Thaipusam Singapore holiday issue – Ministry of Manpower replied why
“Thaipusam as public holiday: MOM replies”
– Ministry of Manpower, 14 February 2015
- We appreciate the perspectives shared by many Singaporeans on Thaipusam.
- As many have noted, Thaipusam was a public holiday until 1968. Faced with the British withdrawal and the need to compete in global markets, the government decided to reduce the total number of public holidays, among other things.
- The decision on which public holidays to give up was reached only after careful consultation with religious groups. Muslims chose to give up Prophet Muhamed’s Birthday as well as an extra day for Hari Raya Puasa. Christians chose to give up the Saturday after Good Friday and Easter Monday. Hindus had to choose between Thaipusam and Deepavali, and chose the latter.
- Buddhists, who comprised the largest faith and had only one public holiday to begin with, Vesak Day, were not asked to give it up. Some groups continued to celebrate their important religious occasions, such as Vesakhi for the Sikhs and Lao-Tzu’s Birthday for the Taoists, without these being public holidays.
- The 11 public holidays that we now enjoy is neither high nor low when compared to other countries. New Zealanders, Canadians and the French enjoy the same number. Malaysia and Indonesia enjoy more days, but we have a few more than developed countries like Holland , Britain and Germany.
- But beyond numbers and economics, our calendar of public holidays is a reflection of our multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. There is much value and meaning attached to each of our festivals, including Thaipusam, both among that particular group and Singaporeans generally.
- But any move to reinstate any one festival as a public holiday will invite competing claims, and necessitate considerable renegotiation with all communities. Balancing the wishes of each community will not be a simple matter. Neither can we simply re-allocate public holidays by ethnic group, as amongst both Chinese and Indians we have citizens of different faiths.
- While we will ensure that all Singaporeans can practise their faiths freely, we cannot make all important festivals of all faiths public holidays. But it must always be possible for Singaporeans to make arrangements to observe their respective religious festivals, and we encourage all employers to show understanding and flexibility in this regard.
- We have learnt to live harmoniously with each other, with everyone making some compromises for the greater good. This has served us well for five decades and remains the best way for Singapore.
Thaipusam Singapore holiday issue – Yahoo article
“Why Thaipusam is no longer a public holiday in Singapore”
– Yahoo, 14 February 2015
The manpower ministry says Thaipusam is no longer a public holiday in Singapore because it was one of several religious observances that were given up by various religious leaders in 1968.
In a letter to the Singaporean Today newspaper on Friday evening, Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s Workplace Safety and Strategy Division director Alvin Lim said the religious public holidays were given up due to the need to compete in the global market, following the withdrawal of British colonial troops.
His letter could be viewed as a response to claims that public holidays here were allocated by race, as opposed to what it actually is — religion.
Muslims, he said, chose to give up the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as well as an additional day after Hari Raya Puasa. Christians chose the Saturday and Monday that followed Good Friday and Easter Sunday respectively. Hindus chose between Thaipusam and Deepavali, and opted to give up the former.
“These were difficult decisions for the leaders of each faith,” said Lim. “The Buddhists, who comprised the largest faith and had only one public holiday to begin with, Vesak Day, were not asked to offer cuts. Some groups continued to mark their significant religious occasions, such as Vesakhi for the Sikhs and Lao-Tzu’s Birthday for the Taoists, without these being public holidays.”
Why music is banned during Thaipusam processions
Speaking on the ban on playing musical instruments, Singapore’s Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) said it had over the years received complaints about disorderly and disruptive behaviour that detracted from the spiritual experience of the procession.
HEB explained in a statement published on The Straits Times website, also released on Friday, that it had over the years negotiated for relaxation of certain aspects of the law on behalf of the Hindu community.
Among these were allowing singing religious hymns along the route, and, in 2012, having static points along the procession route for the broadcast of religious hymns. Music has always been allowed at the start and end points, within temple grounds, the HEB added.
The HEB also said it counsels kavadi bearers individually on the rules governing the procession two weeks before it takes place. At these sessions, kavadi bearers sign undertakings to abide by the law. However, some still engage music groups to accompany them. It is on these occasions, when HEB marshals are unable to seek their cooperation, that police are called in.
“The HEB does not believe that it is necessary to tighten the conditions for the procession,” the statement said. “In fact, contrary to public misperception, we have never made representations to the authorities to move in this direction.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also released a statement on Friday responding to “misrepresentations and rumours online and offline” regarding the Thaipusam procession, as well as the incident relating to the three men who were charged with disorderly behaviour.
“If such activities are deemed to incite enmity between different communities and races, the Police will investigate and take firm action against anyone responsible for such offences,” the statement said. “Singaporeans should reject such actions and never allow them to take root in our society. ”
MHA also stressed that opinions and accounts regarding the three men, excluding a fourth individual who on the same day was arrested for possession of “offensive weapons”, are subject to ongoing investigations. The ministry also added that the allegation by a woman that she was pushed to the ground by police officers is being investigated by the Police Internal Affairs Office.