At a post-Thaipusam dialogue held in the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple yesterday, Mar 25, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam addressed the concerns of the Indian community regarding the Hindu festival.
The audience consisted of about 200 people, including Hindu community leaders, bloggers and kavadi carriers, according to a report by Todayonline.
This year's St Patrick's Day celebrations were granted a permit by the police last week. Netizens have since highlighted the comparisons between Thaipusam and other cultural events.
All religious foot processions have been banned in Singapore since 1964, after inter-religious riots occurred. Hindus were given an exemption on three occasions — Thaipusam, Panguni Uthiram and Thimithi, said the Minister, adding that all past applications for other forms of religious foot processions were rejected.
Shanmugam also noted that while St Patrick's Day was celebrated as a religious event in Ireland, in Singapore it was treated as a secular and cultural event. Moreover, it came with a “series of conditions”, stipulating that no religious elements are to be exhibited or displayed during the event – including religious symbols, music, attire or rituals.
While there is still the likelihood of cultural events being a “flashpoint” exists, it is “not as high” as that of religious events, said Shanmugam.
Participants of the dialogue session raised questions regarding the restrictions on live music along the procession, which they felt was an important part of the festival celebrations. Shanmugam's response was that he was prepared to relook restrictions on the matter. Possible changes include allowing registered volunteer musicians to play, and allowing more live music points for future Thaipusam processions.
In 1973, fights between competing groups resulted in a ban on playing of musical instruments during Thaipusam. This was relaxed in late-2015 and live music was allowed at the festival from 2016, via three live music points along the procession route.