Grave injustice: Families claim graves exhumed to make way for highway

DAWN CHAN


KLANG: When M. Rajendran was six-years-old, he had to deal with the crushing loss of his mother’s death.

His mother, a plantation worker, was buried at the six-decade-old Ladang Bukit Raja (Boon Hean) cemetery in Bukit Raja, a final resting place for plantation workers and their families.

However, his regular visits to his mother’s grave have come to a sudden halt as her grave appears to have been exhumed to make way for a section of a highway by West Coast Expressway Sdn Bhd (WCE).

Hers isn’t the only one. The graves of between 30 to 50 other plantation workers are also no longer at the site.

Rajendran, 55, was in complete disbelief and wants answers from the relevant parties.

"This is sad. I do not know how else I can pay my respects to my mother. Those involved in this must explain to us what had happened," said the lorry driver.

He was among several families who met the media today at the cemetery’s former site to air their grievances.

The families claimed that the exhumation was done without their knowledge. They also claimed that the exhumation took place about three months ago, but only learnt the news over the weekend when word spread within the community.

When they visited the cemetery on Saturday, they were shocked to see that the land had been flattened. The graves of between 30 to 50 former plantation workers were nowhere to be found.

A signboard to indicate the existence of the cemetery, shared with six other plantations, had also been moved 50 metres away from the former site, which has since been leveled.

It is understood that over 2,000 people were buried at the cemetery between 1957 and 1968.

Mutiara Bukit Raja Indian community leader Kumaravel Subrayan lodged a police report at the Bukit Raja station on Sunday.

He lodged the police report on behalf on the family members, and escalated it to the state executive councillor for plantation workers, poverty and caring government V. Ganabatirau.

Kumaravel said family members had expressed regret that the remains were exhumed, with no religious rituals carried out.

He said that months ago, WCE had assured the family members that the cemetery would not be affected.

"The family members had trusted what was told to them. It is very unfortunate that there are obvious elements of trespassing. The families are very angry with what had happened.

"Removing the remains of the dead without first consulting the family members is very disrespectful. This is a sensitive matter because before the remains can be exhumed, Hindu religious rites and prayers must be done out of respect for the dead.

“A shrine at the cemetery was also removed. We do not know where it is now, as well as the remains of the dead.

"The situation is worsened when there was no show of courtesy by WCE or its contractor to speak to the families. They should have engaged the family members or the nearby Hindu temple chairman, who would be able to facilitate a meeting to discuss this matter.

"We ask that the works here be stopped temporarily as we want to bring this matter up to the federal and state governments as well as Sime Darby Plantation, which owns the land where the cemetery is," said Kumaravel.

WCE has yet to respond to NST's request for comments at press time.