State government says can’t stop Lembah Bujang demolition as area is private land

The Kedah state government said it was helpless to stop a developer from harming ancient tomb temples at the historic temple site of Lembah Bujang because the area was privately owned.

Noting that the incident attracted a lot of negative criticism, Kedah Youth and Sports, Arts, Culture and Heritage and Non-governmental Organisations Committee chairman Aminuddin Omar said the 1,200 year old site was also not gazetted as a historical site.

"The Lembah Bujang area is huge and parts of it are being studied by Universiti Sains Malaysia's Centre for Global Archaeological Research," said Aminuddin, who said state exco Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain was discussing with the University's Professor Mokhtar Saidin on the matter.

"The state government will see how this discussion goes for now before we plan our next course of action. There may be a need to study the area carefully and determine which parts of the valley should be preserved," he added.

It was reported that a tomb temple among the pre-historical ruins of Lembah Bujang was secretly demolished by a developer recently.

The act was condemned by non-governmental organisation Badan Warisan Malaysia, describing it as "disgraceful".

Professor Jimmy Lim Cheok Siang, who is the sole surviving founding member of Badan Warisan Malaysia, said the Kedah government must act to stop development at the site, and urged the ruins to be archaeologically restored at all costs.

"The state authorities should not have approved this development. They should have consulted or referred the matter to the appropriate heritage authorities in Putrajaya or relevant organisations like Badan Warisan Malaysia.

"Lembah Bujang and the candi there represent a very old Hindu civilisation and we must preserve any historic monument," he told The Malaysian Insider today.

Lim lamented that preservation of historical monuments was "sometimes not to the advantage of the government".

"The government has to decide whether heritage is beyond politics or not. All monuments also must be preserved regardless of the religion," he added.

Badan Warisan Malaysia is seeking to get the area listed as a Unesco world heritage site.

The destruction of candi or tomb number 11, which was by Sungai Batu, was discovered by researcher Datuk V. Nadarajan, who was conducting a study on the Lembah Bujang site. He has since lodged a police report on the matter.

Nadarajan said the developer demolished the famous 8th century temple remnants known as Candi Sungai Batu estate or Bujang Valley site 11.

He accused government agencies of turning a blind eye to the demolition work, and said the National Heritage Department, the Museum, Kedah state tourism committee and Sungai Petani Municipal Council should have protected the sites.

Demolition works, which took place near an oil palm estate, were said to have gone on for over a month, according to Penang Deputy Chief Minister II, Dr P. Ramasamy,  who visited the site.

Ramasamy condemned the demolition and was quoted as saying that he was shocked to discover the ruins were cast aside in a pile of debris.

He said he learned that the Merbok land office had given the developer the green light to clear the land because "there were no historical sites". - December 1, 2013