Hindu temples being built on land they do not own is a long-standing problem, and needs concerted efforts by various parties to address, instead of having the blame squarely placed on MIC when a dispute or demolition happens.

Saying this, the party's vice-president R Sivarraajh, also urged fellow Indian political leaders to leave politics out of the issue.

Sivarraajh was responding to Malaysian Advancement Party (MAP) president P Waythamoorthy's recent retort at his MIC counterpart, Senator S Vigneswaran, over the latter's remark that the Indian community must shoulder the blame for incidents of Hindu temples being demolished by the authorities because many were built illegally.

Speaking at MIC’s 74th annual general assembly last weekend, Vigneswaran had urged the community to follow rules and secure proper approvals and documentations for temples they build.

In response, Waythamoorthy had asked Vigneswaran to refer back to the root of the problem, and accused MIC of pinning the blame on the community for an issue it had been unable to solve the last few decades.

According to Sivarraajh, addressing the issue of land ownership among temples requires an in-depth understanding of the issue.

He recalled statistics done by the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, and the Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF) in 2009, which showed that out of 2,299 temples recorded across the country, only 363 (15.78 percent) sat on land owned by the temple management.

Another 313 resided on government-given land, while another 327 were erected on unassigned government lands.

"The remaining 1,251 temples sat on land owned by plantations (629), a third party (398), and unknown (224).

"The outcome clearly shows that almost half of the temples identified through the survey do not have proper land ownership," Sivarraajh said in a statement sent to Astro Ulagam yesterday.

The issue with funding

Sivarraajh also touched on the issue of temple funding, citing that most temples are self-administered via devotee groups.

"Between 2009 and 2017, a total of RM64.7 million was allocated for temples, and the money did not go through MIC or other organisations.

"Temple associations request for funds, which get credited into their accounts upon approval by the agencies involved," he said, noting the due process.

Even in DAP-held Penang, the situation is still the same, where funds get channelled to the temples upon approval by the state government, either via the Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) for temples under its jurisdiction, or through the accounts of the respective temples if they do not fall under HEB, he said.

"The money does not go through DAP or any other private organisation. The same applies to land ownership.

"Any political party can only help facilitate any land-related dispute. If the particular land is owned by the government, something can be worked out. But what if it is owned by a third party?" he asked.

In such scenario, it is completely the prerogative of the legitimate land owner to decide whether to let the temple remain on the land or not, he added.

Waythamoorthy, as a former minister under the Pakatan Harapan government, should know this better, rather than blindly pointing fingers, said Sivarraajh.

According to him, temples should also take proactive measures to solve land-related issues instead of solely relying on political, or government intervention.

"[In most cases], the funds are there, the support system is there, and there is room for negotiations.

"Then why is land ownership still an issue? We could issue the funds available to negotiate and buy the land or lease it from the owner."

Nothing to that effect is done in such instances, and when things go out of hand, fingers are pointed towards the government and MIC, Sivarraajh lamented.

"After all, why bother when you can always point fingers towards the government, political parties, and MIC right?"