GEROGE TOWN: Explain how luxury mansions and hotels in India were funded, the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) asked the Chettiars who run the famous 126-year-old Penang Thaipusam silver chariot.
The board’s statement comes after the Nattukottai Chettiars claimed they have not sent money donated by devotees during the Thaipusam celebrations to India, as alleged by PHEB.
PHEB executive director M Ramachandran said although the Chettiars claim their books are audited by the government, they have yet to show their accounts for the past 100 years.
“They keep on saying the PHEB has no evidence but provide no proof of what they have done with public donations for the past 100 years or so.
“Even if we accept the argument that government departments have vetted their accounts, this does not invalidate our argument that money was not repatriated to India.
“How do they explain money from Penang invested in buildings, hotels and luxury mansions in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India?” Ramachandran said in response to the Chettiars’ retort today to their allegations.
PHEB and the Nattukottai Chettiars have been at loggerheads over the use of donations. PHEB now intends to have its own golden chariot procession this Thaipusam, which falls on Feb 9.
The PHEB had alleged the Chettiars managing the silver chariot and Lord Murugan temple were mostly Indian nationals, holding permanent resident status.
PHEB says money collected from devotees ought to remain here so that it could be used for the benefit of the local Indian community.
Ramachandran claimed Malaysian Chettiars themselves are appalled at what is going on.
“Ask the local Chettiars. They will tell tales of illegal repatriations, money derived from donations and how foreigners drain away the resources of the local Indians in the name of religion.
“It is not the intention of PHEB to merely collect money but to stop the foreigners from illegally collecting money from the local Indians during Thaipusam.
“If we collect money, at least we can channel it back for the benefit of the Indian community.”
On the Chettiars’ claim that they were leasing out land for a burial ground to PHEB, Ramachandran said it was not the complete truth.
Ramachandran admitted PHEB was leasing two acres for 25 years at the Batu Lanchang Hindu burial grounds.
“But this two-acre land was given to the Chettiars by the British Indian Army for a token sum of 1 Straits Settlement dollar in the 1900s.
“PHEB still holds four out of six acres at the burial grounds.”
Ramachandran said it was laughable that the Chettiars had claimed they had offered scholarships to locals.
“What benevolent activities have the Chettiars contributed all these years?
“It is big joke to say they’ve given financial aid and scholarships to needy Indian students.
“What a blatant lie! Nothing but lies and more lies from the trustees, all of them foreign citizens!
“I urge the Chettiars not to become ‘cheaters’. The time has come to say ‘no’ to them.”
FMT has emailed Nattukottai Chettiar Temple managing trustee M Renganathan and is awaiting his reply.