Hindraf open letter to Dato Nazri on the Vivekananda ashram development plan

Screenshot (335)

YB Dato Seri Mohamed Nazri Tan Sri Abdul Aziz
Minister of Tourism and Culture
Minister in Charge of Heritage Culture Malaysia
No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6
Presint 5 , 62200 PUTRAJAYA
Tel : 03 8000 8000 Fax : 03 8891 7100 info@motac.gov.my

12th November 2014

Dear Dato Seri,

RE: Vivekananda Ashram
The public seeks Government intervention to save Vivekananda Ashram

We re fer to the above matter.

We appreciate your visit to the Vivekananda Ashram to show solidarity with the public on the need to protect and preserve the Vivekananda Ashram from being developed as a residential property on the 6 th November 2014.

Till date t here are various campaigns being conducted to protect and preserve the Vivekananda Ashram. An online signature campaign conducted by the savevivekanandaashram.com website has obtained more than 50,000 signatures.

Section 2 (1) of the Antiquities Act 1976 defines “ancient monument” as “any monument in West Malaysia which is or is reasonably believed to be at least one hundred years old …..”

We refer to the powers contained under Section 67 of the National Heritage Act 2005 which states as follows;

Declar ation of National Heritage

67. (1) The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, declare any heritage site, heritage object, underwater cultural heritage listed in the Register or any living person as a National

(2) In making a declaration under subsection (1) the Minister may consider-

(a) The historical importance, association with or relationship to Malaysian history;
(b) The good design or aesthetic characteristics;

(d) The social or cultural associations

No.50, Taman Sri Labu, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
H/P: +6013-7070352 Tel : +606-7671707 / 7672707 Fax : +606-7673707
Email: admin@hindraf.co / secretariat@hindraf.com Website: www.hindraf.co

We now write to you to invoke your powers as the Minister in charge of Heritage under Section 67 of the National Heritage Act 2005 to make a declaration by way of an order and the same to be published in the Gazette so as to permanently protect and preserve the Vivekananda Ashram and its surrounding land/site as National heritage.

We also wish to bring to your attention the argument put forward by the board of trustees that only the land surrounding the Ashram would be developed and the original building would be maintained in their development plans. However we wish to bring to your attention provisions in Section 25 of the National Heritage act 2005.

Adjacent and nearby site

25 (1) Where a site has no natural heritage or cultural heritage significance but the Commissioner is satisfied that it should be designated as a heritage site because of its proximity to and for the protection and enhancement of another site designated as a heritage site under section 24, the Commissioner may so designate such site as a heritage site.

It has also come to our attention that the Vivekananda Ashram site has on 2 previous occasions been earmarked by the Commissioner of Heritage to be gazetted as a heritage site but objected by the management of the board of trustees.

Section 27(1) of the National Heritage Act 2005 empowers the Heritage commissioner to designate a site as a heritage site by giving a 60 days’ notice to the owners of the site. The owners on their part are entitled to object to the designation within 30 days as stipulated under Section 28 of the NHA 2005.

The public is not aware of what transpired beyond these objections of the board of trustees of the Vivekananda Ashram. It appears to give a perception the Government did not do anything beyond this to protect the site and the Government’s inaction has given the audacity to the board of Vivekananda trustees to permanently change and convert the land status in their irresponsible attempt to develop the site as a 23 storey residential building with 6 storey car parks which would be a serious risk to the foundation and façade of the heritage building.

Section 29 of the NHA imposes a duty on the Heritage Commissioner to hold a hearing on the notice of objections by the board of trustees. We are in the dark whether there was indeed a hearing conducted by the Heritage Commissioner and if so what the outcome of the hearing was. Based on the media reports, it appears that the Heritage Commissioner did not act beyond giving the 2 notices in 2008 and 2009.

We wish to bring your attention to Section 31 of the NHA 2005

Decision of the Commissioner

31. (1) Where the commissioner, after hearing the parties, if any, is satisfied that – (a) the site is of cultural heritage significance; and
(b) the state authority has given consent under Section 30 he shall- (i) designate the site as a heritage site;
(ii) record the heritage site in the Register ;
(iii) give the owner a written notice of the Commissioner’s decision.

Bearing the fact that Malaysia sits in the World Heritage Committee, it is expected that the National Heritage Department are well aware on established UNESCO Convention as well as International Charter such as the Venice Charter and assisted by guidelines issues by UNESCO, ICOMOS and ICCROM for conservation and protection of the heritage sites.

It would not augur well for the nation when such building such as the Swami Vivekananda site is neglected with clear impunity by the trustees as well the local authorities.

Dato Seri, the Vivekananda Ashram issue has caused public outrage and a large segment of the population are dissatisfied with the irresponsible attitude of the Board of Trustees of the Ashram who seem determined to forsake our rich culture and history by doing an act that may cause permanent damage to the said heritage building.

HINDRAF together with a 30 other organisations has formed a coalition called Committee for the Protection and Preservation of Heritage Buildings now seek an urgent appointment with your good self to make further representations on behalf of the public in our bid to save the Vivekananda ashram.

We hope you would oblige us with a date convenient to you at your earliest convenience.

Yours faithfully,

P.Waytha Moorthy


YAB Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Office of The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Main Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA. Tel : 603-8888 8000 | Fax : 603-8888 3444

Source: WHN Media Network