The public seeks Malaysian Government intervention to save Vivekananda Ashram
The High Commissioner
The Malaysian High Commission
45 Belgrave Square
City of Westminster
With reference to the above, Hindu Council UK appreciate your Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Nazri’s recent visit to the Vivekananda Ashram to show solidarity with the public, and the need to protect and preserve the Vivekananda Ashram from being developed as a residential property on the 6th November 2014.
According to Hindraf Chairman Mr Waythamoorthy there 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. We also would like to mention the below sections to you to safeguard the Vivenkananda Ashram as for the declaration of National Heritage for the Hindus in Malaysia and Worldwide.
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;
Declaration 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 Heritage.
(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
1. We now write to you to invoke your heritage Minister’s 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 Hindu Council UK’s 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 According to Hindraf 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 faÃ§ade 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. The Malaysian Hindus 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.
2. 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 â€“
(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.
The Vivekananda Ashram issue has caused public outrage locally and internationally. 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.
We understand HINDRAF together with thirty other organisations in Malaysia has formed a coalition called Committee for the Protection and Preservation of Heritage Buildings to seek an urgent appointment with your Prime Minister and the Heritage Minister to make further representations on behalf of the public in our bid to save the Vivekananda Ashram.
Here in the UK, the Hindu Council UK is very concerned about the issue of the Vivekananda Ashram and would like to bring this to your attention first in the hope that this issue can be resolved without any massive demonstration in UK and Worldwide against the Malaysian Government’s lack of action.
We hope you as the Malaysian High Commissioner of London will transmit the above to the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib and the Heritage Minister of Malaysia to resolve this serious issue as soon as possible and safeguard this Vivekananda Ashram as Declaration of National Heritage for the local Hindus and Hindus Worldwide.
Your urgent and immediate transmission to Malaysian Government is very much appreciated.
Ano Rau LL.B (HONS) London
Executive Member Hindu Council UK – Responsible for Malaysia Hindu issues
Hindu Council UK