Thursday, February 26, 2009

St John's Chapel(over 83 years old) being threathened with 'eviction' - help save this 'little' church

St. John's Chapel in the small town of Triang, Pahang is now being threatened with eviction/demolition.

This chapel has been in existence legally since at least 1926. The land on which this church was built was a leasehold title, which the government refused to renew in 1955, but the government continued collecting quit rent until about 1966.

Application for extension of the lease have been repeatedly send by the Catholic Church but alas no positive response was forthcoming.

The chapel continued to exist happily without any interference from the State for all this time. But suddenly, some Developer in 2005 has come in and have asked that the chapel be removed. It has been shown that the new owner of the land on which the chapel stands is a Pahang State agency, i.e. Perbadanan Kemajuan Ekonomi Negeri Pahang.

There are 3 Lots in a row, and Lots 1 and 3 already belong to the Catholic Church, and the middle Lot 2, where the chapel stood since at least 1926, now seems to belong to Perbadanan Kemajuan Ekonomi Negeri Pahang, or the Pahang State. On Lot 1, we have the Kindergarten run by the Catholic Church, on Lot 2 is the Chapel, and Lot 3 is now a road. [It really is absurd why Lot 2, the middle lot, was also not given to the church a long time ago]

St John's chapel has served the people and community in Triang. It acted as a refuge during the Japanese Occupation, during floods, etc.

And, that is why on 17/8/2008, some 300 over persons/residents took to the street to protest the possible future demolition of this church/chapel. Unfortunately, only the Chinese media carried reports of this protest, which also saw the presence of the infamous FRU (Malaysia's Riot Police). There may not have been thousands but for a small town in Pahang, that turnout is impressive and significant.

What is sad, is that the Catholic/Christians of Triang are now facing the threat of losing their at least 83 year old chapel after the UMNO-led BN government of Pahang openly stated that they will adopt a more liberal approach matters concerning religion and places of worship.

The 2005 government census revealed that 11% of Malaysians are Christians, 57% Muslims, 23% Buddhist, 6% Hindus, and the remaining 3 % are adherents of Confucianism/Taoism/Traditional Religions/Others.

The land, on which the chapel has been for the past 83 over years, is State land (or belongs to a State Agency), and as such there really should not be any problem giving it to the Catholic Church so that the St John's Chapel can continue its existence.

I appeal to the Pahang government, to our DPM (also from Pahang) intervene and save the St John's Chapel in Triang...

KUANTAN: The state government will adopt a more liberal approach to matters concerning religion and places of worship.

State secretary Datuk Muhammad Safian Ismail said they planned to improve the system and administration processes pertaining to applications related to places of worship.

“In the past, there were some glitches and we intend to improve the system and administration processes.

“The committee on places of worship for non-Muslims which I chair will meet more regularly,” he said during a dialogue with several representatives of the Kuantan Chinese Methodist Church members here.

Also present was MCA legal bureau chairman Datuk Ti Lian Ker, who brought up several related matters to Muhammad Safian.

Ti said in the past, the issue on places of worship was deemed “sensitive” and could not be debated in the open.

“Now, the time has changed and this

misconception should be corrected as under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, all

citizens are guaranteed the freedom to religion.

“What we are doing is to discuss our rights to renovate, expand and build places of

worship and what actually went wrong,” he said.

Citing an example, he said a church group had applied to the local authority in Cameron Highlands for years to build a church but was not given an approval.

He said in other instances, certain conditions were imposed by the authorities before approval was granted.

“These problems due to many factors such as individuals, administrative obstacles and delays should not have happened.

“We are glad that Muhammad Safian had given an undertaking to review the present approach and to give approval if all guidelines were adhered,” he said.

Pastor Lau Seng Lye said he was glad that the state government would be more open and accommodating on issues involving places of worship.

He said their church in Jalan Gambut could only take in 300 worshippers and would like to expand their premises.

Earlier, the church had submitted an application to expand their building but was rejected by the local council. - Star, 2/4/2008, Pahang to adopt liberal approach on religion


Sino Dude said...

Beside St John's, there are probably more old chapels out there that are under similar threat. It's sad to see old buildings being demolished. It will be helpful to have more info like pictures of the building and who to contact if there are people interested in conserving this part of the Nation history.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing about this issue. If not for you it would have remained a 'hidden' issue. Triang's a charming place and I remember with pleasure some quiet evenings spent over dinner at the rest house there. I hope the Pahang Govt. finds in the wisdom of its heart to enable the people whose right it is to worship at St John's Chapel to to continue to do so freely.