GEORGE TOWN, Jan 27 — The Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) will be discussing the kind of punishment it will mete out to the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple for continuing with the annual silver chariot procession early this morning despite the state’s firm stance against allowing the procession due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
PHEB Chairman P. Ramasamy said Section 4 of the Hindu Endowment Act gave the board the right to discuss matters pertaining to Hindu temples in Penang.
“The board can intervene and even move in to take over the management of a temple in certain cases such as what we did with a few temples previously due to public complaints,” he said during a press conference today.
The irate Penang deputy chief minister II said the temple had openly defied the state government and broke the law by going ahead with the procession.
“The board will meet and discuss the types of punishment we can take against the temple. There are other punishments other than taking over the management of the temple,” he said.
He said once the board makes a decision, it will forward it to the state exco for approval.
He added that the temple committee openly defied the state government’s decision because they thought the state couldn’t take action against the temple.
“They should know that we can take action. Temple matters are under the state government,” he said.
He said PHEB will be writing to the temple committee to demand an explanation on why action should not be taken against them.
“The silver chariot procession this morning is illegal, against the NSC SOPs and state government’s policy. I don’t know how they got the police to cooperate,” he said.
“I informed the state exco of this during the exco meeting this morning.”
Ramasamy said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow will also be bringing up this issue at the virtual National Security Council (NSC) meeting later today.
Ramasamy reiterated that there was no NSC approval for chariot procession to be held in Penang.
He claimed Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan called him late yesterday to inform him that the chariot procession in Penang is allowed.
Ramasamy said Penang stood firm with its decision not to allow the chariot procession for the sake of public safety and health.
He slammed Saravanan for intervening in this matter by allowing the chariot procession although there was no official approval from the NSC.
“Saravanan should be intervening in Kedah for cancelling the public holiday for Thaipusam,” he said.
He said it was irresponsible of Saravanan to allow the chariot procession in view of the movement control order (MCO) and increasing number of Covid-19 cases.
Ramasamy also said the NSC could not be taken seriously now, especially when it did an about turn to allow the procession at Batu Caves.
“I won’t take NSC seriously, all these SOPs they announced are political with double standards,” he said.
He warned that this incident might set a precedent for other groups to defy the law and hold other religious gatherings that involved crowds.
The silver chariot, accompanied by 10 committee members, made its annual trip from the Penang Street temple at 3am and arrived at the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple at around 5.55am.
The temple trustee Dr A. Narayanan said the committee had obtained approval from the police and Saravanan to go ahead with the procession.