Police have been told to seek attorney-general’s (AG) legal advice on whether it would be unconstitutional for the DAP-led Penang government to organise a golden chariot procession in this year’s annual Taipusam festival in George Town.
“The police should verify this legal aspect first before they decide on whether to issue permit to allow the proposed golden chariot procession,” insisted the People’s Alternative Party (PAP) national publicity secretary G. Asoghan today.
The DAP-dominated Penang government plans to conduct the procession via the state Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) despite many Hindus disapproving it as “waste of resources and causing split among Hindus in Penang.”
The PHEB has been adamant since last year to organise the golden chariot procession simply to rival Taipusam traditional silver chariot procession which started way back in 1894.
The Tamil sub-community – Nattukothai Chettiars has been organising the silver chariot procession carrying the idol of Hindu deity, Muruga Perumaan, annually for past 124 years.
Prior to that, the Nattukothai Chettiars had organised a wooden chariot procession for nearly 30 years.
Asoghan said his checks within the legal fraternity revealed that being a statutory body under the purview of Penang government, the PHEB or its endowment committees shall not get involved in organising or managing religious activities of the Hindus in Penang, such as Taipusam.
He said the Hindu Endowments Ordinance, the governing law of the board, clearly stated that PHEB and its endowments committees were given statutory duties only to safe-keep and manage Hindu properties in Penang.
Under the Article 11.3a of the Federal Constitution, he said every religious groups had the right to manage its own religious affairs.
“The constitution and the ordinance clearly spelled out that state authorities or statutory bodies shall not interfere or attempt to manage the Hindu religious affairs.
“Those who drafted the ordinance and the constitution, especially the British colonial rulers, have clearly intended that religious affairs were not the government business.
“Hindu religious affairs shall be left to the community to manage, hence it’s legally wrong for the DAP government or its instruments to organise the golden chariot.
“The police should clarify this with the AG before they decide to allow the golden chariot procession for this year’s Taipusam in Penang,” said Asoghan.
The current battle of Taipusam chariots in Penang has even led to violence when a golden chariot critic, P.Rajendran was abducted and assaulted by three men last Tuesday.
Rajendran allegedly went through the violent ordeal for nearly four hours.
Central Seberang Prai OCPD ACP Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abdul Hamid said the police were investigating Rajendran’s case under the Penal Code for kidnapping or abducting with intent to wrongfully confine a person and also for voluntarily causing hurt to someone.
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