IF the Education Ministry has never banned traditional ethnic and religious songs, then why did the Penang Education Department ban the traditional religious and literary songs during the national Tamil language carnival?
During the Tamil language carnival in Kepala Batas on Thursday (Nov 23), Tamil Valuthu (Tamil song) and Kadavul Valuthu (religious song) as well as the portrait of Tamil saint Valuvar was prohibited from the event.
There is an intrinsic relationship between the Tamil language, devotional religious and Tamil songs in any cultural or even religious occasions.
The display of the portrait of Thiruvaluvar (the ancient Tamil saint) is another essential component of Tamil language in carnivals of festivals. It is inconceivable to have a Tamil language carnival with the absence of the above-mentioned components.
I also understand that Tamil school headmasters were not invited for the Tamil carnival. No reasons were given.
If the Education Ministry does not prohibit cultural and religious songs, then why the prohibition at the state level? Could it be on the instruction of over-zealous and racist officials of the Penang Education Department?
If such instructions run counter to the policy of the Education Ministry, is there going to be action taken against these over-zealous officials? Are they going to be sacked or suspended? Or the matter might be just swept under the carpet?
Over the years, there have been too many insults against Indians, their language, culture and religion yet the culprits have escaped unpunished.
Prohibiting the portrait of Thiruvaluvar from being exhibited at the Tamil language event is an unthinkable and unacceptable act. The organisers of this Tamil carnival might have forgotten that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when presenting the Budget 2024 quoted a verse from Thirukural by Thiruvaluvar.
While Anwar acknowledges the contribution of Thiruvaluvar, the over-zealous officials of the Penang Education Department saw it fit to remove his portrait from the Tamil event. Such brazen act of insulting and humiliating the Tamils never had happened before in Penang or other states.
It was the least expected that a government body such as the Penang Education Department would engage in this careless act of insulting Tamils. What is the point of having National Tamil Language Carnival when the sources of the Tamil language and literature are not accorded importance?
The response of the Penang government elected members have been pathetic to say the least. Even one of the deputy chief ministers who declared that he was an Indian probably was not aware of the incident to comment upon it.
If elected members of the Penang state government are weak and meek, what hope is there for Indians in the state to be assured of that their language, culture, religion and their values will be protected and advanced?
What guarantee is there that the overzealous and racist officials of the Penang Education Department would not repeat such blatant acts of racial and religious discrimination against Indians or Tamils?
It is ironic that the Education Minister Fadlina Sidek and her deputy Lim Hui Ying are elected parliamentary representatives from Penang. Yet their presence in Penang made no difference to the way the Tamils were treated by denying their cultural attributes.
Are they going to maintain a guarded silence as though nothing had happened in the spirit of the Madani government or are they, too, going to quote verses from Thirukural like their leader Anwar? – Nov 26, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy was the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He was also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.