Strict SOPs dampen Thaipusam celebratory mood

by SHAFIQQUL ALIFF / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MANY traders in Batu Caves are left disappointed by the government’s decision to limit business operating hours in the temple area ahead of the Thaipusam celebration tomorrow.

Praveena Thavachelah, 25, who runs the family business for the third generation at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple, Batu Caves, said the upcoming Thaipusam will affect their sales very badly since the government allowed not more than 6,000 visitors and devotees per day.

“I hope that the government can be more lenient on the operation hours and give the time for the temple to open from morning up to night, if not on just the Thaipusam day,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.

“We had to comply when the government had negotiated with the management and given the opportunity to us to operate at the stipulated time and place so that we can get something out of nothing,” she said, adding that most traders suffered greater losses due to the inactivity during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

Praveena added that it is also upsetting when the government only allows traders who are already based here to do business and not outsiders.

Recently, National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique reminded the temple management to allow only permanent stalls under their management to operate during the Thaipusam festival and no temporary stalls in the form of promotions or sales inside or outside the temple area.

Meanwhile, Selangor assemblyman Gunaraj George (Sentosa) urged the government to review the decision to ban small traders from doing business in the temple, especially during the Thaipusam celebration.

“The economic hardships and challenges during the MCO over the past two years have had a huge impact on these small traders. This is the time they want to rise again to earn some income through the annual festivities,” he said.

Praveena also said she expects the celebration this year to be sombre amid the new normal as the government disallowed kavadi procession and only adults aged 18 above are allowed to enter the temple premises.

“The vibe will be very different but what choice do we have,” she said.

Recently, DAP’s P Ramasamy on Facebook slammed the Thaipusam standard operating procedures (SOPs), calling the National Unity Ministry ludicrous, and claimed that Halimah had earlier agreed to a chariot parade with 500 devotees instead of the 100 which she declared.

On Jan 12, Halimah announced that the SOPs for the Thaipusam festival, among others, stipulated that only the “paal koodam” ceremony or holding a pot containing milk, prayer activities and cart rides would be allowed this year.

The “paal koodam” ceremony is allowed from Friday (Jan 14) to Jan 19 with the number of attendances set according to the temple capacity, while the kavadi ritual and temporary stalls are not allowed.