MCA Religious Harmony Bureau deputy chairperson Ng Chok Sin is supposed to be a man of peace who promotes religious harmony, but his actions call into question his own integrity, with regard to an issue that is apparently blown out of proportion.
In an article which was published in The Heat Malaysia on Aug 24, 2016, Ng accused the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) of trying to demolish a church in a former plantation known as Braemar Estate.
So much so that, immediately after his article appeared, even the office of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur has to immediately issue a press statement to appeal to certain individuals “to respect the lawful right of the council to carry out their duty” to demolish the remains of an old chapel.
What the public need to know is that, according to the same press statement, the decision “to demolish the unused chapel was made after due process was followed”.
Religion should therefore remain with the church, instead of allowing politicians to play up the religious sentiments of the people.
By dragging PKR president and Kajang state assemblyperson Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail into a non-issue is also unfair, because she is not even a party to the demolition order.
Let truth and light shine
According to Reverend Father Clarence Dass, who wrote the statement dated August 25 in his capacity as the ecclesiastical assistant for social communications, most of the chapel structure had in fact “crumbled over time and the remains are now deemed to be an illegal structure on a road reserve”.
The decision to demolish the old shrine was also made by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, the Most Reverend Julian Leow himself after a series of discussions with church leaders and relevant authorities and took into account the fact that the chapel has not been in use since the 1980s.
The parishioners have become part of the Holy Family Church in Kajang. What was left was only the remains of the old chapel, which no one cared for until recently.
The party who went to refurbish the place did not even apply or obtain approval from the local authorities. Not even Most Reverend Julian or the archbishop’s office was aware of the refurbishment work.
Can Ng now force the local council to approve any structure when it is now a road reserve? Does he intend to get a few Roman Catholics to go against the archbishop’s office by raising up an issue without even properly investigating the case? This is unbecoming of someone who claims to promote religious harmony.
Besides, I am told that the road leading into Saujana Impian is very heavy with traffic. By having people meeting on a road reserve barely a stone’s throw away from the main road, would it not be an irresponsible act?
Is the safety of the parishioners not even taken into consideration? I am sure the archbishop’s office, upon advice from the local parish priest and other leaders, would have looked into this safety aspect of the parishioners as well, but my question is, has Ng even given much thought to it?
Based on information which I received from people who understand the case, the archbishop himself has written to the parishioners of the Holy Family Church a week earlier about the demolition of the old chapel. It is as if he had already anticipated there would be dirty politics played around it.
Church or old chapel?
Ng apparently did not even investigate the case properly but depended on an article in The Star which played up the story, calling this a “church”, with its one line: “A Kajang Municipal Council contractor incurred the wrath of residents of the former Braemer Estate when his workers tried to tear down a church at night without anyone’s knowledge.”
A big story, indeed! And, Ng added salt and pepper to it: “Parishioners would have a rude shock awaiting them when they wake up in the morning or wanting to go to the church to pray or do voluntary work.”
Ng, this was not even a church in the first place. It was a chapel built in what was formerly known as Brehma Estate in 1938 by the management and owner of the estate, Harrison Crossfield, for its workers. The last mass that was conducted in this chapel for the estate workers was in 1991 by one Father Henriot.
In fact, from other sources, I was told that the chapel had been abandoned since the 1980s. The parishioners have since joined the Holy Family Church in Kajang and no mass has been conducted at this old chapel for the past 30 years.
When MPKj issued the demolition order, for many years no one even noticed or complained. It suddenly became an issue last year. I sighted the letter from someone claiming to be from the Cuepacs chapel committee who must have taken the initiative to refurbish it without obtaining the proper approval from both the archbishop’s office and the local council.
Whatever it is, this is still a road reserve. No matter how elaborate one wants to refurbish the old chapel, or subsequently play up the issue, the structure is still illegal. What is Ng’s motive therefore to raise the issue, and pretending that it is a full church?
I quote from his article titled, ‘Callous bid to destroy church at night’: “Residents of the former Braemer Estate, who are parishioners of St Joseph Church, gathered at the church’s vicinity when workers contracted by the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) arrived to demolish the church at night.”
Before playing up the religious sentiments of the people, did Ng even check that the demolition order was already discussed with the relevant people within the Roman Catholic hierarchy?
The decision to allow MPKj to demolish the old chapel was arrived at by the archbishop’s office as it was already an eyesore for many years amidst the existing development in the area, and the land on which it stood was part of a road reserve.
My question is: How is it that there is suddenly a ‘church’ when there are no parishioners and priests to conduct the masses, as claimed by Ng and the article in The Star newspaper?
Without the parishioners and the local priest, how is that there is suddenly a church caretaker by the name of S Anthony?
Stop playing the religious card
In a country that is already torn apart by politicians who continue to play on religious and racial cards, Ng should focus his attention on building religious harmony instead of trying to pit the Roman Catholics against their archbishop.
He should give more attention to address the real issues that are affecting the people, such as child conversion like the case of S Deepa, which is left to the Bar Council to put up the good fight. Ng, and the MCA should apply pressure on Umno and the people behind the Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy which has led to so many race relations issues in this country.
If Ng wanted to play politics, he should not even try to play up religious sentiments of the people. He is doing it at the expense of MCA losing its good relations with the people he is supposed to work with.
It is obvious to me that in his article, Ng was merely interested in dragging Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah into the arena for no good reasons.
In fact, I was surprise that if the demolishment was a decision agreed between the local council and the archbishop’s office, done at no cost to the Roman Catholic Church, so why is suddenly Wan Azizah’s name was mentioned in Ng’s article?
In fact, I have sighted a letter which was written by the archbishop himself dated August 19 to a Selangor exco member stating that the church has “no objection in tearing down the remains of the Chapel located along Jalan Impian, Kajang”.
In short, the Selangor state government has carried out its fiduciary duty to ensure that the church authorities have been consulted before the demolishment of the chapel.