Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kula: Vivekananda trustees should rethink plans


Terence Netto

The trustees of the Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields have been urged to heed public sentiment on preserving the heritage site in preference to engaging in litigation in behalf of a bid to commercially develop the place.

DAP national vice-chair M Kulasegaran used today's adjournment of a leave application by the ashram's trustees in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to appeal to them to desist from pursuing their goal of developing the site while ostensibly preserving a facade of the historic ashram.

“I understand the trustees want to meet the tourism minister to appeal against his decision to declare the ashram a heritage site,” revealed Kulasegaran, who is MP for Ipoh Barat.

Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz has issued the order to gazette the place as a national heritage site on Oct 28 last year.

Nazri is presently on leave overseas and will only be back on Jan 23. The ashram's trustees plan to meet him shortly after he returns from leave.

Kulasegaran said he was sad that the jubilation of the Indian community over the minister's decision to preserve the ashram as a heritage site did not dissuade the trustees from persisting with their plan for the construction of a 23-storey commercial development at the site.

“The trustees calculate the project will realise a profit of RM60 million which they say is urgently need for the upkeep of the site and the funding of three Tamil schools in the Petaling Jaya, Brickfields and Sentul districts,” he noted.

“They are not considering that the intended development will erase the significance of the ashram within the vicinity of its present location where its presence is iconic,” elaborated the lawyer-cum-legislator.

Government allocated RM6 million

Further, Kulasegaran argued that trustees' claim of scarce funds for the three Tamil schools the ashram supports is gainsaid by the knowledge that the government last year alone allocated RM6 million for the schools.

“How has this money been spent?” he queried.

Also, Kulasegaran said the founder of the Brickfields Asia Law College, Raja Singham, who is located cheek by jowl with the ashram, has promised to donate RM1 million for the preservation of the ashram.

“That pledge should come in handy for the upkeep of both the ashram and the schools,” he said.

Kulasegaran faulted the trustees for limiting membership of the ashram to a few people whereas an expansion in that respect would open the place to new sources of funding.

“It looks like the trustees want to keep the membership limited to pliable people who would rubber stamp their plans,” he claimed.

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