In the wake of protests by ethnic Indians over the demolition of Hindu temples in Muslim - majority Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has ordered continuous monitoring of all Hindu shrines, a move to assuage the feelings of the community alleging their marginalisation in the country.
The task of monitoring has been given to Works Minister Samy Vellu, who said no temple, whether legal or illegally built, will be demolished without a "thorough check and discussions" with his Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a component of the ruling coalition.
Badawi wanted him to submit a report on the status of the temples to the cabinet periodically and forward to him and the cabinet the list of any temple that may have to be demolished for various reasons, Vellu said in a statement on Monday.
"As temples are sensitive matters, a new approach is necessary to resolve them and the MIC will take over this task completely," the MIC President said.
The minister said he would travel to all the states soon to prepare a report on the number of temples in the country and their problems, which will be submitted to the Cabinet.
"We will identify the illegally-built temples first and check on their status. We want to know if there have been any moves or notices to demolish or relocate them," he said.
He said he would scrutinise all matters concerning temples with a view to ensure that no Hindu shrines were demolished in the future and if they had to be brought down then suitable alternative sites were allocated first.
"No temples, either legal or illegally built, will be demolished without a thorough check and discussions with the MIC," he said.
Vellu said Badawi had assured of the government's support in resolving any matters involving temples.
The issue came to the forefront when one of the leaders of the nongovernmental organisation Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) alleged large-scale demolitions of Hindu temples in the country.
The Hindraf organised a massive rally of ethnic Indians on November 25 to protest the alleged marginalisation of the community in the country. One of the issues raised by them was the demolition of temples.
Hindraf is demanding equal treatment for Indians, alleging that an affirmative action programme giving preferential treatment to Muslim Malays is tantamount to racial discrimination.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with 60 per cent of its 27 million people being Malay Muslims, 25 per cent Chinese and 7.8 per cent ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus from Tamil Nadu.