GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) has rejected the idea the introduction of a Golden Chariot at the Thaipusam celebration this year was an attempt to hijack the festival.
Deputy Chief Minister II and PHEB chairman P. Ramasamy said the board was a statutory body of the state government and so the Golden Chariot will belong to all Hindus.
He said this was unlike the Silver Chariot, used for some 100 years in previous Thaipusam celebrations in Penang, which was managed by the Nattukottai Chettiars.
He said the Silver Chariot was not owned nor managed by the PHEB or the Arulmigu Sri Ganesha Temple which is popularly known as the Hilltop Temple.
Ramasamy said the idea for the Golden Chariot did not come about overnight as former PHEB chairman, Bagan Dalam assemblyman A. Tanasekharan, brought up the matter in 2009.
He said the launch of the Golden Chariot was an attempt on the part of the majority of Hindus in Penang to assert their rights.
“We will have a Golden Chariot come this Thaipusam,” he said in a press conference on the issue today.
The RM3 million, 4.3m tall Golden Chariot will begin its journey on Thaipusam eve from the Arulmigu Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at Lebuh Queen to the Arulmigu Sri Ganesha Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga.
The journey for the 7.3m-tall Silver Chariot begins at the Kovil Veedu in Lebuh Penang to the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga.
On the accountability of the PHEB regarding donations collected during the festival, Ramasamy said the money will be kept in a safe in Komtar after the festival.
He said the money will be counted and tallied publicly and pointed out the PHEB accounts was audited by the Auditor-General and the report submitted to Parliament and could be up for debate if the matter was raised.
He also questioned what happened to the donations collected by the Chettiars over the years.
“After collecting money from the public for over 100 years, where did the money go?” he asked.