SG Thaipusam 2018: Let's Get Things Straight

4 videos that has gotten the community riled up. A petition that has started by a person who watched the videos. The petition has gained more than 7000 e-signatures at the time of writing. This petition was started by a certain Pria Prizzy who had written the following as her reasons. 

I have not attended 2018’s Thaipusam procession but I have been well informed of the unhappiness people have faced in the procession through uncountable videos surfacing the net. 
What was the last straw to me is when a video of 2 little girls who were singing for their family member was stopped by the officials(police and a representative from HEB). The reason for stopping them from singing is because “PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING”.
Well I do understand that for obvious reasons, but I believe that my fellow singaporeans are being unfairly treated as our culture is not respected as all we ask for is just for 1 day. However I do understand one of the reason of the ban of no musical instruments is because of other non classic instruments being played and people who create havoc on a beautiful religious event, it still gives NO REASON FOR NO SINGING. The objective and reason for music to be played in the first place is entirely forgotten! Devotees take this day to be spiritually one with god and to celebrate a beautiful event of devotion! Moreover, music makes the beautiful yet somewhat difficult journey better! I don’t see any reason for any of it. If A ban should come, it should only be for non classical instruments. Please give Hinduism some respect and give us the freedom to pray, Devote and celebrate! Please do not kill our culture. 

Aside from the petition, this incident has led to other online media platforms latching on to it. The Independent.SG  published an article titled "Devotees incensed that authorities allegedly disrupted Thaipusam Kavadi procession for no good reason".

The Facebook post that triggered this whole backlash has gathered close to 3000 shares and the videos have received more than 400 000 views. While it is definitely helpful to have these videos, I am not certain if they are doing more harm than good. 

The Full Picture Is Not Clear

Firstly, the videos do not tell us the complete story and it has led to many just drawing their own conclusions. The comments on Facebook are definitely worrying. Every other person comment is seeking to compare restriction of music to Lion Dance and Malay drum groups. Some have rekindled their interest in hoping Thaipusam becomes a public Holiday in Singapore. 

Residual Unhappiness with the Authorities 

Most have directed their unhappiness at the Hindu Endowment Board, citing that they are not standing up for the rights of the Hindus as they are supposed to. The fact of the matter is that HEB is not an organisation that represents Hindus in Singapore. They are often caught between the interest of the individual and the interest of the State. To be honest, I do not envy those in the HEB. It is really a thankless job. 

What I can see is that the HEB is rational organisation determined to make things work. Changes have been happening. Things are moving in the right direction. 

What is the HEB about?
The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) is a statutory body set up under the Hindu Endowments Act in 1968. Its role, as set out in the Act, is to administer those endowments placed under its administration.

The word “endowment” is defined in the Act to mean any endowment in land, building or money given for the support of any Hindu temple or other Hindu purposes. The endowments administered by the Board are Sri Mariamman Temple, Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Sri Sivan Temple, Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple

Under the Act, the Hindu Endowments Board also has supervisory powers over the accounts of all Hindu endowments in Singapore- even those not administered by the Board. Any person managing an endowment is obliged, at the request of the Hindu Endowments Board, to attend before the Board and answer questions in relation to the endowment.

The Hindu Endowments Board comprises a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, a Finance Member and 12 members who are appointed by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. To be appointed, a member must be both a Singapore citizen and a Hindu. Appointments are for a period of three years each. The Secretary of the Board is a public officer appointed by the Minister.

In addition to managing 4 temples, the Board administers two kindergartens (Saraswathy Kindergarten and Saraswathy Darma Muneeswaran Kindergarten) and a half way house (HEB-Ashram). Major Hindu festivals like Thaipusam and Firewalking are organized by the Board.

Let's get things straight

We have reached out to the person in the video as well as HEB and will provide updates on this matter.  However, the fact of the matter is that we have the experience of one kavadi bearer and his friends and family. Based on mainstream media, we are told that as many as 40 000 people attended this year's Thaipusam procession, with around 250 kavadi bearers and 10000 devotees holding milk pots. 

My 2 cents

Personally, I would love for Thaipusam to be a national Holiday. I would even make it into regional Tourism event to justify why it should be a national Holiday.  Thaipusam would be grand Thiruvizha (festival ) in my eyes. 

But I respect the rules and regulations of this fine Country. The majority who saw the video questioned why the authorities stopped a kavadi because they were singing devotional hymns and that has become the central issue: Our right to sing devotional songs and play traditional instruments. 

I saw a mike set in the video. That mike set could have been the reason for the intervention.  But like I mentioned earlier, the video does not provide the full picture. Hence, I should not speculate and draw my own conclusion.

So, what is our plan?
For the record, I have abstained from signing the petition. What we have decided to do is create a detailed feedback form, where we can get quality feedback from people who truly matter, the devotees themselves. Once we have collated enough information, we can then go to the organisers and authorities with proper evidence and concrete solutions. 

This form will need less than 5 minutes of your time. If Thaipusam is really important to you, I suggest you fill this up

Ed Note: We will provide updates on the collated responses at the end of this month and update you on the next steps. 

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