KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan today continued to criticise Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor over the PAS-led state government’s decision to not observe a state holiday for the religious festival Thaipusam this year.
Saravanan, who is also MIC deputy president, said that the relationship between the Indian-based party and PAS has been under strained ever since Sanusi became Kedah mentri besar.
“MIC has always had a cordial relationship with PAS at all levels, but our ties with the party is tested after the appointment of Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor as the Kedah mentri besar.
“I sincerely hope that the PAS leadership will educate him on how to lead in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia.
“A mentri besar should be a leader for all races in the state and not trample on the rights of other races for the sake of his popularity,” Saravanan said in a three-page statement issued today with the human resources minister letterhead and in both his government and party capacities.
Both PAS and MIC are part of the ruling government at the federal level.
Noting that Sanusi had responded today to his criticism yesterday over Thaipusam not being observed as a state-level public holiday in Kedah, Saravanan however argued that the Kedah leader had “missed the point in the whole controversy”.
Saravanan did not accept Sanusi’s argument that the Thaipusam decision was not meant to deny the rights of Hindus in Kedah to celebrate the festival, saying that such an explanation did not “make sense”.
Saravanan said the Kedah mentri besar should understand that Hindus in Kedah were happy after Thaipusam was declared a state-level public holiday in Kedah, with this being enjoyed over the last two years.
“Thaipusam is also a state public holiday in several other states, but no other state government had revoked it unlike Kedah under the PAS government,” he said in the same statement today.
“We in MIC are not using this issue as a tool to further our political ambition, but it is the Kedah mentri besar who is using race and religion for his political gains in the state,” he claimed.
While acknowledging that the Covid-19 pandemic fight is Malaysia’s priority now, Saravanan said that giving a public holiday for Thaipusam would not change anything under the recent lockdown.
“The mentri besar’s ‘advice’ that MIC lobbies the federal government for a gazetted national holiday for Thaipusam, is also amateurish as he surely knows the time consumed to bring about such a move,” he said.
Saravanan also challenged Sanusi to name who were the three groups of Hindus that he had claimed to have met before announcing that the special state holiday for Thaipusam would not be observed in Kedah this year.
“The Kedah mentri besar should have held a proper meeting with all the representatives of the Hindu community, including political parties, before making a decision on the matter,” Saravanan argued, adding that such meetings should not be one-way meeting without obtaining proper feedback.
Also in the same statement, Saravanan said that the ethnic Indian voters in Kedah would be important in elections despite being a minority community.
“I also wish to remind the mentri besar that although there are only 6.8 per cent of Indians in the state, this small percentage can make a big difference when it comes to the General Election,” he said.
Today, Sanusi was reported by national news agency Bernama as saying that Thaipusam had not been a public holiday in Kedah in the past, except for the last two years where it was made “cuti peristiwa” or as a special holiday in the state.
Sanusi said that Thaipusam was still celebrated freely in Kedah even before it was made a cuti peristiwa in the past, and said the decision this year to not observe Thaipusam on January 28 as such a state-level holiday is not intended to deny Hindus’ rights and that they can still celebrate while complying with standard operating procedures under the movement control order.
Sanusi said MIC could ask the federal government to announce Thaipusam as a public holiday for the entire country if the party wanted it to be observed as a public holiday.
Sanusi had yesterday announced the Kedah state government’s decision regarding Thaipusam, with the announcement attracting criticism from politicians, including from Saravanan.
In a statement last night also issued in both his capacities and under his government post’s letterhead, Saravanan said the federal government has never revoked any public holidays for any community ever since Covid-19 started spreading in Malaysia last year, and questioned if the Kedah state government intends to also cancel other public holidays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.