IT IS regrettable to know that the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) members might be giving up the Golden Chariot in favour of the Chettiars (traditional money lenders) who run the “competing” Silver Chariot.
It is true that before the arrival of the Golden Chariot, the Silver Chariot was managed by the Chettiar community from the other Murugan temple which is located opposite the temple owned by the PHEB.
The Chettiars managed and ran the Silver Chariot as their private property. Back then, the PHEB was too timid to challenge the chariot domination of the Chettiars.
Let us not forget that the entire Thaipusam festival is managed by the PHEB and not the Chettiars. The Chettiar-run temple is a private one.
Since the PHEB is a statutory body, collections made during Thaipusam are audited and made accountable to the public. The PHEB has more rights to run the Golden Chariot than the Chettiars who run the Silver Chariot.
It doesn’t make sense for PHEB to surrender their hard-won rights to the Chettiars. There is no such thing as unified procession with only the Silver Chariot making it religious rounds.
The Chettiars want to go back to the days of pre-2017 with only one chariot – that is the Silver Chariot – making its rounds in the Thaipusam.
If the present PHEB board members give in to the antics of Chettiars, then it would be betrayal of the Hindu Tamils not just in Penang but the whole country.
No unity chariot, please
The Chettiars will never agree to a unified Thaipusam procession. As far as the Chettiars are concerned, unified Thaipusam is just the figment of the imagination of the naive PHEB board members.
The Chettiars want only their Silver Chariot to make it rounds. They don’t want the Golden Chariot. Period.
Now back to the PHEB. Do they want to go back to the pre-2017 days of Chettiar dominance of Thaipusam? Let not the PHEB members confuse the Hindu public by suggesting Unity Thaipusam.
As far as the Chettiars are concerned, they don’t want another chariot. Unity cannot be fostered by allowing the Chettiars to have sole domination by running their Silver Chariot.
The Hindu public will never forgive the present PHEB members if they renege their promise to run and manage the Golden Chariot as practiced in the last five years.
The last five years was the golden age of the Golden Chariot. Just ask the Hindu public, they know. In the broader interest of the Hindu public and the immediate interests of the PHEB, the best solution is sticking to the status-quo.
Let the Golden Chariot, the official chariot of Penang Thaipusam to leave early morning at 6am on the eve of Thaipusam to be followed by the Chettiars’ Silver Chariot one or half an hour later.
It will be in the best interest of those in charge of the security in managing the huge crowd during the Thaipusam. Finally, if PHEB members give in the demands of Chettiars, they should just resign as commissioners.
It is not just about the chariot but about the pride and dignity of Hindu Tamils in country. I will be closely monitoring the situation.
The PHEB commissioners, including its chairman, will be making a grave mistake if they allow themselves to be influenced by others in altering the status quo of the Golden Chariot. – Dec 28, 2023
Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.