Temple president, MBKS Mayor adopt neutral stand on declaring Thaipusam as public holiday in Sarawak

Wee (third right) listens as Shankar (on the rostrum) speaks during the Thaipusam celebration at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple along Rock Road on Jan 25, 2024.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Jan 25: Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Association Kuching president Shankar Ram Asnani expressed that he is not particularly concerned whether Thaipusam should be declared a public holiday in Sarawak.

“I am someone who works even on a Sunday. So, I can’t really comment on it (the issue),” said Shankar who is a lawyer by profession.

He was met at the Thaipusam celebration at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple along Rock Road here which was attended by a limited number of devotees due to ongoing construction at the temple.

The significant religious event was graced by Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng.

Wee also viewed the question of whether Thaipusam should be declared a public holiday as not a big problem in Sarawak as civil servants are entitled to apply for unrecorded leave during festivals not declared as public holidays in the State.

This was in reference to the Sarawak government and the Public Services Department director-general’s decision in November last year to grant unrecorded leave to all Hindu civil servants who will be celebrating Deepavali.

“There are quite a lot of public holidays in Sarawak but of course I know people will love public holidays. However, I think that unrecorded leave would still be substantial for now.

“Celebrants still can get a day off without their salary deductions to observe the festival. I think it is a fair move,” he said, adding that the most important thing is observing the real meaning of the festival.

Sarawak is the only State in Malaysia where Thaipusam and Deepavali are not declared public holidays.

On Jan 23, several national dailies reported that Hindu doctors from the peninsula stationed in Sarawak have questioned the government’s dual standards and differential treatment of civil servants when it comes to observing Thaipusam.

A doctor was quoted as saying that Hindu civil servants were not allowed to take unrecorded leave for Thaipusam as the holy celebration is not a public holiday in Sarawak. Instead, they are only allowed to take regular leave.

Meanwhile, Tuaran Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau has urged the government to consider implementing “floating holidays” to allow Malaysians of minority heritage to observe their religious and cultural festivities.

In a statement yesterday (Jan 24), Wilfred, a former federal minister, said such a policy would allow employees to take turns celebrating their respective holidays and not feel left out.

“Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for an increase in the number of public holidays, which may reduce productivity. Instead, I am suggesting a more innovative way of managing our public holidays—keep the total constant, but allow members of a minority to trade some of the lesser holidays for their own festivals,” he said.

He also expressed hope that both the Sabah and Sarawak governments can provide leadership by example on “floating holidays”, to honour their rich heritages, making a case for West Malaysian state governments to reciprocate for Kaamatan, Kalimaran and Gawai. — DayakDaily