Friday, July 25, 2014

Temple Management Puts An End To Wheelchair Discrimination

Time to smile again
aNt's aNgle!




This morning I received a phone call from
The original signboard
SUHAKAM Commissioner James Nayagam informing me that the
offending words put up by the temple for wheelchair devotees have been removed.   

The human rights official from the national government agency was at the temple's site with the media as part of the ongoing investigation by Suhakam. They were called in when one of the wheelchair-using devotee's father had made a complaint over the matter to them. 

Since then, it is understood that two letters were sent to the Petaling Jaya City Council's (MBPJ) Mayor by Suhakam for an explanation. 

Apparently it is reported to have fallen on deaf ears. 

Rajiv: Too complicated to solve
The matter was first referred to the state assemblyman Bukit Gasing Rajiv Rishyakaran and MBPJ's councillor for the temple area Cynthia Gabriel more than three months ago.

However, nothing was done to resolve the issue.

In fact, when I spoke to Rajiv less than 48 hours ago, he shockingly told me that "the matter was closed because it was too complicated to solve."

He claimed that not only did several other temples agree with him on his assumption but he also had the support of his "seniors in the DAP" and even Suhakam." 

To add to salt to the injury, Rajiv also said that the matter was "not a
Cynthia no time to visit wheelchair victims?
wheelchair discrimination issue at all." 

Disabled devotees and activists were livid when the temple placed a sign barring them from entry into its premises saying that the management considered "wheelchairs like slippers and shoes." 

When the matter was first brought up earlier this year, Datuk Mohan Shan, President of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam, was the first to denounce the discriminatory signboard, pointing out that Hinduism never discriminates against disability.

Making the alterations
It is learnt that the good gentleman recently went to the temple again with disabled senator Bathmavathi Krishnan to remove the sensitive wording in the signboard. 

It must be pointed out that at a meeting with the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development in Putrajaya last month, disabled groups brought up the Sivan Temple issue. 

As a spokesman for the group and for
File picture - Was it Rohani's work in the background?
PETPOSITIVE, I raised my protest directly to the Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim with the disabled senator present about our total disappointment with the latter's performance on disabled issues since she was appointed which drew a round of applause from the floor which was made up of many NGOs for the disabled and other marginalised communities. 

I mentioned in particular about the Sivan Temple case and demanded to know why the senator did not raise the issue in the media or do anything about it like visiting the temple and the victims.

In her defense, Bathamavathi's only reply was that she had raised the matter in Parliament.

But most of us were not only disappointed by her retort but also quite frankly, disgusted with her answer.

We expected her to make statements to the media condemning discriminatory practices and personally visiting the temple, speaking to the victims and the temple management - all to try and bring about a solution. 

The brave disabled group that came out to protest
A week later, about 40 disabled people made a public protest calling for the senator's resignation, if she was not prepared to go to the grassroots to help disabled people. 

The irony of the situation is that Bathmavathi's personal residence is in the vicinity of the temple. She is not only a Hindu but a wheelchair user as well. 

So why was she concerned for the discriminated wheelchair users at the temple? 

Obviously the pressure must have got to her from those at the top in order for her to finally buck up and do something about the issue, even though it was as late as close to four months since the crisis broke out. 

A comment also needs to be said about MBPJ's
Siew Chin - No interest in temple affairs?
councillor for people with disabilities Sia Siew Chin, who uses a wheelchair. 

It is utterly shameful, that together with her able-bodied colleague Cynthia Gabriel, and of course, Rajiv Rishyakaran, who by failing to resolve the matter, has earned the title of being a "disabled" adun for himself. 

His inaction or coming up with ridiculous excuses and denials clearly shows he is either too afraid - or doesn't care at all - to speak up for a community that in actual fact deserves all the attention and support from him as an elected representative - especially on fundamental issues.

File picture - Commisioner James Nayagam with the disabled
The real heroes of this much too long drawn out issue are the following: 

The present omitted version
1) Suhakam and commissioner James Nayagam 2) The Hindu Sangam 3) All the media who supported us, including Free Malaysia Today 4) The brave disabled group in PJ that went out to demonstrate at the temple where neither the adun, councillors or disabled senator bothered to turn up in support. 5) Independent Living and Training Centre in Rawang who met up with the temple's president to discuss the matter. 6) Last, but not least, the wonderful and silent man behind the scenes who worked with all parties to solve the issue, Rajesh Mansukhlal. Raaj, as he is fondly known, has been a tremendous help to me when I was councillor. He heads the community based group in his residence and is a successful businessman in Section 52, PJ. 

The priceless lesson that I learnt in all this is never vote for an adun who will never stand up for if you are in a wheelchair because of sheer cowardice. 

As I have said before, I will never vote for Rajiv again. As they say, "Once bitten, twice shy."

The second lesson is never work with hypocrites who claim to want to help the disabled but really have no intention to make a difference for them in any way.

I am so ashamed to say these were my colleagues both in the council and NGO days. 

I sign off with this thought: There is good karma and bad karma waiting for all of us. Let's be careful to choose the right type that we want in our lives.

Thank you all for being with me through this. Peace to all!

PS: I called up the temple's president to thank and congratulate him for doing the right thing. He was very happy.      

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