied those allegations.
Selangor Chief Minister Amirudin Shari has expressed his condolences to the family members of the late fireman.
"I repeat my confidence in the capability of the Royal Malaysia Police and the Attorney-General's Cambers in carrying out their investigations on the case.
"If it is proven that there were criminal elements involved, I hope the criminal concerned would be immediately brought to face prosecution and receive the harshest sentence for the inhumane act," he said in a statement.
Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said he was saddened to hear about the firefighter’s passing.
"We want to express our sympathy and condolences to the family members, and hope that they will be strong in facing this challenge," he said on Tuesday.
"His departure is felt by all the people, and we believe that the sacrifice of our hero is noble in the side of religion, race and nation."
Meanwhile, the United Malays National Organisation’s (UMNO) youth wing has demanded criminal charges against four Pakatan Harapan ministers and a Selangor state government official, for making remarks that fuelled unrest on the ground leading to the attack on the fireman.
UMNO youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki noted on Tuesday that Cabinet members P Waytha Moorthy, M Kulasegaran, Gobind Singh Deo, and Xavier Jaykumar, as well as Selangor exco member V Ganabatirau had issued remarks criticising the police’s handling of the initial riots on Nov 26.
Mr Wajdi reportedly said that their statements had worsened tensions at a time when authorities were trying to disprove any racial or religious elements in the incident.
Mr Ganabatirau said in a Facebook post on Nov 27 that the attacks were perpetrated by Muslims. This came after the four ministers publicly blamed the police for failing to keep order.