SUBANG JAYA, Selangor: Vehicles were set ablaze when violence broke out near the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Selangor's Subang Jaya in the wee hours of Monday (Nov 26).
The fight between two groups was sparked by a disagreement over the relocation of the temple, Subang Jaya district police said in a Facebook post.
Devotees were reportedly protesting the relocation of the 100-year-old house of worship when they were attacked by another group of people, news portal Malaysiakini said.
“Eighteen cars and two motorcycles were torched in the incident. A police patrol car was also damaged by stones thrown during the incident,” said Selangor police chief Mazlan Mansor.
“About 50 men were in the compound of the temple and a group of men was outside. They traded insults that led to the riot,” he added.
About 700 policemen from several units were deployed, including the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), a riot control force and special response team.
Seven men in their 30s were arrested and are helping with investigations into the incident.
Mazlan said that police sent a patrol unit to the scene when they received a call about the incident at 2.45am on Monday.
However, the unit was forced to call for backup when stones were hurled at the patrol car. The situation was eventually brought under control at around 5am.
The police are trying to determine the motive of the 50 men who were in the temple compound and who fled following the clash between the two groups.
“We recovered several machetes which we believe were used during the incident,” Mazlan said.
No one was injured, according to a spokesperson from the Selangor Fire and Rescue.
“We attempted to douse the flames, but were prevented from doing so by the rioters. (So) we decided to await further instructions from the police, who were already at the scene," the spokesperson told Malaysiakini.
Photos and videos circulating online showed a large group of people gathering around several cars that were set on fire. There were also several photos of firemen attempting to douse the flames on the cars, and charred cars that had been tipped over or smashed.
The Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple had been earmarked for relocation about 3km away from its current site. But the move, which was set for Nov 22, has been resisted by temple devotees, said Malaysiakini.
"NOT A RACIAL ISSUE"
The temple’s chief priest said the incident had nothing to do with rivalry among the Indian community or with other races.
Jeyakumar Subramaniam added that certain quarters had deliberately sparked provocation by linking the incident to a racial clash.
“It was not a clash between two Indian groups. Those in the temple compound during the incident were Indians and Hindus (who were in the temple) and they were ordered to come out.
“The way those who ordered them out in Malay showed that they are not from here … they are not Malays,” he said.
Batu constituency’s Member of Parliament P Prabakaran said the incident involved one group that had been made the scapegoat by certain quarters to create a commotion.
He said the incident was not racial and urged people to remain calm.
“I understand that the incident was sparked by a misunderstanding over compensation and the vacating of the temple site.
"This is not a racial issue, this is a temple issue. I want the police to conduct a thorough investigation to determine who blew up the issue,” he told reporters after a visit to the temple.