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Chettiars should be graceful to accept changes and embrace the Tamils as their fellow brother devotees

S.Ramakrishnan, 20/01/17

It has been settled. The Penang Hindu Endowment board (PHEB) will come out with their own golden chariot that will carry the Murugan vel from the Queens Street Mariamman temple to the hilltop Murugan temple before the Thaipusam festival and bring it back after the festival.  

All these years, the PHEB has taken responsibility for the Thaipusam festivals and has coordinated and managed all religious affairs, security matters and liaison with the various agencies making sure that everything is in order. However, only the chariot procession has been organized by the Nattukottai chettiars.  As the country develps and goes foward, the second and third generation Malaysian Tamils have matured and developed the self-confidence and managing skills to run everything from A to Z..

While we appreciate and are grateful to the Nattukottai Chettiars for organizing the silver chariot processions over the past 126 years even though the Malaysian Tamils and others had introduced a wooden chariot prior to this 126 years.  Now, their grandchildren and great grandchildren, who are mostly educated and settled in Malaysia as its citizen’s, feel confident enough to run the whole Thaipusam festival themselves. This is a welcome development and its time the Nattukotai Chettiars happily hand over and feel proud at the change in the state of affairs.

The new PHEB, under the guidance of Prof Ramasamy, has in fact gone one step forward and introduced a golden chariot. The Chettiars, with their strong devotion to Lord Muruga, should be more embracing and compassionate towards the Malaysian Tamils instead of being stumbling block towards the revival and resurgence of the working class Tamils wanting to manage their own chariot. The Nattukotai chettiars were very exclusive in managing the chariot processions and do not want Malaysian Tamils anywhere near their deity and ceremonies during the chariot processions.

After independence, Penang and Singapore reenacted the Hindu Endowment Board Act which was introduced by the British in 1906 while Malacca did not. Since the takeover by DAP/Pakatan government in 2008, there was a resurgence in the PHEB when all the assets were brought into the books and all transactions were properly recorded and maintained. The list of temples under its management increased to 8 from 5. The Endowment Board has made education its top priority. In 2015, PHEB gave RM537348 in education aid to 280 students.

While the chettiars have been collecting donation during the annual Thaipusam chariot processions, they did not provide any help towards the Malaysian Tamils or Tamil schools all these years. When PHEB ask for contributions to their scholarship fund, the chettairs promised RM10,000 per year from now onwards. The Chettiar clan claims they have given out money for the needy but they have no record of it. But this is strange as it goes counter to the chettiar trait.         

But as usual, there will be one group of Tamils who oppose the PHEB. The mostly BN-supporting Tamils can’t accept the resurgence and revival of PHEB and they want the chettiars to continue as in the past and are now blaming the PHEB for the current 2 chariot procession during Thaipusam. The long subservience to UMNO has diminished their self-confidence and they feel threatened that others can succeed where they have failed miserably. They don’t mind foreign citizens come to Malaysia once a year to manage the chariot then to encourage local bodies like penang Hindu Endowment (PHEB) to organize the chariot procession. This group creates all kinds of rumors and false claims to discredit the PHEB from successfully managing the whole Thaipusam festival.

It is time that all well-meaning Tamils and all Indians fully support the PHEB. Lets support PHEB successfully manage the Penang thaipusam festival and turn temples into knowledge and community centers with the focus on education.  

In a political crossroad, will Malaysia make critical U-turn?

Politics in Malaysia is slowly but surely being transformed beyond race and religious ideology and sentiments. Despite the continuous onslaught by UMNO propaganda that the opposition is DAP dominated, large sections of educated and urban Malays are increasingly wary and do not trust the UMNO dominated government. In 2016, Malaysians watched in disbelieve how past a UMNO president and deputy president, sat on the same side with their political adversaries from DAP, PKR and Amanah while the present UMNO president addressed a public rally together with a former foe, the PAS president. UMNO, today, is no longer the preferred choice of a large section of Malay youths. Will UMNO’s race and religion brand of politics lose its political relevance if the government of the day fails to deliver on their promises and good governance? Only time will tell. 

After the passing of Tok guru Nik Aziz, Hadi Awang has purged the party of the latter’s ardent supporters who have now formed party Amanah. Since PAS contested against UMNO in every election, the remaining PAS supporters are disillusioned with Hadi Awang’s leadership and one group has joined hands with party Bersatu and only a small group still remain loyal to Hadi’s version of PAS. It can be observed that Hadi Awang’s rattling of the proverbial cage is shallow and lacks the numbers. Supporting the corrupted UMNO and its president in the name of Islamic brotherhood does not bode well for Hadi and the Islamic party. The opposition coalition should expose Hadi’s bluff and focus on the issues at hand. The Opposition coalition must transform into a government in waiting instead of fearing Hadi’s preposterous and benign blackmails.       

The challenges and opportunities of Malaysian politics heightened in 2016 are set to continue into the New Year. The mother of all scandals, IMDB got blown up in Singapore, the US, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Hong Kong. But in Malaysia it is all honky dory and business as usual. China has capitalized on UMNO’s poor public financial management of the country to make a strategic grip on seaports, major transportation system and key investment sectors like power generation and property development in Malaysia. 1MDB seem to be the perfect scandal that China was waiting for it to colonize Malaysia economically and through Malaysia, China will set the terms and conditions for the ASEAN economic agenda. Malaysia’s ability to maintain its sovereignty and independence is doubtful. And we have to thank UMNO for this conundrum.

The rural and kampong folks are preoccupied with the increases in prices of goods and services, withdrawal of subsidies and added to that, the wastage and leakage in government agencies is high on their minds. The scandalous UMNO has lost all its incumbent advantages and is now resorting to racial gerrymandering constituencies that have different population sizes that will favor the UMNO/BN coalition. The oil blessing which has turned into curse in the form of GST and the removal of various subsidies have hit the kampong folks’ pocket badly and they are slowly coming to realize the falsehood created by UMNO. Felda folks are very unhappy with the FGV’s performance despite all the big but empty promises. GLCs receive government backed guarantees when they take loans and national budget allocations. But their contribution back to the government is minimal. There are 47 listed GLCs. They comprise only 5% of the listed companies, but they account for 42% of the total market capitalization. Fourteen of the GLCs are amongst the 30 FBMKLCI stocks. Too much vested interest from UMNO is hindrance to these GLCs and are an albatross to greater performance and innovation thus preventing new technologies from emerging.

This New Year, 2017, seem a promising year for the much delayed political change to finally take place. The BN Government will deploy all kinds of deceitful and underhanded tactics to remain in power. But time is running out on them. The younger Malays and second generation Felda settlers are seeing through the 1MDB, FGV, GST scandals as well as facing the huge pinch of the withdrawal of subsidies and realizing that they deserve a better government that truly delivers.

When change is the mood and order of the day, the Indian community should also join hands to bring about a more inclusive government. The MIC and their friends are too busy delivering pathetic handouts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib to realize that they are too little and too late. Let’s join the all Malaysians to bring about the much delayed and denied political change to our beloved country.           


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