King and other leaders wish the Indian community Happy Ponggal

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 16 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: While the Education Ministry and Jakim are washing their hands over whether Ponggal can be celebrated in schools, the country’s leaders have taken to Twitter to wish the Indian community Happy Ponggal.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah led the Ponggal wishes on social media with a post on Istana Negara’s official Instagram page.

“Wishing all our friends a very Happy Ponggal. May this festival bring you and your loved ones blessings and prosperity!” the post read.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took to Twitter with a 31-sec clip of himself in his office wishing Indians in the country a Happy Ponggal.

Speaking in Malay, Dr Mahathir wishes them a year of “abundant prosperity”.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail also wish Happy Ponggal to Malaysians who are celebrating.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali wrote that Ponggal celebration provided an opportunity to Malaysians living in the country’s multi-cultural society to learn about the uniqueness of each other’s festivals.

“The country’s multi-culturalism brings uniqueness and strength to Malaysians. Happy Ponggal Festival 2020,” he said.

Separately, the Education Ministry said it has never prevented Ponggal celebrations in schools.

In a statement, it said the earlier letter, issued on Jan 13, was to assuage the concerns by parents of Muslim students about their involvement during the celebrations.

“A school is a place to inculcate unity among students with different backgrounds.

“Culture and customs between races must be known, learnt and respected by all parties, including the school management, teachers and student,” it said.

The statement comes following a public uproar over the letter, which described Ponggal as a religious festival, based on guidelines from Jakim.

The letter has since gone viral, with many saying that the festival has nothing to do with religion but a Tamil celebration for an upcoming harvest.

The letter, which was signed by Institute of Teacher Education deputy chief registrar Adzman Talib, who is also the ministry’s deputy director-general (school operations sector), reminded the schools to follow all current regulations if they intend to hold the celebration.

In a separate statement, Jakim said its position was made known after a request from the ministry.

“Jakim only provided its views from the Islamic perspective and did not prohibit the celebrations in any way.

“Even the Jakim syariah expert panel’s opinion is that it is permissible for Muslims to wish friends and neighbours, who are celebrating without the intention of acknowledging their religion,” it said.
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