Don’t hijack religious events, Gerakan tells Penang

gerakan-youth-penang

PETALING JAYA: The DAP-led Penang state government was accused today of trying to hijack community-run religious and cultural events which have been conducted for decades or centuries.

Penang Gerakan Youth said the state government had first hijacked the organising of the annual ceremonies in honour of the Jade Emperor God (Phai Thnee Kong) at Chew Jetty in George Town on Feb 15. Now it intended to take charge of the annual Silver Chariot procession for next year’s Thaipusam festival.

In a strongly-worded statement today, youth wing secretary Ooi Zhi Yi asked if there was any hidden agenda or motive behind the state government’s decision.

He said the two events were the cultural heritage and legacies of local communities in Penang, and it would be unwise for the state government to intervene.

Ooi said that the previous state government, in its 18-year administration, had worked hand in hand with the youth wings of all Chinese clans and allocated state funds for the organisers.

“Never did a state officer sit as the chairman of the organising committee. Because of that, nothing untoward happened,” he said.

“There were no complaints of abuse of funds or about improper deployment of workers when the joint committee of youth wings was the organiser. “However, after the hijacking of the Chinese New Year Carnival and the Phai Thnee Kong celebration at Chew Jetty by the state government this year, problems such as the disappearance of Rela members, and unusual expenses on their remuneration cropped up.

“Even the expenses for the cultural performance at Chew Jetty doubled, at the expense of the taxpayers,” he said.

He said the former Chief Minister, Koh Tsu Koon, had never intervened in the organising of the annual Chinese New Year Carnival during his 18-year administration of the state.

However the present state government’s “hijacking” of religious rituals and cultural celebrations, one after another, was a serious matter, he said.

He urged the state government to uphold the principle that religious rituals and celebrations should transcend politics.

Earlier this week Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy had said that the state-run Penang Hindu Endowment Board, which he chairs, would organise next year’s Silver Chariot procession, but religious rituals would continue to be conducted by the Nattukkotai Chettiar Temple.

“The purpose of the Thaipusam celebration is to offer prayers to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan and it is also a religious ritual to allow the disciples to fulfill their vows. Although it is a colourful celebration, it was not meant to attract tourists. The state government should not change its original purpose,” Ooi said.

The state government should allocate more funds and cooperate with the organisers to ensure the smooth running of the events if it was serious about protecting and promoting these cultural and religious activities, and not try to hijack the rights of the organisers, he said.

He said it had been very obvious that the state authority had applied pressure on organisers of the recent Chinese New Year Carnival and the Phai Thnee Kong ceremonies.

State authorities should not dictate cultural and religious celebrations and local communities should be given a free hand, he said.