The Penang Chettiars who run the famous 126-year-old silver Thaipusam chariot procession are not amused over allegations hurled at them by the state’s Hindu body.
This was after the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) alleged the Chettiars carted away local Thaipusam donations back to India, among others.
Nattukottai Chettiar temple managing trustee M Renganathan said the allegations by the Penang Hindu Endowments Board was “without an iota of proof”.
“Despite our tireless rebuttal after rebuttal, there appears to be no respite to the attacks we have received.
“We would like to say this again, there is no truth to the allegations put forth by the PHEB,” he told FMT.
Renganathan said all the trustees’ accounts have been vetted by the Auditor-General’s Department and the Prime Minister’s Department.
He also denied claims that money was sent overseas.
Last week, PHEB chairman P Ramasamy wanted the authorities to deport the foreigners in the Nattukottai Chettiar temple board of trustees.
Ramasamy alleged the Chettiars running the silver chariot procession had “amassed billions over the past 100 years” and sent donations collected during chariot processions back to India.
He had also asked the Chettiar trustees to show accounts of the donations, if they had nothing to hide.
Ramasamy also said he had nothing against the silver chariot and would proceed to run the Hilltop Murugan Temple’s golden chariot procession as planned. The Hilltop temple is run by the PHEB.
He also said the temple never had an official chariot procession and would only serve to correct a “historical injustice” over the years.
In response to Ramasamy’s remarks, Renganathan said it is likely the PHEB wants the donations received during the silver chariot procession.
“The bottom line is, they want to collect money. We have said many times that all the funds were accounted for as shown in our books,” Renganathan said.
Renganathan said the Chettiars have helped Penang ever since it was founded as a trading port by the British, setting up the first financial system in the state.
He added that a large tract of Chettiar-owned land was leased to the PHEB to be used as burial grounds.
“If our ancestors wanted to rob money, why are we doing this?
“We are just businessmen who are benevolent. We have built temples. We have given out scholarships. If they feel we have done wrong, they should have reported us to the authorities long ago.
“For over 100 years, we have been doing this for Lord Muruga (Hindu deity). This is not a parade. We have not chased away devotees coming to pray at our chariot every year,” Renganathan said.
He also said calls to have foreigners removed from the trustees board was a “ridiculous suggestion”.
“If that is the case, the same principle should be applied on foreign-owned businesses, or foreigners working in companies. It is a global village.
“If it was run by foreigners, they would have taken action against us a long time ago, right?”