GEORGE TOWN: The state government wants to keep to the collective decision not to have processions for this year’s Thaipusam as it considers the safety of Penangites to be paramount, says Penang Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy.
He maintained that the decision had been made collectively among stakeholders who included representatives of Nattukotai Chettiar Temple.
“They were included in the meeting, where a decision was made not to have the processions (for the two chariots), ” said Ramasamy, who is also the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) chairman.
The Chettiar Temple runs the older silver chariot while the golden chariot, which made its debut in 2017, is put up by Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple.
“The Hilltop Temple will lose about RM500,000 to RM600,000 in donations that could be channelled towards scholarships and the temple upkeep.
“It is a small price to pay when we consider the bigger picture of avoiding a Covid-19 cluster, ” Ramasamy told the media at the Hilltop Temple yesterday.
The press conference was called in response to claims by Nattukotai Chettiar Temple trustee Dr A. Narayanan that PHEB had shot down their request to have the silver chariot make its annual trip from Penang Street to the temple in Jalan Utama, with about 15 people and without any procession or fanfare for Thaipusam.
On Monday, Narayanan said they had put in a request to the police and National Security Council (NSC) but were instead referred to PHEB, which “refused to even look into it”.
Ramasamy said it was “selfish and irresponsible” to request for the silver chariot procession this year because if it was brought out, then the same would apply for the golden chariot.
“Even Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has cancelled all Chinese New Year celebrations to avoid the risk of a Covid-19 cluster, ” he added.
However, Ramasamy said the state exco meeting today would review the appeal letter sent by the Chettiar Temple requesting that the procession of the silver chariot be allowed.
On Monday, Ramasamy criticised the NSC’s decision to allow the chariot procession to Batu Caves, calling it irresponsible and smacking of double standards with total disregard for views from the state.
Penang has cancelled prayers in its temples, chariot processions, different forms of kavadi carrying, mass haircuts, and coconut-breaking rituals. It has also disallowed the installation of panthal (stalls).
However, there are plans for prayers at the Hilltop Temple to be telecast live.
After Ramasamy’s criticism, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa clarified that the chariot carrying the statue of Lord Muruga would be allowed with no procession and with only 10 temple personnel accompanying the passage from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam in Jalan Tun HS Lee, Kuala Lumpur, to the Batu Caves temple.
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