|Ramasamy and his RM 3,000,000 Golden Chariot|
My response to the article entitled “Penang Hindu and Nattukottai Chettiar Temple management angry with Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB)”
1) Yes, the Penang Thaipusam is a global event that attracts thousands of Hindus and non-Hindus from all over the world. In Penang, the Chettiars, an infamous money-lending community, have been organizing the Silver Chariot during Thaipusam not for 160 years that they claim but for 120 years. It would be interesting to know as to who was organizing the chariot before the Chettiars took over 120 years ago.
In Myanmar, Chettiars who were chased out during the heydays of Burman nationalism had the nefarious practice of taking over temples from local Tamil population. For instance, in the town of Kambe, near Yangon, Chettiars were chased out a few years ago for illegally taking over and occupying a Murugan temple. In other words, the Chettiars cannot claim that they have been organizing the chariot in Penang for a long time.
2) The Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) is the principal organization that organizes and manages Thaipusam for a very long time. As a statutory body of the state government in Penang, the PHEB has all the rights under the law to organize Thaipusam. The Chettiar temple does not come under the fold of the PHEB and it is a private initiative. In fact, the Chettiar temple has no authority to organize the Thaipusam although the impression has been falsely given that it is the principal party.
3) It has been a long cherished desire of the Penang Hindu Tamils that the Hilltop temple should organize a separate chariot that would carry the Vel. However, during the last 60 years, the Penang government under the BN failed to take up the case of the local Hindus. The BN Indian representative, the MIC, was too weak to champion or take up the legitimate religious cause of the Penang Tamil community. It is only under the Pakatan Harapan government that the PHEB has taken the initiative to organize a separate one called the Golden Chariot.
The Chettiars have no right or legitimacy to say that the Golden Chariot might give rise to problems, the day before Thaipusam. They fear that huge financial collections that they amass from Thaipusam might be jeopardised to the extent repatriations to India might be impaired
4) Those who are managing the Chettiar temple in Penang are those non-citizens from India. Many in Penang know this fact and yet there are certain self-serving persons who think that the Chettiars are doing a “wonderful job” in the running of the chariot and so on. What is not accepted is the fact that a bunch of foreigners are being allowed to operate a temple and the proceeds from Thaipusam are being allowed to be repatriated to their community in India. Those who are contributing to the donations are local Tamils and yet nothing is given back to this community.
Few thousand ringgit donations to certain NGOs do not hide the colossal sum the Chettiars have siphoned off from the local Tamil community over years. If the Chettiars have been engaged in this nefarious practice for 120 years, then one could just imagine how much money would be have been collected from the poor Indian community in Penang. The amount could run into few billions and just think how this amount could be used to build temples, build schools and provide education assistance to Indian students!
5) It is not for the Chettiars or the MIC bankrupt politicians to question the amount the PHEB has spent on the Golden Chariot. The PHEB is very transparent about the amount spent on the chariot unlike the Chettiars who have never revealed their accounts for a number of years. Even those who are sympathetic to the Chettiars dare not ask the latter for their accounts—how much donations they collect, what they do with the money, how much money they send to India and so on. Chettiars if they are honest and law-abiding citizens, should reveal the amount of donations they have collected from the Indian public for the last 120 years or so. However, if those who are managing the temple are non-citizens, then the police or other law enforcement agencies must act. So it is not for the Chettiars to suggest how the PHEB should spend its money.
6) Nobody is interfering with the Chettiars to manage and run their Silver Chariot. It is not for them to say that presence of another chariot—Golden Chariot—might lead to traffic and other related problems. It is up to the police and related agencies to look into these and advise the parties concerned.
Prof P. Ramasamy has no ill feelings towards the Chettiars neither does he want to interfere how they manage the temple. But he is certainly against non-citizen Chettiars coming from India and managing the temple. Not only this, he is definitely against them for collecting financial donations and then diverting the funds to the Chettiar community in India. It is funny that some of how “gung-ho champions” of the Chettiar have failed to address this pertinent issue.
7) Contrary to what was stated in the above article, the Golden Chariot would not be carrying the statue of Lord Muruga, but his Vel. In fact, PHEB’s chariot is one of Vel procession whereas the Silver Chariot by Chettiar will be carrying the statue of Lord Muruga. So where is the duplication?
8) The introduction of the Golden Chariot has nothing to do with DAP or the state government but the desire on the part of the PHEB to respect the wishes of the local Tamils to have their own chariot rather than solely depending on the Chettiars. As everyone knows, during the Thaipusam, the local Tamils are treated as second-class citizens and the Chettiars would never allow Tamils to partake in the important religious ceremonies associated with Thaipusam. Even during the chariot procession, it is only the Chettiars who will carry out the rituals and local Tamils are allocated certain secondary functions. Yet there are some misguided local Tamils who are willing to put up with these forms of indignity and disrespect just to earn few extra ringgit! Nothing can be more demeaning!
9) It is not about Prof P. Ramasamy having an ego and that he wants to split the Hindu community. As the head of the PHEB, he has brought many progressive changes to Hindus in Penang. He manages the PHEB well and the bulk of the income of the board goes to provide financial assistance to poor Indian children. He is not causing split among the Hindus, but rather bringing about their unity by opposing the Chettiars and others who have taken the community for ride for more than 100 years. While the MIC leaders allowed the Chettiars to exploit the local Tamil community, but Ramasamy would not allow this. This is the reason why the Chettiars are spending money to discredit Ramasamy and other DAP leaders in the state of Penang. If at all there is split amongst the Hindus in Penang, the Chettiars and certain Indian-based political parties are mainly responsible.
10) If the Buddhist community can organize hundreds of floats during their religious event, why should not the PHEB organize another chariot during Thaipusam. Is there a law that forbids Hindus from having another chariot during Thaipusam? The PHEB is working closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure that Thaipusam next year will be incident-free. If Singapore is marvelled by the way we organize Thaipusam, then what is the problem with the so-called prophets of doom—the trustees of the Chettiar temple and their friends!
11) There is already a petition campaign against the PHEB’s Golden Chariot. But doing so they think that they can succeed in stopping the Golden Chariot on its tracks. The question is how much are they getting paid by the Chettiars. The Chettiars being a rich community think that they can use their money to bully others in submission, as they have done in earlier years. If a petition is away to solicit support for the Chettiars community than I think the PHEB can come out with a list of hundreds and thousands in Penang and elsewhere who would support the Golden Chariot. Whoever wrote the petition must be childish, naive, immature and highly responsible to tarnish the good work and image of PHEB in Penang and in Malaysia.
12) The PHEB had announced the Golden Chariot way back in January this year. The Nattukottai Chettiars community cannot pretend that they don’t know about this announcement. Now they are trying to get public support to stop the Penang Hindu Endowments Board’s Golden Chariot.
If this two chariots are problematic in the eyes of the Chettiars community, I advice them to pull out their own Silver Chariot from Thaipusam.
Dr. Manimaran Karuppiah
Dec 23, 2016