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English News in July 2000

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English News in July 2000!

24 July 2000 'Preserve old cemeteries' Gazette them as heritage sites, urge groups.--The Star (Malaysia)
22 July 2000 Facelift for Kwangtung cemetery.--The Star (Malaysia)
20 July 2000 No relocation of KL cemetery.--The Star (Malaysia)
  Protest: Ling plans to meet Mahathir
The name of the Kuala Lumpur pioneer has become a rallying call for Chinese groups protesting against the planned relocation of the site where he lies.--The Straits Times (Singapore)
  Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik will discuss the cemetery relocation with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad next week.--The Straits Times (Singapore)
19 July 2000 Relocating graves creates a stir in Malaysian Parliament
Government is fine-tuning plan, finance official says.--Bernama (Malaysia)
  Govt urged to stop exhumation
Chinese clan associations want to stop a cemetery, which contains the graves of many pioneers like Yap Ah Loy, from being turned into a commercial hub.--The Straits Times (Singapore)
  Yap Ah Loy: KL founder.--The Straits Times (Singapore)
18 July 2000 Issue of relocating graves creates a stir.--Bernama (Malaysia)

24 July 2000

'Preserve old cemeteries'

Gazette them as heritage sites, urge groups

KUALA LUMPUR: Representatives of five political parties and leaders of 131 Chinese guilds and associations have urged the Government to gazette all cemeteries and crematoriums in Jalan Sungai Besi, Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama and Jalan Loke Yew as heritage sites.

They signed a memorandum after attending a briefing organised by a committee set up under the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall to beautify the cemeteries.

The five political parties are MCA, DAP, Parti Keadilan Nasional, PRM and PAS.

Also present were S. Sarath Wickrama representing the Singhalese Buddhist, V. Harcharan Singh who was in charge of the Sikh crematorium and R. Thiagaraja, secretary-general of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Among other things, they urged the Federal Government and City Hall to collaborate with the management of the cemeteries to beautify and preserve them.

Since the 19th century, over 200,000 people had been buried at the cemeteries which serve the KwangTung, Hokkien, Kwangsai, Roman Catholics, Singhalese Buddhists and Japanese, or cremated at the Hindu and Sikh crematoriums.

Among those buried there were Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, Kapitan Yap Ah Shak, Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng and Kapitan P. Thamboosamy.

All were against the cemeteries' relocation and welcomed the Cabinet's decision not to shift them to Semenyih, said committee chairman Tan Yew Sing.

"The 174.4ha of land can serve as a green lung for Kuala Lumpur,'' he said.

He urged that it be included in the city's development masterplan.

From The Star (Malaysia) 

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22 July 2000

Facelift for Kwangtung cemetery

By Foong Pek Yee

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing and Local Government Ministry and Kwangtung cemetery board will meet soon to discuss beautification plans for the cemetery which had about 300,000 graves.

Federal Territory MCA chairman Datuk Tan Chai Ho said the committee had drawn up a beautification plan but did not reveal how much it would cost.

"It is definitely very expensive (to beautify and maintain the cemetery),'' he said, adding that it cost RM60,000 just to beautify Kapitan Yap Ah Loy's grave there recently.

Yap was among the historical figures who were buried in the cemetery located along Jalan Sungai Besi here.

Tan hoped that the authorities could provide all assistance to beautify the 182.5 ha cemetery.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall could provide plants and flowers for the landscaping, Tan said in an interview here yesterday.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet agreed in principle not to allow private companies relocate the cemetery and develop it into a commercial area.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting had said he would direct the Kuala Lumpur City Hall to draw up a beautification plan for the cemetery.

Ong said he would also get the Town and Country Planning Department, National Landscaping Department and professionals to help in the beautification works.

Tan, who has been appointed by MCA as the co-ordinator to beautify the cemetery, said the beautification plans had to be implemented in stages.

He hoped all involved would cooperate to ensure the plan proceeded smoothly.

From The Star (Malaysia) 

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20 July 2000

No relocation of KL cemetery

By Foong Pek Yee

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet decided in principle yesterday not to let private companies to relocate the Kwangtung cemetery at Jalan Sungai Besi and develop it into a commercial area.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said he would instead direct Kuala Lumpur City Hall to draw up a cleanliness and beautification plan to preserve the 182.5ha historical site.

Ong said his ministry was against making the city a concrete jungle, adding that historical features, green lungs and landscaping must be given priority instead.

"The Kwangtung cemetery houses thousands of graves including those of historical figures like Yap Ah Loy.

"I will instruct the Town and Country Planning Department, National Landscaping Department and professionals to help beautify the site.

"I have spoken to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and directly proposed the input (to clean and beautify the cemetery) to the PM.

"The PM agreed very much to it,'' Ong told a press conference at his ministry.

He said Dr Mahathir understood the wishes of the Chinese community and that the cemetery had historical importance.

Ong, who is also an MCA vice-president, warned the Opposition against politicising the cemetery issue.

Plan to relocate the cemetery surfaced three years ago and was a hot topic in the Chinese papers recently.

On July 3, MCA secretary-general and former Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Dr Ting Chew Peh said the party would refer the community's feedback on the relocation issue to the Cabinet.

He said this after attending a presidential council meeting chaired by party president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik.

Yesterday Dr Ting welcomed the Cabinet's decision and thanked Dr Mahathir for his understanding and openness.

He said this had again reflected a caring Barisan Nasional under Dr Mahathir's leadership.

From The Star (Malaysia) 

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PROTEST: Ling plans to meet Mahathir

The name of the Kuala Lumpur pioneer has become a rallying call for Chinese groups protesting against the planned relocation of the site where he lies

By LESLIE LAU IN KUALA LUMPUR

FOR more than a century, one of Kuala Lumpur's most illustrious pioneers, Yap Ah Loy, lay buried on a hill overlooking the city.

He has remained a largely forgotten figure, as anonymous as the thousands of graves sharing his resting place.

But in recent weeks, he has experienced a renaissance of sorts.

His name has become the rallying cry for the Chinese community in a battle to preserve a cemetery in the heart of the capital, probably the last swathe of prime real estate in Kuala Lumpur.

The government wants to relocate the remains from the Chinese, Hindu, Sinhalese, Catholic and Japanese sections of the Sungei Besi Cemetery and transfer them to a new cemetery in Semenyih.

However, the associations that administer the plots reject the plan.

It is a historical site. Just as the Egyptians today have no right to move the pyramids, even Yap Ah Loy's grandson cannot relocate the grave, said protest leader Wong Chin Huat.

Mr Wong is spearheading a campaign, organised by the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (SCAH), an umbrella body for all the major Chinese groups in the city, to block the development.

To galvanise support, SCAH has spruced up Yap's grave.

A ceremony will be held today to launch the site as a memorial and tourist attraction.

Mr Wong acknowledges criticism that the cemetery's trustees only spruced up the grave now that the cemetery is under threat.

But there was no justification for disturbing the dead just because the community had not previously developed a sense of history, he said.

For its part, Pribena Construction, the developer at the heart of the dispute, is claiming to be an innocent party in the controversy.

Project Manager Ahmad Stalin said his company was only commissioned by the government to do the relocation.

""We are only grave diggers,'' Mr Ahmad told The Straits Times.

He denied allegations that his company had been awarded contracts for any development projects, including a theme park, on the site.

""It is up to the government later whether to give us a contract or not. I think the government plans to build highways, parks and schools on the land,'' he said.

The government would soon regazette the land for public use, he added.

In Semenyih, Pribena will build a 60,000-sq-m pagoda that can house up to 600,000 urns of remains from the Sungei Besi Cemetery.

The company has also employed Buddhist and Taoist priests to perform all necessary rituals for the relocation.

""Certain parties just want to exploit the issue for political purposes,'' said Mr Ahmad.

""We want to talk to the associations but they don't want to listen now.''

But the biggest trump card Pribena now holds is its claim that it has persuaded Mr Yap's only remaining grandson, Mr George Yap Swee Fatt, 90, to agree to the relocation.

Mr Ahmad said that the grandson had already signed an agreement with Pribena.

This is not going to be the last word on the matter.

Opposition politicians have already started whipping up emotions.

From The Straits Times (Singapore) 

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KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik will discuss the cemetery relocation with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad next week.

Dr Ling is in South America on a working visit

The MCA's deputy president Datuk Ong Ka Ting said the party would take heed of the stand made by the Chinese community on the issue, Nanyang Siang Pau reported.

""Since the issue has become a matter of public interest, the MCA will deal with the matter according to the wishes of the Chinese community,'' he said.

""Dr Ling telephoned us from South America on Monday and directed that the MCA make its stand very clear.''

Meanwhile, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has offered to bring up the matter in the Cabinet.

Datuk Ong said: ""I had discussions with Datuk Samy Vellu on Monday and briefed him on the complexity of the issue. He was under the impression that it was just another ordinary graveyard.''

He said Datuk Samy Vellu had agreed to stand by the MCA on the cemetery issue.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawai declined to comment when asked about the matter in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

About 200 representatives from 42 Chinese guilds and associations have called for the cemetery not to be disturbed.

From The Straits Times (Singapore) 

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19 July 2000

Relocating graves creates a stir in Malaysian Parliament

Government is fine-tuning plan, finance official says

KUALA LUMPUR -- Finance Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Hashim Ismail told the Malaysian Parliament that the government was fine-tuning the method of relocation of a Chinese cemetery in the capital.

During a debate yesterday, he said the government had agreed to shift the burial ground to a new cemetery in Semenyih, Selangor, and wanted to redevelop the site.

Several Chinese Members of Parliament, both from the government and the opposition, stood up to speak about the plan.

MCA MP Datuk Yap Pian Hon of Serdang, when seeking clarification, suggested that the government explain the matter to the public, especially those whose ancestors were buried at the site.

""The explanation is important to prevent certain quarters from manipulating the matter into a political issue,'' he said. ""Furthermore, among the graves was that of Kapitan Yap Ah Loy who had contributed a lot to the country, especially the opening up and development of Kuala Lumpur at one time.''

DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok asked why the government did not first inform those whose ancestral burial plots would be affected by the move.

Mr Hashim said it was impossible to contact all the descendants concerned but the government had reached agreement with the associations representing them.

""However, the government is fine-tuning the method of relocation to come up with the best way,'' he added.

From Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency) 

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Govt urged to stop exhumation

Chinese clan associations want to stop a cemetery, which contains the graves of many pioneers like Yap Ah Loy, from being turned into a commercial hub

KUALA LUMPUR -- Chinese clan associations are seeking the Cabinet's help to stop a developer from exhuming a more than 100-year-old Chinese cemetery where several of the community's pioneers, including Yap Ah Loy, are buried.

A delegation representing the associations met Works Minister Datuk Seri Samy Vellu on Monday to express their opposition to the plan to move the graves to another site, Nanyang Siang Pau reported yesterday.

Datuk Samy Vellu promised the delegation that he would raise the matter in the Cabinet during a meeting today.

""This issue has raised concerns among the general public, and I will bring it to the Prime Minister's attention, in order to let the Cabinet know your views on the matter,'' he was quoted by the Chinese-language daily as saying.

Earlier, more than 200 representatives from Chinese clan associations had a meeting at the Selangor and Federal Territory Kwong Siew Association and voted unanimously against the plan.

They then conveyed their stand to the Works Minister.

The 200-hectare Kwong Tong Cemetery, located near the Old Airport Road, contains the graves of many early Chinese settlers, including those of 19th-century Chinese leaders like Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, Yap Kwan Seng and Yap Ah Shak, who have been credited with laying the foundations of modern Kuala Lumpur.

It also contains two monuments to Malayan Chinese who fought and died for China during the Sino-Japanese War from 1931 to 1945.

A developer, Pribena Construction, plans to turn the site into a multi-billion-ringgit commercial hub and has offered to move the graves to a memorial park in Semenyih in Selangor.

During the launching of the project in April 1998, Mr Cheong Wee Wong, a director of the construction company, said that it would invite religious experts from Thailand, Taiwan and China to advise it on the proper way to move the remains from the Chinese cemetery, which was managed by the Selangor Hokkien Association.

But the project hit a snag after the management of the cemetery said it would reject the developer's offer.

A spokesman for a group which calls itself the ""Committee to Preserve and Beautify the Chinese Cemetery'' told Nanyang Siang Pau that the issue of the graves concerns all the races in the country, not just the Chinese.

""The Kwong Tong Cemetery contains many historical relics,'' he said, ""and the government should gazette it as a historical site, for future generations to remember the contributions of the city's pioneers''.

Activists also turned up at Parliament House on Monday and distributed survey forms on the controversy to Members of Parliament present before being told to leave.

Major opposition parties, including the Democratic Action Party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Parti Keadilan and Parti Rakyat have all voiced their opposition to the plan to relocate the graves.

From The Straits Times (Singapore) 

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Yap Ah Loy: KL founder

Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, the founder of Kuala Lumpur, came from Sungai Ujong in Negri Sembilan in 1862. At the time, Kuala Lumpur was already an active tin-mining centre.

Yap, a Hakka, rose to wealth and fame assisted by his clansmen. His right-hand man Yap Ah Shak, who later succeeded him as Kapitan Cina, is also buried at Kwong Tong Cemetery.

Yap Kwan Seng, who is also credited with laying the foundations of modern KL, is another Kapitan Cina whose grave is located at the 200-hectare cemetery.

From The Straits Times (Singapore) 

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18 July 2000

ISSUE OF RELOCATING GRAVES CREATES A STIR

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (Bernama) -- Finance Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Hashim Ismail caused a stir in the Dewan Rakyat Tuesday when he touched on the issue of relocating the burial grounds in Jalan Lapangan Terbang, Sungai Besi and Jalan Loke Yew here.

He mentioned the government's agreement to develop the burial grounds covering 182.5 hectares (450 acres) in the two places when winding up the debate on the Supplementary Supply Bill (2000) 2000.

He said the government had agreed to shift the old graves in these places to a new cemetery covering 176.4 hectares in Semenyih.

Several Chinese Members of Parliament, both from the government and opposition, stood up to make their point on the plan.

Datuk Yap Pian Hon (BN-Serdang), when seeking clarification, suggested that the government take steps to explain the matter to the public, especially people whose ancestors were buried there.

"The explanation is important to prevent certain quarters from manipulating the matter into a political issue. Furthermore, among the graves was that of Kapitan Yap Ah Loy who had contributed a lot to the country, especially the opening up and development of Kuala Lumpur at one time," he said.

Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh) questioned why the government did not first inform people whose ancestral burial plots would be affected by the move.

In reply, Hashim said it was impossible to contact all the descendants concerned but the government had reached agreement with the associations representing them.

"However, the government is fine-tuning the method of relocation to come up with the best way," he said.

His answer apparently did not satisfy several other opposition members.

There was uproar yet again when Hashim did not give way to some opposition members, including Kerk Kim Hock (DAP-Kota Melaka), Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam), Husam Musa (PAS-Kubang Kerian) and Fong Kui Lum (DAP-Bukit Bintang) to seek clarifications.

This prompted Deputy Speaker Datuk Muhamad Abdullah to ask Hashim to make up his mind on whether he would give way to one of them.

Fong, who was given the opportunity to speak, said the affected Chinese families would strongly object to any move to shift the graves.

He said this was because they believed that shifting of graves would affect their "feng shui".

"The graves should never be shifted," he said in a stern voice.

Hashim said the government was aware that the burial grounds contained graves of the Kwang Tung, Hokkien, Japanese, Catholic, Sinhalese, Hindu and Sikh communities but the relocation was necessary for national development.

Sensing that Hashim had done his best to clarify the matter, Muhammad ordered him to stop replying.

"That's enough...that is as far as he could answer. Even if you Honourable Members ask further questions, his reply will be the same," he said.

From Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency) 

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