MOM: Bid to make festival a public holiday will stir competing claims

MOM: Bid to make festival a public holiday will stir competing claims

Any move to make Thaipusam a public holiday again could see other communities make similar demands.

But Singaporeans should be able to make arrangements to observe their religious festivals, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said yesterday, and urged employers "to make it possible for Singaporeans of all faiths to observe their respective religious festivals".

There has been a call from some Singaporeans to reinstate Thaipusam as a public holiday, which it was until 1968.

A petition launched by educator Sangeetha Thanapal on campaign site has already attracted nearly 20,000 signatures.

A planned Hong Lim Park rally supporting this tomorrow has been cancelled after police rejected organiser Gilbert Goh's application for a permit.

A police statement said: "The planned event runs a significant risk of public disorder and could incite feelings of hostility between different racial and religious groups in Singapore."

The call to make Thaipusam a public holiday has attracted debate online.

Some argued that Hindus here should have another public holiday on top of Deepavali, because the Chinese, Christians and Muslims have two each.

MOM, in a letter to The Straits Times, gave the historical context to the 11 public holidays in Singapore which, it said, is "neither high nor low" when compared to the number of holidays other countries had.

In 1968, with the British planning to pull out its forces and as a new nation trying to find its economic place in the world, the Government decided to cut the number of holidays from 16.

But this was done only after "careful consultation with various (religious) groups", MOM said.

"Muslims chose to give up Prophet Muhammad'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. The Hindus had to choose between Thaipusam and Deepavali as a public holiday, and chose the latter.

"The Buddhists, who comprised the largest faith and had only one public holiday to begin with, Vesak Day, were not asked to offer cuts."

To change the current status quo "will immediately invite competing claims and necessitate considerable renegotiation with all communities", MOM said.

Meanwhile, Mr Goh posted on Facebook that there will not be another rally to replace tomorrow's.

On Thursday, Ms Sangeetha posted her decision to pull out as a speaker for the event, saying that too many of those due to speak were not from the Indian- Hindu community.

This article was first published on Feb 14, 2015.
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