Hindu Endowment Board against reopening temples

Conundrum: PHEB is recommending that temples remain closed, while MHS is of the opinion that individual temples should decide.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) will recommend to the state government against the reopening of temples in Penang.

PHEB chairman Dr P. Ramasamy said the board would submit the recommendation during the state Covid-19 meeting on June 2.

“The conditional movement control order (MCO) is still in force and reopening the temples would jeopardise Penang’s green zone status.

“We are against the opening of the 19 temples here next month, ” he said yesterday.

The National Unity Ministry yesterday announced that it had given the green light to 174 non-Muslim places of worship to reopen from June 10.

The maximum number of people allowed during a service at one time is 30, depending on the size of the approved house of worship.

The ministry had said it would work with state authorities and local councils on the issue and permission to operate would immediately be rescinded if there were any violation of the standard operating procedure.

Ramasamy claimed that National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique had received “bad advice” from the Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) which had recommended the opening of the temples.

“It’s a hasty decision as the criteria for the recommendation were not made public and done without proper consultation with the state authorities.

“Penang has always been cautious of decisions such as approval of dine-in at restaurants which saw the state observing a normalisation period and reopening of barber shops.

“The board should have been consulted as we are the entity on Hindu religious matters in the state and reopening of temples falls under the purview of the state.

“MHS is only a non-governmental organisation and does not represent Hindu religious bodies; as such it does not have jurisdiction on temples in the country, ” said Ramasamy.

MHS president Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan when contacted said the recommendation to the ministry to reopen the temples was made after some dissatisfaction expressed by temples all over the country.

“Most of the temples are individual members of MHS and they were being pressured by devotees to reopen.

“We received 600 applications, but ultimately, only 84 from the green zones were allowed to reopen.

“The question of not consulting PHEB does not arise as some of the temples which come under PHEB are also members of MHS, ” he said.

“Ultimately, the decision whether these temples which have been given the approval to reopen, rests with the respective temples, ” he added.

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