Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has responded to the destruction of Candi no. 11 in the historical Bujang Valley region.
The Bujang Valley archaeological excavations have enormous significance in our understanding of the history of the peninsula, and these sites are national treasures. They deserve to be protected.
Guan Eng says:
Malaysians are shocked that an ancient Hindu temple (Candi) belonging to the Sri Vijaya era, about 1200 years, was demolished by a developer to make way for a housing project in Sungei Batu area of Kedah.
Candi No. 11 in Sungei Batu area of the Bujang Valley was one of the temples rebuilt in the 1970s using materials from the pre-historic era. Hidden in the midst of a small oilpalm estate, the developer demolished the Candi before mowing down the trees for a housing project.
Even the nearby Indian residents of the Sungei Batu estate were oblivious to this destruction.
The matter was brought to public attention when one Nadarajah, a researcher on Bujang Valley history, discovered the disappearance of this Candi a few days back. Last Saturday, Prof. P. Ramasamy, Deputy Chief Minister ll of the Penang State government, who had earlier researched on the Chola presence in Bujang Valley, confirmed the destruction of the temple.
A nearby Museum official revealed that the destruction of the temple could have been avoided had the land office in Merbok monitored and notified the presence of this historical structure to the developer. However, this was not done and what more the developer was given the approval to proceed with the clearance of the site.
Since the monitoring of historical sites in Malaysia is under the supervision of the Jabatan Warisan under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the local museum in Bujang Valley is powerless to act and prevent removal of historical places.
Bujang Valley is a world famous historical site. In this sprawling area of hundreds of acres, remains of Malaysia’s ancient history of Buddhism and Hindusm are evident. Some historians and archaeologists are of the opinion that the Bujang Valley represents the beginning of early Malay civilization.
Saving ancient temples and monuments in Bujang Valley and in other areas in Malaysia is the duty of all Malaysians. Governments in power must have the political will to act and punish those who destroy the rich history of our country.
In Penang, we have given much importance to safeguard and advance the UNESCO Heritage areas. We expect the Kedah state government to take proactive policies to protect and enhance monuments and historical places bequeathed to us by earlier generations.
I urge the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and in particular the Department of Heritage to take immediate steps to list Bujang Valley as a UNESCO Heritage.
Meanwhile I welcome the Kedah State Government for issuing a stop worker on the developer. Stop work order is not enough; measures must be taken to see whether the agency officials and the developer have broken any laws and to be prosecuted.