PUTRAJAYA, Nov 28 — Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin disclosed today that a private firm allegedly gave RM150,000 to lawyers who then used part of the money to hire around 50 youths to take possession of a Hindu temple site that witnessed violence on Monday and yesterday.
Muhyiddin said the information was gleaned from preliminary police investigations and questioning of the two lawyers who were among the 21 people arrested and remanded over the unrest.
“About 50 of them were hired to trespass and take control of the temple, where each of them received payments ranging from RM150 to RM300
“Their decision to trespass is irresponsible, illegal and angered the Hindu devotees there, which escalated into commotion, fights and damage of properties,” he said.
Expressing his displeasure with the recklessness, he said the violence that ensued would have been avoided if neither party took matters into their own hands.
When asked to confirm that lawyers took the money from the firm, Muhyiddin said he could not do so at this stage.
The minister also would not state for certain if the lawyers had acted on their client’s instructions, instead offering his opinion that the two legal practitioners’ choice to allegedly employ thugs was ill-considered.
He then clarified that his disclosures today were deductions based on the information investigators have been able to extract so far.
“Our current assumption is the lawyers were given a sum by their clients to fix their problems; that was their (developer’s) intentions.
“However, the steps and options taken by the lawyers have caused what we saw has happened, and that is something I see as not right,” he said.
Muhyiddin stressed that the matter was not a racial dispute and told the country to return its focus to more pressing matters.
The minister said there were bigger issues facing Malaysia, such as the country’s finances and economic performance.
“My message to all is to stay calm, do not listen to rumours and slander on social media, as this situation needs the cooperation from all,” he added.
Muhyiddin also told all parties in the ongoing dispute to demonstrate restraint and not provoke further unrest.
The police have also formed a special unit specifically to investigate the dispute and related incidents, he said.
“I have advised the Inspector General of Police to exhaust all avenues of the law and to make sure stern action is taken against those found responsible, and those found inciting unrest of racial tensions stemming from the incident,” he said.
Police have so far arrested 21 people over the violence that started on Monday.
At least 23 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the riots while the nearby MCT Tower was beset by demonstrators yesterday, leading to the destruction of its glass facade.