DAP MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran appealed to the trustees of the Vivekananda Ashram to accept “in the best interests of Indian Malaysians” today’s High Court decision to disallow their application to quash a ministerial decision to gazette the ashram as a heritage site.
“The court decision should be the end of the attempt by the trustees to redevelop the site as a commercial venture which would have dwarfed its cultural significance,” said the the federal legislator, who has led the campaign to prevent the site from being subsumed by development.
On Oct 28 last year, Tourism Minister Mohd Nazri Aziz announced that the Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields would be gazetted as a national heritage site.
The ashram was built in 1904 to mark the visit to Malaysia of Hindu savant Swami Vivekananda, a world-renowned exponent of what he felt was the underlying unity of various religious beliefs.
last year the trustees of the ashram moved to redevelop the site, proposing to build a 23-storey residential block, including an eight-storey car park.
This move ran into a gale of opposition by residents of Brickfields and assorted keepers of the memory of the Hindu holy man.
They felt that though the ashram had fallen on lean times, the redevelopment plan would result in a diminution of the ashram’s cultural and religious significance.
The trustees filed an application in the High Court to quash the minister’s order but on Jan 6, they told the court that they would like to discuss the matter with the minister before pressing on with the application.
But Nazri declined to meet with the trustees, contending that the gazette order was final and irrevocable.
“I salute the minister for being resolute on turning the site into a national heritage one,” said Kulasegaran.
Today’s court decision to disallow the trustees’ application to quash the gazette order means that their redevelopment move is even more unlikely to materialise.
“I urge the trustees to accept the court’s decision in the best interests of Indian Malaysians,” said Kulasegaran.
The DAP national vice-chair said the ashram should open up its membership to those who can to help it garner funds for its educational and cultural projects.
“The membership is far too restricted with the result that it is short of the energy and inspiration that could sustain its activities,” said Kulasegaran.