Club revives Iban warrior costume

THEIR presence across the smaller towns in the interior of Sarawak for special functions often leaves spectators awestruck.

Dressed in animal skin vests, headgear decorated with the head of kenyalang (rhinoceros hornbill) and the feathers of enggang (other types of hornbill), boar tusk necklaces and swords decorated with human hair, the members of Kelab Gagung Sarawak (KGS) are a sight to behold.

It was a sight that evoked terror in the hearts of some of the audiences, while others say it awoke the warrior spirit in them.

The emotions felt are befitting of what the costume represents — it was how Ibanese warriors used to dress before going to war.

However, the members of KGS did not dress as such to go to war. Their presence at special Iban community functions was to welcome the arrival of dignitaries and help make the events livelier.

Many are proud that the members are reviving a part of the dying culture and tradition of the Iban community, which many of the younger generation would not have a chance to witness otherwise.


KGS was born in 2004 out of the deep interest of Sammy Ngelambai, 58, in making animal skin vests called gagung and the lelanjang headgear adorned with the head of a kenyalang called Tangkung Kenyalang.

“Originally, there were only 12 people, including Sammy, who were interested in making the Iban warrior outfit. His interest attracted others who helped in collecting accessories to complete the costume,” said club president Jabang Juntan.

According to Jabang, the idea to form the club came after they were called to welcome dignitaries at a longhouse in Melipis, Kanowit, while dressed in the full gagung attire.

“Our first pro-tem committee meeting was held on Dec 12, 2015 at a coffee shop in Sibu Jaya. We registered with the Registrar of Societies on March 3,” he added.

Difficulty in sourcing material

In the past, Iban warriors used the skin of large animals like bears to make gagung, but now the number of these animals is dwindling and they are thus protected.

As an alternative, Sammy uses Jamnapari goatskin bought from Indonesia to make the gagung.

“Local goatskin cannot be used because of its small size,” Jabang explained, adding that darker hide was preferred and would be handsewn by Sammy.

The Tangkung Kenyalang and hornbill feathers are also difficult to obtain, as the birds are protected wildlife.

“These items are inherited by KGS members from their ancestors. These items are impossible to get these days. It is possible to make imitation tangkung using other materials like wood, but there are no (substitute for) imitation feathers,” said Jabang.

According to folklore, only warriors skilled at hunting could shoot hornbills using blowpipes, which usually perch on tall trees. The kenyalang, meanwhile, are easier to shoot at as they tended to perch on lower trees or branches.

Besides that, the feathers of the great argus (a species of pheasant) are frequently used for the warrior dress as they are easier to obtain. The birds live on the ground, making it easier to collect their feathers.

However, there is a distinction among the types of feathers used.

The feathers of the enggang or kenyalang represent a warrior’s rank or hierarchy while feathers of the great argus are merely decorative and are more for adorning costumes for festive functions like the ngajat (the traditional dance of some tribes in Sarawak).

Jabang said they sell gagung for between RM650 and RM800, but they do not sell the headgear.

“For the headgear, people need to get their own material and we will help make it for a fee of RM250,” he added.

Other accessories such as boar tusks, armlets, swords and cigarette containers are easier to get, either from hunters, longhouse residents or craft shops.

“No, we don’t wear loincloths like those people commonly see. Instead we wear long black pants and black leather shoes,” he clarified.

Increasing membership

From only 12 members, KGS now has 71 registered members in Sibu, Kanowit, Kapit, Miri, Bintulu, Tatau, Kuching, Seratok and Sri Aman.

Normal membership is open to Iban males who have the complete costume, while associate membership are for women and those who do not have the full costume.

A women’s gagung shows no warrior elements but are instead beautiful costumes that exude femininity.

Honorary memberships are open to leaders who have contributed to the community, while teenage membership is for teens below the age of 18.

According to Jabang, the club hopes to revive the glory of the gagung and preserve it for the coming generations.

The club, which is now increasingly accepted by the Sarawak community, hopes to contribute to tourism development activities in the state. — Bernama

How to embrace nationalism responsibly

IT is clear after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican presidential primaries that electorates are revolting against the relatively open economic policies that have been the norm in the United States and Britain since World War II. If further evidence is needed, one need only look to the inability of Congress to pass legislation on immigration reform and the observation the last four candidates left standing in the US presidential contest all oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Populist opposition to international integration is also on the rise in much of continental Europe and has always been the norm in much of Latin America.

The question now is: What should be the guiding principles of international economic policy? How should the case be made by those of us who believe the vastly better performance of the global system after World War II than between World War I and World War II was largely due to more enlightened economic policies?

The mainstream approach to these questions generally starts with some combination of rational argument and inflated rhetoric about the economic consequences of international integration. Studies are produced about the jobs created by trade agreements, the benefits of immigration and the costs of restrictions on trade. In most cases, certainly including the cases for TPP and against Brexit, the overall economic merits are clear. But in this advocacy, there is a kind of Gresham’s Law (the economic principle which states bad money drives out good) whereby bolder claims drive out more prudent ones, causing estimates to often be exaggerated and delivered with far more confidence than is warranted. Over time, this has caught up with the advocates of integration.

While there is a strong case the US is better off than it would have been if the North American Free Trade Agreement had been rejected, the most extravagant predicted benefits have not materialised. And it is also fair to say claims China’s accession into the World Trade Organisation would propel political liberalisation have not been borne out. In any event, the willingness of publics to be intimidated by experts into supporting cosmopolitan outcomes appears, for the moment, to have been exhausted.

The second plank of the mainstream approach is to push for stronger policies to resist inequality, cushion economic disruptions and support the poor and middle class, then argue if domestic policies are right, the pressure to resist globalisation will be attenuated. The logic is right, and certainly measures such as the GI bill, the government’s assurance of available mortgages and the interstate highway system were part of the political package which permitted the US to underwrite an open international system through the 1960s. But the past eight years have seen the US at last make significant progress toward universal health insurance, expand a variety of support programmes for the poor and bring unemployment below five percent. Even still, trade has become ever less popular. It is not strong domestic policies are unnecessary to undergird global integration; it is that they are insufficient.

A new approach has to begin from the idea the basic responsibility of government is to maximise the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good. Closely related to this is the idea people want to feel they are shaping the societies in which they live. It may be inevitable impersonal forces of technology and changing global economic circumstances have profound effects. But it adds insult to injury when governments reach agreements that further cede control to international tribunals of one sort or another. This is especially the case when, for legal reasons or reasons of practicality, corporations have disproportionate influence in shaping global agreements.

If the Italian banking system is badly undercapitalised and the democratically elected government of Italy wants to use taxpayer money to recapitalise it, why should some international agreement prevent it from doing so? Why shouldn’t countries that think, likely wrongly, genetically modified crops are dangerous get to shield their customers from such crops? Why should the international community seek to prevent countries that wish to limit capital inflows from doing so? The issue in all these cases is not the merits. It is the principle that intrusions into sovereignty exact a high cost.

What is needed is a responsible nationalism — an approach where it is understood countries are expected to pursue their citizens’ economic welfare as a primary objective but where their ability to damage the interests of citizens of other countries is circumscribed. With such an approach, the content of international agreements would be judged not by how much is harmonised or by how many barriers to global commerce are torn down but by whether people as workers, consumers and voters are empowered.

This does not mean less scope for international cooperation. It may mean more. For example, tax burdens on workers around the world are as much as a trillion dollars greater than they would be if we had a proper system of international coordination which identified capital income and prevented a race to the bottom in its taxation. And taxes are only the most obvious area in which races to the bottom interfere with the achievement of national objectives. Others include labour and financial regulation, along with environmental standards.

Reflexive internationalism needs to give way to responsible nationalism — or else we will only see more distressing referendums and populist demagogues contending for high office.
— The Washington Post

Summers is a professor at and past president of Harvard University. He was treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and an economic adviser to President Barack Obama from 2009 through 2010.

A matter of honour

TEN days ago, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had a nearly two-hour discussion with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Putrajaya.

The agenda was no secret. It was about the devolution of power to the state. A carefully worded press statement from the chief minister’s office was issued prior, citing that the Inter-governmental Committee Reports and Recommendations from the Malaysia Agreement 1963, the Malaysia Act and the Cobbold Commission Report would be part of the discourse.

Two memorandums outlining the state’s position on those reports would be submitted.

The reports intimated that in essence, Sarawak seeks autonomy in internal affairs, taxation, education and healthcare. It also asks for more development funds and the increase to 25 per cent of royalty fees for oil and gas mined within their territories.

So far, there has been no official announcement on the outcome of that meeting.

Sarawak in a persuasive position

Adenan demonstrated convincingly that the people of Sarawak are with him from the 11th state election results held on May 7. The thrust of his campaign was that he will protect the state from “the race and religion” histrionics practised as politics in Semenanjung.

He even famously added that if “Umno comes into Sarawak today, he will quit the next day”.

If I were part of the Umno leadership, I would ask my colleagues to think seriously about Adenan’s poll success. Why was posturing Umno as the bogeyman so potent? It was alarming, if not demeaning.

Although it is easy to fault Pakatan Harapan’s dismal showing on their non-cohesiveness, it must be noted that the combined votes of the Opposition in each seat lost were still lower than the votes obtained by the winning Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates.

It reasons to think that the electorates mostly chose to keep their political eco-system under the stewardship of Adenan, over that of tinkering with the state leadership.

Sarawakians have long felt that they were given the short end after the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. The main grouse had been that both Sabah and Sarawak were treated as if they were one of the states in former Malaya, when they should be compared with Malaya as a whole, like Singapore was.

Just a few days ago, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian told reporters not to refer to Sarawak as a state.

Although the state Cabinet members are known as ministers (as opposed to “state executive councillors” in West Malaysia), the Singapore head of government was known as prime minister, against Sabah and Sarawak’s chief ministers.

Lee Kuan Yew, a Cambridge-trained lawyer, had organised the state referendum and led the negotiations for Singapore during the formation, while the Cobbold Commission held sway for the other two components.

Lee’s personality and intellect were already a class removed, even then, from politics of the region. Then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had recognised that Lee’s visions would not fit in, and did the wise thing with the separation two years later.

The Cobbold Commission members were chairman Lord Cameron Cobbold (former Bank of England governor), (Tun) Ghazali Shafie (permanent secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), (Tan Sri) Wong Pow Nee (Penang chief minister), Sir Anthony Abell (former governor of Sarawak) and David Watherston (listed as former chief secretary of Malaya).

Were there no Sabahan or Sarawakian of reasonable stature available?

It did not help that the first chief ministers, Sarawak’s (Tan Sri) Stephen Kalong Ningkan and Sabah’s (Tun) Fuad Stephens, had tumultuous starts during their terms, further compounded with an uneasy federal-state relationship.

Adenan knows there is no better opportunity to address the 18-point Agreement, the basic term of reference for Sarawak to be part of the Federation of Malaysia, even though it has been 53 years since.

Adenan carries no baggage and contributes 25 parliamentary seats to the BN 134 total. Take that contribution away and the parliamentary seat distributions will look like this — BN 109, the Opposition 88 and Sarawak PBB-led coalition 25.

In Australia, their six states and two mainland territories have lots of autonomy, and so do the 50 states in the United States. There can be no ambiguity in governance jurisdictions when the law and the spirit of the law are observed.

Sabah next?

Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, the mercurial personality in Sabah politics, had championed the 20-point Agreement several times but the “Sabah for Sabahan” calls have been muted over the last few years.

I have heard that former Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is contemplating the “Sabahan” route for his political re-emergence.

It is really no skin off Putrajaya’s back to fully recognise the 18-point, as the gratitude from all Sarawakians would more than square off, although it is rightly a due correction.

Shouldn’t it then be even less difficult with Sabah, as it is directly under the rule of Umno? If Sabah Umno takes up the cudgels, like Adenan did, the state opposition would have lost a major initiative for at least two terms. And the 22 parliamentary seats won in the last general election would be intact.

I have argued in favour of respecting the agreements simply because it is a matter of honour. Besides, it would rubbish forever the on-off idiotic calls to secede.


The 18-point and 20-point Agreements can either be seen as a burdensome “father’s sins”, or as golden opportunities. I think the latter is a “no-brainer” because when implemented purposefully, they can become classic displays of both good governance and worldly-wise statesmanship.

Choose MACC chief wisely

THE appointment of the new MACC chief commissioner will be made on Aug 1. This important appointment can have a very strong impact on the country’s political, social and economic future.

Corruption is the cause of many of our socio, economic and even political ills. These serious weaknesses are already severely eroding our national progress, well-being and future.

It is, therefore, of vital importance that the government makes the right choice.

Ideally, the public should be consulted over this choice of the new chief commissioner, to be fair to us all, and to ensure the new MACC chief has wide national support for his/her appointment and the great challenges the new chief will face in combating corruption more effectively.

With a ranking of 54 out of 157 countries in the Corruption Perception Index, our performance is still dismal and discouraging. Hence, we need a new thrust to fight corruption and a new process for selecting the new
chief commissioner.

At least the Special Committee on Anti-Corruption in Parliament should be consulted and its approval obtained for the new MACC chief if broader public consultation and consideration cannot be undertaken at this time.

The special committee has three government MPs, three opposition members and is chaired by the Speaker of the Senate. Thus, its credentials are first rate and it should be fully consulted and should give its views publicly on the choice, so the rakyat will be given more confidence in the choice of the new chief commissioner.

What are some of the criteria that the government could use in selecting the new chief commissioner?

Firstly, he should be appointed from within the MACC and no outsider should be considered. An insider will have the vast experience, the competence, the operational know-how on the ground and the dedication that has been built over the many years in combating the scourge of corruption.

Secondly, the new chief commissioner should be someone of impeccable honesty and integrity. There is no sense in having someone who has had a chequered and sleazy record or who is even of doubtful integrity.

Thirdly, the candidate must be strong in personality, character and commitment to the great cause of going all out against corruption, before it spreads further in our system like cancer. He or she has to be able to stand up firmly and steadfastly against any political and commercial interference from any quarter, high or low.

Fourthly, the candidate has to be an inspirational leader in order to rally MACC to a new stage in the war against corruption. He has to treat it as a struggle against corruption that otherwise will continue to undermine our national morality, productivity and progress.

Fifthly , the new chief commissioner must be someone who the public respects for professionalism, fairness and impartiality
at all times.

The new chief commissioner cannot be even suspected of political, social and commercial preferences.

Finally, the above criteria for the choice of the new chief can be supplemented. But what is paramount is that the choice should be transparent, consultative and be seen to be fair to the public.

Only then will there be greater public confidence in the MACC and stronger support for its noble efforts to reduce if not stamp out the curse of corruption from our beloved country.

Malaysians now wait with bated breath for the appointment of the new chief commissioner, as it will show the extent of our government’s sincerity and political will to prevent us falling deeper into the well of corruption.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam

Chairman, Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies

Multitasking lowers efficiency, productivity

MULTITASKING is the order of the day in our endeavours and pursuits at home and in the workplace. Many job descriptions state: “Must be able to multitask.”

Even when we are doing something for fun, our minds wander off to the next activity or list of tasks awaiting us.

The origin of the term “multitasking” came from computers. People noticed that those gadgets performed several functions at the same time. When most people refer to multitasking, they mean working on two or more things at the same time.

A law of physics, however, says that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. While processes and thoughts are not objects, the same concept applies.

In an exceptional situation, multitasking can be helpful, even productive. But as we continue to multitask, time is wasted due to human context-switching. We are more distracted, unable to give due attention to tasks and our efficiency and productivity nosedive. In many cases, it can be dangerous, too.

A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that for complicated or unfamiliar tasks particularly, it is not possible to do two things at the same time and do them both at 100 per cent. Every time you switch, there is a recovery period associated with it, so you are losing minutes. If you have completed one activity and then move to the other, it would be a lot quicker with better results.

RescueTime, a company that analyses computer habits and draws its data from 40,000 people who have tracking software on their computers, found that on average, a worker stops at 40 websites in a day. This fractured attention comes at a cost.

In the United States, more than US$650 billion (RM2.6 trillion) a year in productivity is lost because of interruptions and mundane matters, says research firm Basex.

The firm says that a big chunk of that cost comes from the time it takes people to recover from an interruption and get back to work. Besides getting less work done, there is a component of physical damage.

According to APA, constant multitasking causes you to pump adrenaline throughout the day, adrenaline build-up produces stress in your body and stress is tied in to almost 80 per cent of medical expenditures.

We may want to stop and ask ourselves: what is our multitasking style and is it helping or hindering us in getting things done? On the plus side in favour of multitasking: simple tasks allow for a fast switch in mental focus. It provides progression, even if slowly, on multiple duties that must be performed and it creates a habit of adaptability. But on the negative side, multitasking makes it more difficult to accomplish something important in a timely and efficient manner. It eliminates personal and inter-personal skills, affects one’s energy and enthusiasm levels and leaves us with less time for recreation.

By constantly splitting our attention, we are apprehensive of running behind and being second best. Our outputs are often short of meeting our fullest satisfaction and that of others, too.

Achieving the right balance lies in our ability to prioritise the tasks in hand: those that are critical, followed by importance versus time required for other tasks, to get those that come out on top of our list done in sequence, consecutively not concurrently. Depending on time and resources available, important tasks that need more time or are ongoing will need to be maintained alongside higher priority ones.



Case when doctors know best

CONGRATULATIONS to our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who celebrated his 91st birthday on Sunday, and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah who turned 90 yesterday.

Their popular human rights daughter, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir while on holiday in Phuket, posted a photo of herself and her father on Facebook accompanied by a short birthday wish.

“Happy 91st birthday to my Daddy. May you remain as sprightly and sharp as ever!” said Marina.

The photo was shared almost 2,000 times and received more than 50,000 likes.

Malaysians are proud to extend their best wishes to the loving couple for being down to earth and adopting a simple lifestyle.

Dr Mahathir led the country for 22 years and took the country to greater heights internationally and economically. He helped transform Malaysia from an agricultural nation to a manufacturing powerhouse. Malaysia was admired and envied by other countries.

Dr Siti Hasmah was the pillar of strength for Dr Mahathir, playing a pertinent role by giving her support, encouragement and lending her ear when he needed a confidante during his premiership.

Dr Siti Hasmah is loved by Malaysians of all walks of life for her motherly charm, serenity and her gentle sense of humour and wit.

People feel comfortable with her because of her pleasant personality and flawless mannerism, an important ingredient for a prime minister’s wife.

Malaysians pray that the Almighty will grant them good health and happiness.



Dept acts to contain poultry disease outbreak

KUALA LUMPUR — The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has swung into action to contain an infectious bronchitis (IB) outbreak which has killed thousands of farmed chickens.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry deputy secretary-general (policy) Mohd Sallehhuddin Hassan said some poultry farmers did not use IB vaccines while some claimed the existing vaccine stocks were no longer effective.

“Department staff have gone to the farms concerned to find out what is really happening,” he said after attending the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority’s Hari Raya open house in Puchong yesterday.

“We are worried of manipulation by suppliers to hike prices. We do not deny there is an outbreak (of IB). It is not uncommon, just that the price of chicken has skyrocketed this festive season.”

Sallehhuddin said his ministry did not dismiss the possibility of the need for new vaccine stocks if it was true the existing stocks were not effective.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry deputy director of enforcement Ahmad Dahuri Mahmud said the ministry would wait for feedback from retailers.

“If they did it (hike prices) on purpose, we will take action,” he said.

The price of chicken nationwide has reportedly risen to RM10 per kg from RM7.90 since Thursday.

Yesterday, the Selangor Poultry Farmers Association in its newsletter claimed IB, which causes breathing complications in chickens, had killed thousands of birds, resulting in a 20 per cent drop in chicken production in the country.

However, Veterinary Services director-general Datuk Dr Kamarudin Mat Isa dismissed the claim.

“As of this month, we only detected six IB incidents among commercial and domestic chicken — one in Kedah and five in Perak. So, chicken deaths due to IB is not as high as claimed,” he said.

Dr Kamarudin stressed IB was an endemic viral disease which could be controlled with vaccine injections.

“DVS has approved 14 types of vaccines for IB prevention. Rearers and chicken supply contractors, on our advice, can use any of the vaccines,” he said.

Dr Kamarudin said the department would study samples of chicken that allegedly died from IB.

“IB is not a new disease that has just emerged in the country,” he said.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Tropical Agriculture Institute director Prof Dr Zulkifli Idrus believed instead of IB, it was production costs which caused the price hike.

“Many factors may contribute to the price increase. One is chicken feed, which has increased by RM200, to RM1,800 per tonne. Another factor is the hot weather, which can slow the chicken’s growth,”
he said.

Zulkifli, an expert in poultry production, said the festive season could also cause demand to exceed supply, tempting retailers to take advantage.

“During the festive season, even chickens weighing less than 2kg are being sold,” he said. — Bernama

Enough produce despite La Nina

KUALA LUMPUR — The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry has assured the public that there would be sufficient produce to meet demand despite the expected heavy rains brought by the La Nina phenomenon.

Its deputy minister, Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, said it was a priority to ensure enough food was available.

“Local consumption is partly dependent on imports. However, we are importing the minimum and avoiding any imports of items that can be produced locally.

“This is to protect and support our local farmers and breeders,” he said.

However, he said, should the local production be insufficient, the ministry would loosen import controls to ease the shortage.

“If natural disasters affect our domestic supply, the ministry will then turn to imports to make up the shortfall,” he said.

“There must not be a lack of food supply in the country. The import volume can be adjusted based on circumstances. That is not an issue,” he said.

On the delayed MyBeras Programme, Tajuddin said it was still under research as the ministry was looking for the best formula to assist the poor.

“We have been constantly reviewing the scheme to ensure there will be no problems and no recipient will be left out and marginalised under the programme.

“Also, we are looking into the idea of including the programme into the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) scheme.

“There are plans for the aid to be in the form of money deposited into the people’s BR1M accounts. However, we have yet to make the final decision.

He said the ministry was looking to coming up with a decision within the next
few months.

The MyBeras programme was supposed to begin on June 1, but was delayed for the ministry to improve the distribution

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the postponement was necessary to coordinate supply procedures with the relevant agencies including the Welfare Department and the Department of Orang Asli Affairs.

About 85,401 hardcore poor families would be eligible to receive 20kg of rice each month through the programme.

Keep away from IS Malay publication, warns Zahid

BAGAN DATOH — The Special Branch in Bukit Aman is closely monitoring a Malay-language publication operated by the Islamic State’s Malaysian and Indonesian followers, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, who is also home minister, said his ministry had not received any print edition of the 20-page publication, which was discovered online.

He said his ministry believed there was an attempt to spread the publication throughout Southeast Asia to influence the people, especially those who understood the Malay language.

“Police and the ministry will continue to monitor any parties that downloaded or printed the publication,” he told reporters after the Hilir Perak district level Teachers’ Day celebration at Sekolah Menengah Sains Bagan Datoh yesterday.

“I urge people not to download or print it because action can be taken in accordance with the law.”

He was asked to comment on the Al-Fatihin publication which was discovered in an e-book or digital format recently.

The publication was launched in southern Philippines on June 20, before its contents were published online, including through
social media.

In his speech, Zahid urged the Education Ministry to study the teaching service scheme at all levels so it can be enhanced to show appreciation towards the contributions of educators.

“We say teachers are builders of the nation, but where do we put their social status? Teachers should be given better opportunities,” he said.

Also present were Perak state secretary Datuk Seri Abdul Puhat Mat Nayan, state education director Rozi Puteh Ismail and Hilir Perak district education officer Sulaiman Samsudin and 1,000 teachers from the Hilir Perak district. — Bernama

Hindu community leaders call for tighter security at temples

GEORGE TOWN — Several community leaders expressed concern over the recent spate of vandalism at Hindu temples in the state.

In the past two months, four temples have been vandalised, with two incidents in Penanti on the mainland and another two in Bayan Lepas and in Jalan Tengku Kudin on the island.

Penang Hindu Dharma Mamandram chairman Nanda Kumar said: “The various temple management teams must improve and equip themselves to be alert on matters affecting the temples.”

“Many temples lack security as they are in isolated places. Temple leaders must also take notice of current affairs.

“Temple committees should concentrate on the matters at hand to resolve outstanding issues and matters affecting them,” he said.

He also called for emphasis on religious education for the younger generation as it would teach them to be good and responsible citizens.

Bayan Baru’s Sri Vishwanather Sri Visalatchi Alayam committee member V. Kalimuthu said they were engaging a security guard at the temple.

“With the recent vandalism cases in Penang, we are planning to appoint security guards and also enlist Rela personnel to patrol the premises,” he said.

“We are also putting up lights in the perimeter of the temple to deter anyone from coming inside the temple without permission.

“These security measures can prevent unwanted incidents, such as what we have seen so far,” Kalimuthu said.

He said even closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras could be damaged
by vandals.

“CCTV images can sometimes be blurry and if the culprits wear masks, we cannot identify them,” Kalimuthu said.

Consumers Association of Penang education officer N. Subbarow said: “Someone who believes in religion will not do such a thing to a place of worship. It is not proper to vandalise such places.”

He said many temples are in housing areas, adding that residents of the areas must take the responsibility to manage the security and well-being of the temples.

“The residents must be on the alert. They can form teams like the Rukun Tetangga to guard the temples on a rotation basis,” he said.

“Putting up CCTVs can be quite expensive and not many temple committees can afford to install them. Depending only on police is not feasible as they also need to monitor other places and carry out crime prevention.”

Subbarow also called on the community at large to be the eyes and ears against crime.

He also advised temple authorities not to place jewellery in their premises, which could encourage crime.

Penang Hindu Association deputy president P. Murugiah said Hindu temples are lacking in security as many of them are located in deserted areas, especially at night.

He said petty crimes at temples could be the work of jobless people.

“But in this case, it might be something to do with religion. The various Hindu organisations and the Hindu Endowment Boards should meet and discuss ways to provide security for temples in the state,” Murugiah said.

He cited examples of mosques and churches that were used as community centres where religious and moral classes were conducted and called for a review on the role of Hindu temples as learning centres for children and adults.

“Having many people moving in and out of the temples would also serve as a security measure,” Murugiah said.

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