Environmental group disappointed over Buddhist monastery's eviction in Gunung Kanthan

The Buddhist Channel, 16 September 2023

IPOH, Perak -- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) expressed disappointment over a recent court decision regarding a century-old Buddhist monastery in Gunung Kanthan, Chemor, Perak. The Court of Appeal granted permission for Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) to evict the monastery, located within Gunung Kanthan. Gunung Kanthan is one of the 19 Kinta Valley geological sites and was expected to be part of the Kinta Valley National Geopark.

Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman, a research field officer with SAM, commented on the decision, stating, "When the limestone hill was announced as the Kinta Valley Geopark, it should be preserved for the benefit of the people and for the state heritage. But now, it is pointless."

There are currently 19 unique geosites under the Kinta Valley Geopark, each with distinctive limestone formations, landscapes, and endemic flora and fauna. Tasik Cermin, also known as Mirror Lake in Gunung Rapat, will be the 19th site to be included in the state's geopark list.

Meor Razak emphasized that the state government should take measures to defend Gunung Kanthan and negotiate with the cement manufacturer to preserve the untouched areas within it, which harbor a high value of biodiversity, including endangered species such as Liphistius Kanthan (Trapdoor Spider). He pointed out that not all endemic species could be conserved through relocation and that other factors like soil characteristics and topography must be considered.

The status of Gunung Kanthan within the Kinta Valley National Geopark faces risks if the cement manufacturer continues to encroach upon the untouched areas. Meor Razak highlighted that Gunung Kanthan is one of the four most important limestone areas in Perak for conservation.

Gunung Kanthan comprises four zones: Zones A and B, which are currently being extracted, and Zones C and D, home to various endangered species of flora and fauna that remain untouched. Concerns have been raised about the potential impact on Zones C and D if extraction continues.

Abbot of Buddhist cave monastery expresses disappointment at court ruling

Meanwhile, the abbot of Malaysia Dhamma Sakyamuni Monastery (Caves Monastery), Dr. Chiong Sai Tin, expressed disappointment after Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) won an appeal to evict the century-old Buddhist monastery located in Gunung Kanthan, Chemor. The Court of Appeals rendered a unanimous decision in favor of APMC, a subsidiary of YTL Cement, in a land dispute case against the monastery.

"The Court of Appeal on Sept 5 reversed the High Court judgment and ordered that the monastery be evicted. The Court of Appeal held that no triable issues had been raised and there was no suppression of material facts by APMC," stated Chiong in a statement.

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Chiong also mentioned that the monastery's request for a stay of execution was turned down by the court. The appeal proceedings were conducted online, and the court accepted APMC's argument that, as registered owners, they were entitled to succeed in a summary application for possession.

The monastery's counsel argued that the court should only consider whether the summons filed complied strictly with the provisions of Order 89 of the Rules of Court 2012, which has the effect of evicting occupants without a trial. The counsel also submitted that there were triable issues concerning the existence of implied consent by both APMC and the state government, citing assurances from APMC that the monastery would be allowed to coexist with the quarry.

Regarding implied consent by the state government, Chiong argued that there was continued intervention, concern, and acquiescence due to the suspension of blasting operations and the undertaking to preserve all the cave temples in the Kinta Valley. The state government had declared the area enclosing the monastery as a Geopark in 2017.

Chiong noted that in the High Court, it was held that the plaintiff had abused the flexibility provided under Order 89 and provided misleading facts to the court. The High Court found that the monastery occupied the land with the implied consent of the plaintiff and its predecessor. APMC, due to concealing material and substantial facts, was disentitled to any relief as they did not come to court with clean hands.

While allowing the appeal, the Court of Appeal ordered both parties to bear their own costs.

Gunung Kanthan, where the century-old monastery is located, is one of the last 12 remaining limestone hills in the Kinta Valley National Geopark. It is home to endangered species of flora and fauna, including bent-toed geckos, snow-white orchids, and tiny snails. The quarry activities have already cleared about 80 percent of Gunung Kanthan over the years. The monastery, built amid the karst formation inside the caves, serves as a place for prayer and meditation and houses approximately 15 monks.
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