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GEORGE TOWN, Jan 27 — Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy has called on the authorities to take firm action against the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple committee for ignoring state orders and carrying out the Thaipusam silver chariot journey at 3am today.
He accused the Chettiar temple committee of openly defying the state government, the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) and various government agencies that forbade the annual chariot procession for Thaipusam this year due to the current Covid-19 lockdown.
“To date, the state government and the National Security Council have not given permission for the chariot procession in Penang,” Ramasamy said in a statement today condemning the temple committee for going ahead with the ceremony.
“This open defiance must be punished severely without fear or favour,” he added.
He insisted that a letter of endorsement for two Penang temples to run their respective chariots during Thaipusam, written by Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan, did not state that there is NSC approval.
He said the Nattukottai Chettiar temple management committee sent an appeal letter to the Penang Chief Minister on January 25 and the state had not even discussed the appeal before the committee sought federal intervention.
“I understand that the Chettiar temple, emboldened by the intervention of Saravanan, had put out their silver chariot for a limited run under the SOP.
“It was unbecoming of Saravanan to interfere in Penang state matters,” Ramasamy said.
The Perai assemblyman said the state government made the decision three weeks ago not to allow any chariot procession and that the decision was subsequently endorsed by the NSC.
It was only later that the exception was made to the Batu Caves Hindu temple by the NSC.
“Well, if the decisions of the Penang state and NSC are not adhered to then how are we going to stamp the tide of the Covid-19 pandemic?” he asked.
A Chettiar temple trustee Dr A. Narayanan had earlier told Malay Mail it had approval to go ahead with the procession from Saravanan and the police.
He said the police were present during the procession and that the temple committee had adhered to strict SOPs by only allowing 10 temple committee members to accompany the procession.
The silver chariot, which carries Lord Muruga holding the vel, left the Kovil Verdi on Penang Street at 3am and arrived at the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple at Jalan Air Terjun at 5.55am.
The chariot will make its way back on Friday.