Kedah’s decision to declare that Thaipusam will not be a public holiday due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) has been criticised due to its “shortsightedness”.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan said Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor had clearly displayed his ignorance and bias towards Hindus with his decision that the holiday will not be observed in the state.
“I realise that the Thaipusam holiday is a state prerogative unlike other national public holidays, but coming out with such a ruling shows the arrogance of the Pas-led government in Kedah.”
He said the rationale for the decision did not make sense, and it was unacceptable.
Yesterday, Sanusi announced the no public holiday for Thaipusam decision as all activities for the religious festival have been cancelled due to the MCO.
“The PAS-government in Kedah must realise that there are state assembly seats in the state which have a sizable Indian/Hindu electorate and this move will definitely cause anger and frustration among Hindus in the state.
“This year, we will be celebrating many festivals, so is the Kedah mentri besar going to declare that we won’t be having any public holidays because of the pandemic?” he asked in a statement last night.
He pointed out that just because mass gatherings at houses of worship are not allowed under the MCO did not mean that the faithful cannot celebrate religious events at home.
“Furthermore, Thaipusam is not about visiting friends and family but a day to devote our time for Lord Muruga through prayers and paying of penance,” Saravanan said.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak also slammed Sanusi for his decision.
In a Facebook post, the convicted former prime minister said that Malaysia has declared Thaipusam a holiday in certain states for many years, and there is no need for Kedah’s decision as families could still celebrate together at home.
“Even though this year’s celebrations are affected by the MCO, there is no need to cancel the public holiday because Hindu families can still celebrate it at home.
“Let us maintain this tradition. We are 1Malaysia,” he said in his post.
Saravanan, who is also MIC deputy president, said the ruling Perikatan Nasional government was made up of various parties and Sanusi should remember that his party Pas was also a member of the coalition.
He said any such decision should be discussed with the Indian representatives in the federal government, which is the MIC.
“I can vouch that MIC was never consulted on this move, as the party would not have allowed for such a decision to be implemented.”
DAP’s Ramasamy also objected to the PAS decision and said, although the festivities were cancelled, that did not negate the religious significance of Thaipusam.
Penang, which traditionally marks Thaipusam on a grand scale, has cancelled the chariot processions which draw up to three million people to the streets of George Town.
Festivities have also been called off at Batu Caves, where the country’s largest Thaipusam gathering takes place every year.
However, unlike Kedah, Penang and Selangor have not cancelled the public holiday— Kedah’s decision not to observe Thaipusam, which falls on Jan 28, as a public holiday, is not meant to deny the rights of Hindus in the state.
In response, Sanusi said worshippers can still celebrate the festival by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOP) to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Everyone has been asked to stay at home following the implementation of the movement control order (MCO). All this while, Thaipusam is not a public holiday in Kedah except for the last two years, it has been made as ‘cuti peristiwa’ (special holiday).
“The decision has nothing to do with the intention to deny the rights of anyone in this state. Even before Thaipusam was made cuti peristiwa, it had been celebrated freely and merrily in Kedah,” he said in a statement.
Yesterday, in a press conference after chairing the state executive council meeting, he said for this year, Thaipusam would not be a public holiday following the current Covid-19 situation.
Sanusi said the decision should not be politicised as the country was now facing a bigger issue, namely the Covid-19 pandemic.