Penang deputy minister criticizes ‘unwarranted federal intervention’ in Thaipusam procession

Lord Muruga’s silver chariot making it’s way to the Nattukkottai Chettiar temple this morning. Photo: Nattukkottai Chettiar/Facebook

The deputy chief minister of Penang has come out to criticize this morning’s Thaipusam celebrations as well as the federal government for bypassing state authorities and granting approval to organizers.

Organizers went ahead with a 7-kilometer chariot procession from 3am to 6:30am after it received federal approval to do so, therefore bypassing the state’s ban on the religious celebration as part of pandemic safety measures.

“Why the unwarranted federal intervention on Thaipusam in Penang!” Ramasamy Palanisamy, 71, wrote on Facebook. “Three weeks ago the Penang state had decided against approval for the chariot procession.”

The Nattukotai Chettiar temple management led the chariot procession from the Kovil Veedu temple on Penang Street to the Nattukkottai Chettiar temple in George Town, as per its 150-year-old tradition. Only 10 people were involved in this morning’s event, excluding police presence.

Ramasamy also accused organizers for causing confusion and going straight to federal authorities amid an appeal. Penang state authorities had originally turned down a request to hold the event.

“It is obvious that the appeal letter sent by the Nattukotai Chettiar temple management committee to the Chief Minister of Penang to allow for the chariot on January 25, 2021, was an intention to mislead and confuse the state government,” he said. “The state had not even discussed the appeal before the Nattukotai Chettiar temple committee sought federal intervention through the office of the Minister of Human Resources, M. Saravanan, just like in the case of the Batu Caves Hindu temple.”

A separate procession at Batu Caves in Selangor was granted both state and federal approvals. Only 10 people instead of the usual thousands followed the silver chariot from the Sri Mahariaman temple in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

Thaipusam falls tomorrow and it is one of the most significant Hindu festivals in Malaysia. Devotees observe the occasion by going on a vegetarian diet, shaving their heads, and carrying wood and steel structures known as kavadi.

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