Sunday, November 30, 2014

Call on trustees of Vivekananda Ashram to respect the wish of the Indian community that Vivekananda Ashram must be preserved at all cost

Speech by M Kula Segaran at the protest held at Brickfields on Sunday Nov 30, 2014 (to protest against the redevelopment plans of Vivekananda Ashram)
Call on trustees of Vivekananda Ashram to respect the wish of the Indian community that Vivekananda Ashram must be preserved at all cost 

On Nov 17, Datuk Nazri had announced in Parliament his ministry’s decision to declare Vivekananda Ashram as a heritage site. 

This was a most welcomed move and Nazri must be commended for his bold decision. 

Historical buildings need to be preserved to showcase the communities’ as well as past leaders’ connection and contributions. Little India in KL has no meaning if this area is developed. The tranquility and serenity of the area will be erased forever and this place will become a "concrete jungle".  "Concrete Jungle" will be disastrous to attract tourist to this area.

However, the trustees of Vivekananda Ashram have yet to declare their decision to abandon the redevelopment plans for the building. 

On Nov 26,   a group of leaders comprising M/s Dewa Kunjeeri Tun Sambathan, daughter of the late Tun Sambathan (former Cabinet minister), Sitpah Selvaratnam (lawyer), Rajasingham (Brickfields college), Dr Chris Nicholas (accountant) had called over the Parliament House to present a memorandum with regard to their objection on the development of Vivekananda Ashram to the Minister of Culture and Tourism YB Datuk Nazri.

Those present at the meeting included myself, YB Fong Kui Lun (MP for Bukit Bintang) and YB Sim Tong Him (MP for Kota Melaka) and Heritage Department officials.

I was most impressed with the efforts put in by the group in coming up with very articulate and convincing arguments.

The group, in their memo, has said that the Vivekananda Ashram, Kuala Lumpur is a private company limited by Guarantee, incorporated on 28 November 1934 (“the VA Association”) under the Companies Enactment 1917. Its Rules and Regulations confirm that the VA Association was founded in 1904, under the name of The Vivekananda Reading Hall.

The group also brought to the Minister’s attention the following:-

1) that the Vivekananda Ashram does not have the power to develop or to sell the Land under its Memorandum & Articles of the Association. The proposed development is therefore in excess of power, ultra vires, and wrongful on several counts, including breach of trust.

2)  Further of particular importance is for the association to preserve the income and property of the Association to be applied solely for the promotion of its objects, without any portion being return to its members in profits or dividends, as a condition of its incorporation as a company limited by Guarantee.

3)    The Grant of Land – for a public purpose the Vivekananda Ashrama Building (“the Building”) is constructed on land identified as Lot 33, Seksyen 72 GRN 50406 (“the Land”). GRN 50406 appears to have been issued in 1895, conditional upon a building worth $500 being erected thereon within a year, on pain of withdrawal of the grant. The grant of the Land to the VA Association is therefore, conditional on a building being erected within a defined period for the purposes of the VA Association. This condition runs with the Land.

4)  The VA Association in essence holds the Land in trust for the benefit of its public purpose, and the community for which the M&A designs it to serve.
5)        Any change in use of the Land for purposes other than its public and charitable purpose would be ultra vires the M&A; and contrary to the terms of incorporation and the condition imposed upon the Land.

6) Any measures or steps taken that enable a member to receive returns from the change in use of the Land would be void, contrary to the law, and in excess of the powers of the Management Committee of the VA Association.

7)  The Annual Return of the Company Not Having Share Capital of the VA Association (Form 55) dated 29 January 2014 (“the Annual Returns”) as lodged with CCM, is attached as Attachment 6. The Honorary Treasurer of the VA Association is named therein as Vignesh Naidu a/l Kuppusamy Naidu, bearing NRIC No. 730125-07-5693 (“Vignesh Naidu”).

8)    It was publicly announced by the Chairman of the VA Association in or around 16 October 2014 that the Land was to be sold to and/or developed by a company called F3 Capital Sdn Bhd (“F3 Capital”) for the purposes of building a 23 storey residential building with an eight storey parking podium behind and over the Building on the Land (“the Proposed Development”). The results of a company search on F3 Capital identify Vignesh Naidu as a director and shareholder thereof.

In the memo, the group also addresses the heritage status of the building and land as follows: -
The heritage status of the Building and Land as a site of historical, cultural and social value and significance began in 1895, with the grant of the Land for use by the VA Association for its specific public objectives; enhanced by the esteemed activities of the VA Association that were held in the years leading to the independence of this nation on the Land and in the Building. Many charitable, cultural and social causes that cumulatively contribute to substantive nation building were pioneered here. The Land and Building nurtured many highly regarded persons and organizations in Malaysia, and is a testimony of true patriotism.

 In 2008 and 2009, two “Notices of Intention to Designate Site as Heritage Site” were issued by the Commissioner of Heritage, pursuant to Section 27(2) (a) of the National Heritage Act 2005 in recognition of this heritage value. It is commonly understood that the Trustees/Directors of the VA Association as Owners of the Land, objected to this designation.
Bearing in mind the Owners/Trustees are acting ultra vires, in conflict of interest, and in breach of trust, the Owners/Trustees do not represent the public and charitable interest in the Building and Land. The 73,000 voices of the public are the authentic expression of the interest of the community and nation in the Building and Land. The objections of the Owners/Trustees may be overridden by the Minister and the Commissioner of Heritage in exercise of their wide and unfettered discretion.

The Indian community has been voicing its objection to the development plan. And there is no doubt that the voice is growing stronger.

The stand and wish of the Indian community is clear and firm – that the Vivekananda Ashram must be preserved at all cost.

DAP fully supports the wish and stand of the community.

I call on the trustees to respect the wish and stand of the community and cancel the redevelopment plans.

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