Hindraf slams Heritage Commissioner’s ‘secrecy’ on ashram issue


Kuala Lumpur : Hindraf today questioned the motive of the Heritage Commissioner in not following the direction of Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in holding an open and public hearing on the protection of the century old VivekanandaAshram.

Its chief P. Waytha Moorthy pointed out that Nazri, on March 24, had clearly stated that there would be a public open hearing to formally receive views and suggestions on conserving Vivekananda Ashram as a heritage site.

“It has come to light that there has been various closed door hearings conducted by the Heritage Commissioner and the latest is scheduled this Friday, June 5, 2015 in the National Heritage Office.

“Hindraf finds this odd because besides the pledge by the Tourism and Cultural Minister, why isn’t the open and public hearing conducted as it involves public interest,” he said in a statement to The Malaysian Times (TMT).

Waytha said that the National Heritage Department could have easily made media publication for the public to participate in preserving such a historic site as assured by the Minister.

“Hindraf believes that many segments of the community and well-wishers would love to participate and contribute their ideas and views on preserving the Swami Vivekananda Ashram as oppose to a closed door hearing and therefore urge the Ministry to call for a public hearing on this site.

“The Commissioner of Heritage Department had previously intended to gazette it as a Heritage site in November 2008 but this was rejected by the Board of trustee.

“Thereafter it was silent until the whole affair erupted again in October 2014 when proposals were put forward for development.

“Bearing the above fact and as expected, the board has again rejected the gazetting of the site in the private meeting on May 19, 2015 at the National Heritage Office.

“It would seem to be a futile attempt to reinitiate the same process again when it is well known that the Board is not going to buckle down even if there were such uproar from the public and assurance from the Minister,” he added.

According to Waytha, the Cultural and Tourism Minister has wide power and latitude under Section 3 of the NHA 2005 in regard to policies and directives in relation to national heritage unlike the Commissioner of the national Heritage.

“As the basic requirements are fulfilled, Hindraf fails to see why the Cultural & Tourism Minister isn’t evoking his power under Section 67(1) of the NHA 2005 where 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 heritage.

“The Minister in November 2014 had clearly stated that any artifacts and building structure which is more 100 years old is a national heritage and reassured that he was not only looking at the preservation of the building but the land itself with the value of spirituality which it symbolizes.

“Hindraf urges either the Minister convenes a public hearing as promised or just invokes Section 67(1) of the NHA 2005 to save the public of any aggravation,” he added.

Source: The Malaysian Times