Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 9.1.2014.
The Penang State EXCO has endorsed the setting up of a Penang Chinese Temple Endowment EXCO Committee headed by me and comprising EXCO members Chow Kon Yeow, Chong Eng, Danny Law Heng Kiang, Lim Hock Seng and Phee Boon Poh with three preliminary purposes:-
a. Uphold Article 11 of Federal Constitutional that grants the right of freedom to profess and practice his or her religion at Chinese temples;
b. Promote sustainable development and growth of Chinese temples in Penang;
c. Organise the Chinese temples into a structure with certain religious authority to impart advice to the relevant authorities without taking over or affecting the existing management and operations of Chinese temples.
The Penang state government is deeply concerned that UMNO leaders are playing the fires of religious and racial hatred in asking for immediate demolition of illegal religious structures of Mazhu Deity in Pulau Jerejak. In contrast to UMNO’s intolerant stand of seeking immediate demolition, the state government’s policy is to take enforcement action at the suitable time. Such caution is necessary as a full investigation must be conducted, taking into account not just religious sensitivities but also appropriate historical record and relevance to residents living there.
More worrying, is that several reporters in the Chinese press have also taken a similar position and echoed UMNO’s extremist position of immediate demolition of Mazhu religious structures. When enforcement action was taken on 24.12.2013, many living outside Penang thought that the state government was intolerant of religious freedom because they did not know that Pulau Jerejak was uninhabited. There were no reports in the Chinese papers defending the state government’s enforcement action.
The Penang state government is concerned that UMNO’s extremist stand of asking for immediate demolition of illegal religious structures in Pulau Jerejak may be used as a precedent to demand similar action against other Chinese temples or places of religious worship in Penang that have not been approved.
To ensure that these members of the public do not fall into the extremist trap of UMNO that will affect the constitutional rights of freedom of religion of Chinese temples, the Penang state government has decided to take this pro-active approach to handle Chinese temples.
Chinese temples in Penang play a significant role in Penang’s rich traditions and history and is one of the many characteristics that make up a multi-cultural Penang and assisted in George Town being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage City. A Penang Chinese Temple Endowment Committee may be the forerunner to protect, preserve and promote its legitimate and healthy development.
LIM GUAN ENG
—–Mandarin Version —-