The Sliema local council debated the Sri Chinmoy statue this evening, following the controversy after it's installation on the promenade.
The council revealed that a representative from the peace movement responsible for the statue's installation will again come to Malta in a few weeks time to explain why they chose to install the statue, following criticism in the media. The Council will wait until that time before taking any decision on the statue, or, should government decide to take some form of action, the council would bow its head.
The debate saw councillors argue that they had assumed, considering so many prominent people were meant to attend the unveiling, that research on the man would have been done. Some councillors said they require further proof that Chinmoy was indeed a bad person. One councillor in particular came out heavily against the statue, arguing that the statue should be removed immediately.
Earlier today, Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop today said that had he known that so much controversy would have erupted following the installation of the Sri Chinmoy statue on the promenade, he would have never accepted to have the monument in the locality.
The statue was unveiled last Thursday during a ceremony which marked the end of an international peace initiative called the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. The ceremony was attended by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia.
Chinmoy was a self-professed guru with a following of thousands of people in the United States and India. He preached meditation, physical fitness, celibacy and a number of other principles which he felt would lead to the ultimate goal of self-realisation and inner peace.
He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and the United Nations celebrated his life’s work after he died in October 2007.
Many however believe the man to have been a cult-leader, living off the tithe from his followers. A large number of accusations emerged later in Chinmoy’s life relating to fraud and sexual abuse. Media reports said that he owned a number of properties and took advantage of some female followers within his organisation in spite of preaching celibacy, and also arranged marriages between followers.
Speaking with The Malta Independent, Mr Chircop explained that once the government had received the Sri Chinmoy members so whole-heartedly, the council did not think to research the group or the man. He added that the council assumed, as anybody would, that the President of Malta and the Speaker of the highest institution in Malta, being Parliament, would have done all the necessary checks before receiving the group.
Asked about why the monument was placed in Sliema, and how it was approved, Mr Chircop said that it was proposed to the council as a monument to peace, and that the council had been misled because it had not been told that the monument was dedicated to Sri Chinmoy himself.
Sliema local councillor Pierre Portelli backed up this information, telling this newsroom that the council had not objected to the proposal for the monument because it was presented to them as a monument to peace, during a 6 January council meeting.
He said that the area was chosen on the side of the Sliema promenade which has relatively less traffic, a lot of room and would cause the least inconvenience to the residents of the area.
Mr Portelli went one step further and took the personal initiative to set up an online petition to gauge how the Sliema residents feel about the monument.
“In less than two days, over 350 people signed the petition online, which is a good indication that people are objecting to the monument,” said Mr Portelli.
In 1996, a plaque was placed in Sliema in honour of Sri Chinmoy and his message, after he was made an ambassador for peace in Malta. It would seem that Sliema was again the chosen locality 20 years later simply because this is where the first Sri Chinmoy celebration took place.