It's a grave mistake by the Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Masjid Negri Sarawak who owned a century-old Muslim cementary in Jln Keretapi, Kuching who approved the exhumation of the graves but didn't bother to inform the next of kins.
The news was first reported by MalaysiaKini .
Angry kin stop exhumation
By JACK WONG
KUCHING: An excavator was torched as angry family members stopped the exhumation of hundreds of remains at a century-old Muslim cemetery at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi here.
A man believed to be involved in the exhumation work was assaulted. Several police officers and men arrived to control the tense situation.
The angry family members, who said they had not consented to the exhumation, also burnt tools used to dig up the graves and the wooden boxes to be used to collect the human remains.
Some 30 of the more than 300 graves in the cemetery were said to have been dug up since Monday.
Many family members rushed to the cemetery early yesterday to stop the exhumation work when they learnt about it.
They claimed that they had not consented to it although there was a dialogue at the Majlis Islam Sarawak building last Friday on a proposal to relocate the cemetery to a new site at Semariang in Petra Jaya.
Morshidi Sabang, 60, who spoke for the affected families, said they were angry as the exhumation work was carried out without their approval and done without proper rituals.
“We asked that exhumation work should not start before the coming Hari Raya,” he told reporters.
State Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman said that he was disappointed with cemetery land owner, the Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Masjid Negri Sarawak, for not informing him of the exhumation work.
He ordered the exhumed remains to be reburied yesterday afternoon according to proper rituals supervised by Majlis Islam Sarawak
Tempers flare as graves exhumed unlawfully
KUCHING: Emotions ran high at the Jalan Keretapi Muslim cemetery here yesterday following what was described as the unlawful exhumation of 44 graves by a local contractor as family members gathered en masse to protest the ‘heinous and shameful’ act.
The extremely tense situation also threatened to spiral out of control on several occasions as angry family members bashed up a representative of the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department (Jais), whom they held accountable for the incident, and torched an excavator and other equipment belonging to the contractor.
The incident also drew the attention of various quarters with Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary Chong Chieng Jen, PKR state liaison chief Dominique Ng and Batu Lintang assemblyman Voon Lee Shan all making an appearance to meet and discuss the situation with aggrieved family members.
With many of those at the scene placing the blame on his ministry, Daud soon found himself becoming a target of the angry mob, who hurled foul and abusive language towards him from the moment he arrived.
The assistant minister, however, kept his cool and assured everyone that he would personally look into the matter which he claimed he had no knowledge of.
Police personnel were also present throughout the day to monitor the situation to ensure that further violence did not erupt at the cemetery, which is said to date back to the James Brooke era and where over 300 graves are located.
Word of the exhumation began to spread as early as Monday evening when a family member, whose ancestor is buried at the cemetery, was driving along Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce and noticed that part of the area had been ‘covered’ using plastic sheets.
Taking a closer look, he was horrified to see workers digging up the graves and placing the bones of the men and women who died into separate wooden crates.
He immediately alerted his family and relatives, who then contacted the other families and led to the mass gathering which started around 8am.
Among those present included PBB Batu Lintang Youth chief Kassin Mahruf, whose grandfather’s remains were among those exhumed by the contractor.
Kassin who was later joined by his SUPP counterpart Sih Hua Tong, took a more diplomatic tone to explain the situation, saying it was a result of ‘lack of coordination’.
“There was a definite lack of coordination between the contractor and Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Masjid Negeri Sarawak (LAKMNS) with the affected families which resulted in today’s episode.
“The two parties should have held more dialogue sessions with us to discuss about the relocation,” he added, referring to the proposed relocation of the site to the Semariang Muslim cemetery.
He said a discussion involving all parties was held last Friday, and that an agreement was reached to postpone any decision regarding the issue until after the up-coming Hari Raya celebration.
Stopping short of saying that the contractor and LAKMNS went back on their word, Kassin pointed out that the issue at hand was sensitive in nature and that the exhumation should not have happened in the first place.
State PKR advisor Wan Zainal Abidin Wan Sanusi meanwhile said the ‘heinous and shameful’ act went beyond the boundaries of politics, race or religion, and demanded an apology from the authorities on behalf of the affected families.
All the claims and accusations from various parties, however, were of not much concern to many of those gathered at the cemetery as some broke into tears at the sight of their ancestors’ remains while others chose to vent their anger and frustration in private.
One of them, 75-year-old Darmi Darma, told reporters that she felt both ‘saddened and shocked’ after learning that the graves belonging to her two late grandmothers were among those affected.
Claiming to be among the first to learn of the incident, the elderly woman went on to say her family had never been contacted by the contractor over the matter and that steps needed to be taken to prevent something similar from recurring.
Another of those affected yesterday was 70-year-old Awang Fauzi Awang Olen who had 10 family members buried at the cemetery.
The pensioner said he could still vividly remember his first visit to the cemetery with his late grandfather when he was only seven years old and explained that he was told then that it dated back to the James Brooke era and was of historical significance.
As tempers began to cool under the hot sun, family members and relatives pooled their resources and energy to re-bury the remains of their ancestors in two separate mass graves beginning at 1.30pm and ending around 5pm under the watchful eye of a religious personality from Jais who arrived to ensure everything was properly conducted according to Islamic rites and rituals.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Jais official who was assaulted earlier in the day had lodged a police report over the incident.
It was, however, not immediately known if any of those whose ancestors’ graves were dug up had lodged a report with the police.
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