May 15, 2016
How Stupid can UMNO get–Tearing Down a “Tokong” (Shrine) in Penang
A Chinese “tokong” will remain a part of the Armenian Street Park, and will not be demolished, despite Opposition from UMNO, said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
The Chinese Temple in Armenian Street Park, Penang
Lim said the shrine’s heritage value should be appreciated as it had been in the park since World War II, about 70 years ago.”There is no reason to tear it down,” Lim told Malaysiakini, dismissing the request to demolish the shrine by state opposition leader Jahara Hamid, unless she could come up with a good enough rationale.
UMNO’s Jahara Hamid
“If it is a new shrine, and illegally built, we will tear it down,” was his message to Jahara, who had made the request at the Penang State Legislative Assembly last Friday. Lim cited the example of the “illegally built” Goddess Mazu shrine in Pulau Jerejak which was demolished as it did not get the approval of Penang Island City Council.
Jahara had alerted the state legislative assembly about it last year, citing a Facebook Page set up by devotees of the Goddess. She had questioned if there were plans to change the island’s name to ‘Pulau Mazu’.
“We tore it down. It was a hundred times bigger. But when she (Jahara) complained, we brought it down,” Lim said. “But this one (in the Armenian Park) has some heritage value so we’ll see what we can do to retain it, or relocate it to another spot,” Lim added.
“It was not a problem before, she is just trying to play with people’s sentiments. So can you trust UMNO when they tend to play with such sentiments? Umno reminds us of all that is wrong.
“They should stop playing with such sentiments in a multiracial society. It’s a sensitive issue and it hurts people’s feelings. We have freedom of religion here,” said the chief minister.
During the debate on the motion of thanks to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri on Friday, Jahara said of the shrine “It is clear that this is a Western-influenced design. Muslims will not go to pray there for sure, but some may be confused.”
UMNO’s ally MCA had also ticked off Jahara for being insensitive about the religious matters of others.
According to Lim, the park was rebuilt with funds granted by Think City, a federal agency involving heritage. “The tokong is about the park’s heritage, and about not religion.”