Monday, November 26, 2012

Signature Campaign to save the Indian Heritage Land in Sitiawan.

Speech by M.Kula Segaran , MP ( Ipoh Barat)  and DAP National Vice Chairman at Gandhi Memorial Hall, Sitiawan on 25thNovember 2012
 Signature Campaign to save the Indian Heritage Land in Sitiawan.

The only Indian heritage land in Sitiawan is in grave danger of being taken away from the community. This must not happen as otherwise all the sweat and tears of the Indians who worked the land in this part of Perak will come to nothing.

There were over 32 rubber states in the Sitiawan area. Over 10,000 Indians were employed as rubber tappers in  these estates. There were Tamil schools where the children went to in the morning.  But tappers also wanted their children to learn and master the English language. Thus although mere wage earners and poor,  each family had contributed  4 weeks of their salary over a period of a year.

After enough money was  raised together with the help of well wishers, the tappers bought the land of over 2 hectares in the early 1930s in Simpang Empat ( Sitiawan). A school was built, known as Simpang Empat English school, also known as Gandhi School. 

A hall was built known as Gandhi Memorial hall where Gandhi's ashes were interred.

A society was formed, known as Dindings Indian Association (DIA). The land was registered in the name of DIA for the Indians. Thus DIA is the custodian of this land and not its beneficial owner!

Joint venture to develop in 2000 

Suddenly locals were told that a joint venture agreement was entered between DIA and King Ong Development Sdn.  Bhd. Shophouses and a new hall were proposed to be built. This didn't go well with the Indian community. After numerous protests,  the deal to develop was called off. New members were to be taken in but the DIA president forestalled this.

Proposed acquisition of land to rebuild a new National School in 2010

Notice was given by the Education Ministry and an inquiry was scheduled to be held to ascertain the amount to be paid to acquire this land to rebuild a new school. The local community objected to it. Finally, the Government relented. The acquisition was cancelled. The Government realised the sensitivity of the issue and its hold on the sentiments of the local Indian people. 

Indian Heritage land

Thus a clarion call went up for the land to be declared an Indian Heritage Land. This land is very close to the hearts and minds of the Indian community. The land should be only for the purposes of a school and promotion of cultural centre. There should be no commercial development and nprofiteering

DIA committee wants to develop land 

Regardless of sacrifices of the Indian rubber tappers whose hard earned savings enabled purchase of the land, it seems the DIA committee is bent on developing the land for commercial purposes. Why are they so stubborn? Why have they failed to realise that the tappers children and grandchildren are against this development?

N. Krishna has been president of DIA for over 20 years. 

Can we ask

 1) How much money has been saved under his management? 

2) How many Indian students have been given help in education?

3) What type of Indian cultural activities have taken place here? 

4) How many talks on Gandhi and his life have been conducted

The answer, sadly, is ZERO.

Clearly all these go to show that Mr Krishna is out of touch with the people. Do he and DIA have personal agendas?

DIA should realise they are only custodians of the land. Any development or improvement must be in furtherance of the interest of the Indian community.

Not a single cent was contributed for the initial purchase of the land by the DIA.

They should buy their own land and develop. We have no objections. Donride piggy on the sweat-stained backs of the Indians who purchased the property.

If Mr Kirhsna and his committee have any honour,  they should resign and apologise to the Indian community. But no, they want to build a 4,000seater hall and 39 shop houses. Well, by all means raise the money by yourself and build these things.

The land is now worth over RM20 million and is a priceless possession of the Indians. 

Next steps

In view of the greed and dangerous path taken by the DIA and its committee,  we plan to institute the following to help preserve the Indian Heritage Land.

1) We will launch a signature campaign to canvass support in demanding that the local authority and state government to refuse  planning approvals

2) That the developer be told to lay off this Heritage Land

3) That a through scrutiny of all aspects of the joint venture be made and that reports be lodged and necessary court action taken

4) That a meeting with the Registrar of Societies to push for the admission into the DIA of qualified members who have been denied membership

5) And that steps be taken to declare this land as Indian Heritage Land.

We want all that was built on this land to remain with the Indian community at all costs. As the DIA is unable to safeguard the interests of Indians, I suggest they just hand over to us and we will do it without loosing a single inch of Indian heritage land to those who have no claim to it.

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