A-Ma Temple management dispute flares

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Issue 308, Page 2
Word count: 723
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

An election for the A-Ma Temple’s new management board was summoned by the on-site administrators yesterday which led to the protest of 10 legal members who questioned the meeting’s legitimacy as the recent injunction issue ordered the transfer of management control to the members within 10 days, before tomorrow.

The 520-year-old Buddhist temple in Barra was forced to close for about a day on October 29 last year for the first time in decades, after dozens of men led by the current chief administrator Lam Kin Kong stormed the temple and tried to evict the monks there.

Mr Lam claimed his management council, named “Associacao de Piedade e de Beneficencia Cheng-kuok-sim-lam”, “Ma-kuoc-mio” or “Ma-cho-kuoc”, owned the property and management rights of the temple, and also accused the monks including Abbot Sek Kei-sau of stealing donations and not carrying out proper maintenance work at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The members who opposed yesterday’s electoral meeting, including president O Man Seng and vice-president Choi Cheong Tou, were of the management board of the temple in the year 2006 to 2007.

Citing the monks were their “managers” at the temple, Mr O told the Macau Daily Times that they filed an application to the court against Mr Lam and his people’s “violent occupation” and an injunction was issued on April 1 in favour of the original management council.

According to the injunction, the court recognises Mr O, Mr Choi, Lam Ka Sun, O Man Kuok and Lam Kok Va as the temple’s administrators between 2006 and 2007, and also authorises these persons to take over the management control until the verdict of whether which group owns the legal right is handed out.

As the deadline for Mr Lam’s council to withdraw from the temple’s management is tomorrow, Mr O said they would seek for legal advices after the day and not to make use of violence to solve the problem in order to “respect the law of Macau”.

Meanwhile, Mr Lam and his management board called for a meeting to elect new council members at 4pm yesterday at the temple’s private conference room.

The five administrators of 2006/2007 along with other four members then arrived at the temple in an attempt to oppose the another group to summon an electoral meeting using “an unlawful identity representing A-Ma Temple”, Mr O said.

However, the group of 10 was prohibited by the security guards arranged by Mr Lam from entering into the conference room as some of them were not given the invitation letters.

In addition, Mr Lam’s management body restricts females from being a member and therefore did not allow the only woman of the group to participate in the election.

Mr Lam afterwards came out from the meeting and tried to negotiate with the group. But when vice-president Mr Choi asked what identity or status he was using to stop them from entering the conference, Mr Lam went back inside the room without leaving a response.

Mr O then proclaimed a statement at the room’s door front saying that Mr Lam and his council did not have the power to hold any general assembly, women should be allowed to vote in accordance to the Macau Basic Law, and every council member had the right to vote regardless of the invitation letter that was sent selectively.

The protest ended peacefully with Mr O and his group leaving the temple soon after being denied entry.

The election, Mr Choi told the MDT, was a means by Mr Lam and his council to try to show people that they were the election convener and thus the legitimate management members.

And as no one had the chance to go inside the conference room, Lam Ka Sun also told the MDT that possibly “Mr Lam was the only person inside the room” and “no election was actually taking place”.

The purpose of fighting for the management control, Lam Ka Sun added, was “obvious”.

He said it was an interest-driven matter, citing the temple’s management council could control the property, land possession and its development right, as well as tens of thousands of donations every day.

A-Ma Temple, which was built in 1488, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005.

It is one of Macau’s most popular Chinese temples and attractions, receiving hundreds of devotees and visitors every day.

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