Poor as churchmouse in shophouse

Posted on February 25, 2008

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More photos just added

Helen Ang

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 When someone mentions ‘church’, what do Malaysians imagine the House of God to look like?

Several of the pictures you see on this page appeared in my Malaysiakini article of March 2006. The photos were shot in PJ, Sungai Buloh and Cheras. It’s been two years and I’ve not been living in the Klang Valley since, so I don’t know if these heart-wrenching sights are still greeting the worshippers.

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The River of Christ sign points to the factory-like building in the next photo. Charis is a Christian centre. The church atop the bank was in Penang. The bank has since moved. I’ve not noticed if Petra Baptist is still there. It was on a second-floor shoplot after all and hardly calls attention to itself.

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The issue of church-shophouses recently resurfaced in Subang Jaya, thanks to DAP’s vigilant Parliamentarian Teresa Kok in highlighting the worrisome draft local plan.  

Datuk Lee Hwa Beng who is contesting the Kelana Jaya Parliamentary seat was Subang Jaya state assemblyman. He has unequivocally stated that the municipal council has not taken action against any church for having their premises in shophouses or factories. Hence there is no necessity for any churches to apply for any permits. 

I wonder if the churches in Subang Jaya, an area I’m unfamiliar with, look anything like the many ‘pretend churches’ I’ve seen in Petaling Jaya and Penang – which though not recorded on this page nevertheless belong to the same family of unorthodox design.  

And I don’t know what to make of such an untravelled Christian Datuk and his unfathomable conception of church architecture. He makes his blasé statement as if it is the norm in civilised countries to conduct the Lord’s service in “shophouses or factories”.  

Not only is Lee abysmal in his sense of aesthetics, he’s also ignorant of history and current affairs. He’s not too bad at Math though; he can count. Last October he said, in multi-racial parties “the majority of the members will consists [sic] of Malay only”.

“This means nominations for councillors at municipal levels, candidates for State and Parliament will be decided by predominantly or all Malay committees at all levels.”

His utmost concern appears to be that Chinese are nominated for the coveted jobs. Are they? In the last Cabinet, there were 32 Ministerial seats. Under the winning BN formula, four low-priority portfolios were given the Chinese. At the time when Parliament was dissolved, Ong Ka Ting held two Ministries, or 50% of the cake.

My two Malay friends helped take these pix on this page, so I for one find it difficult subscribe to Lee’s logic that Malays can’t transcend race.

Here’s a history lesson for Lee: In the 1969 general elections – the one alluded to by his counterpart Chew Mei Fun – MCA lost 20 seats out of the 33 that it contested. Their party prevailed only in constituencies with a strong Malay representation.

To paraphrase Lee’s words into my own question: “What is the irony of the existing BN tradition of quotas?” Will Christian voters tell him please?