GEORGE TOWN: The Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) Penang is set to take over the ownership and management of an abandoned Hindu cemetery in Batu Kawan, Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said here today.
He told a press conference that the five-acre cemetery, containing over 1,000 deceased burial grounds, had been abandoned by its previous owner, a local temple management committee.
Batu Kawan’s Sri Maha Mariamman Kovil management abandoned the cemetery in exchange for a new two-acre burial ground during a land acquisition by the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) to facilitate the construction of Stadium Batu Kawan.
The new burial ground is two kilometres away from the old cemetery, which is near the stadium.
It’s learnt that a portion of the old cemetery lies beneath the mammoth stadium ground.
Ramasamy said that state secretary Farizan Darus has asked him a month ago on whether the remains in the old cemetery can be exhumed to allow the remaining land to be gazetted for the stadium.
“However, I objected to it and insisted that it was only appropriate for the land to be reinstated as a Hindu burial ground,” said the Batu Kawan MP and Prai assemblyman.
Acting on Ramasamy’s suggestion, the Seberang Perai Selatan district land office is now conducting a land survey to prepare a paper that would be tabled at the State Land Committee to gazette the land under the safekeeping and administration of HEB.
HEB is a statutory body set up by the British colonial rulers in 1900s as a public trust to manage properties belonging to Hindus in Penang.
On Sunday, a few local residents accompanied MIC, Indian Progressive Front and Gerakan members to stage a protest in Batu Kawan, calling on the state government to hand over the old cemetery ground back to the temple management.
New land as compensation
However, Ramasamy, the HEB chairman, said it was unfair and unjust for the temple management to reclaim the land given that it had already accepted a new land as compensation.
Secondly, he said the temple management had abandoned the old ground to rot for 18 years ago.
“The temple management lacked professionalism to operate the burial ground.
“It has no legitimacy or moral authority to talk about managing burial matters,” said Ramasamy.
Moreover, it will cost the temple management millions to acquire the land while it will only cost HEB RM1 land premium to do so.
He said if HEB were to take over the cemetery, the state government would ensure full benefits accrue to the Indians in Batu Kawan constituency.
He said its operation and maintenance would be given to committed, dedicated and sincere constituents.
“As a HEB head and Batu Kawan MP, I have a social responsibility to safeguard the political, social and cultural interests of Penang Indians.
“I will not sit to witness the gradual loss of Indian cultural and social spaces in the state,” said the former academi