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Buddhist group confirmed safe

The Star, December 31, 2004

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia -- Relatives of the group of Buddhist pilgrims feared missing since Sunday?s disaster can breathe a sigh of relief as they are safe and scheduled to come home today.

Checks with group member S.K. Lim revealed that the 54 did not come to any harm in Sri Lanka, where they were to visit several holy sites.

?We are very much okay, so people should not be worried. On the day the tsunami struck, we were already on a flight to India. We were not affected by the disaster at all,? he said in a phone interview yesterday.

The group had left Malaysia for Bodghaya, India, on Christmas Day, but stopped first in Sri Lanka.

On Monday, several family members called Wisma Putra to find out if these pilgrims were safe as attempts to contact them had failed.

Lim said the group had informed the Malaysian High Commission in New Delhi on Wednesday of its whereabouts.

He said the group included Kechara House Buddhist Association?s Tsem Rinpoche and Chempaka Buddhist Lodge?s Rev Bhagya Jayavanii.

Lim said Rev Jayavanii had stayed back in Bodghaya and he was unsure of her plans to return home.

The High Commission?s visa consular officer, Norsham Sarman, confirmed that the group was safe and one of the members had rung him up on Wednesday.

?We have already informed Wisma Putra of this latest development and also told the group to get in touch with the Malaysian High Commission in Colombo,? he said.

Norsham said the group decided to call the High Commission after reading on the Internet that people in Malaysia were looking for them.

He said 44 in the group were Malaysians, while the rest were from the United States, Netherlands, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand and Germany.

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