Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the diversity in religion, culture and festivals celebrated by the local communities gave the people the edge to strengthen solidarity in the country.
He pointed out that solidarity and harmony were not mere rhetorics but should instead be translated with sincerity without any prejudice or negative perception among the people.
Speaking at the Thaipusam ceremony in Batu Caves yesterday, he said the differences in religion should not lead to any form of disturbances.
“Our nation was formed based on a plural society, and this diversity must be strengthened,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid said the Thaipusam celebration in this country should be promoted as a tourism product to attract more tourists especially those from India and Hindu followers throughout world.
He said that Thaipusam was not merely a celebration that should be respected but it had also attracted about 1.5 million Hindu devotees and tourists to the temple in Batu Caves this year.
“I hope the Ministry of Tourism and Culture will organise promotions throughout the world on whatever events that we carried out here today,” he said.
On the part of the government, he said, the cabinet had decided that Indian nationals working abroad be given visa exemption to visit Malaysia, Bernama reported.
He said that this also involved about 500,000 nationals of that country working in Qatar who could benefit from this opportunity to visit Malaysia.
Zahid said with this facility, it was hoped that more Indian nationals and Hindu devotees would visit this country and make a trip to Batu Caves especially during the Thaipusam.
He added that efforts to woo more visitors to come to Batu Caves were not only placed on the shoulders of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture alone but also involved everyone including the management of the Batu Caves temple.
“All visitors who came here can help in promoting the Thaipusam celebration as a tourism product,” he said.
Also present during Ahmad Zahid’s visit were MIC president cum Health Minister S. Subramaniam, Senate President S.A. Vigneswaran, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department S.K. Devamany and Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan.