My mother-in-law recently recalled her childhood years and her fond memories of accompanying the kavadi processions during Thaipusam from Petain Road to Tank Road.
Although she is not a Hindu, she enjoyed the sounds and colours of the festivities at a time when Thaipusam was an official public holiday. This was, and should be, the multiculturalism that makes Singapore exceptional. I was shocked to read that this, along with other events, like Prophet Muhammad's birthday, were removed as public holidays as part of the Government's plans to improve productivity ("Holidays cut after consultations"; last Saturday).
From 16, Singapore now has 11 public holidays. Suggestions to reinstate Thaipusam have been rejected with the reason that it would adversely impact business cost.
The argument for the reduction of the number of public holidayswas based on the premise of a Third World city-state which desperately needed to attract foreign investment by offering a "hard-working" workforce.
Now, five decades later, it is a completely different environment. For a country that places paramount emphasis on community bonding and multiculturalism, and for a First World economy and society with a shrinking birth rate due to a workforce that has one of the longest working hours in the world, I do not see why this argument should still hold.
Liew Kai Khiun
Straits Times Reader
This article was first published on February 10, 2015.
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