Parliament Sitting on Deepavali Eve Issue

October 11th, 2011 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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The parliament sitting on 25th October, a day before Deepavali  is causing some negative news. Obviously those involved should know that the next day is Deepavali and that chances are high the sitting will drag until night. Of course, being people’s representatives, one can expect the MPs to brave through such inconveniences and challenges.

Being Hindus, its important to fulfill one’s dharma (duties).  So,  if its critical to be in the Dewan on that day, then the relevant MPs should be there. However, if there’s nothing much involving them, then I’m sure their absence will be accepted. You can imagine MPs balik kampung to their constituencies to celebrate with the constituents, which is also part of their duty.

DAP’s Kulasegaran had raised the issue with Minister Nazri and the Dewan Rakyat Speaker, so I hope these people will make the right decision. Perhaps can adjourn the session by late afternoon as a  mark of respect/muhibbah (whatever you want to call it) for the diverse cultures and religions in the country. Of course if the sitting is adjourned for the whole day, it would be good news for the relevant MPs.

Worse case, as mentioned above, the Hindu MPs can inform in advance of their absence to the relevant people.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

However, how about the civil servants on duty, the reporters, and others who are involved in the parliament sittings? They would also be affected if the sitting runs into night. Well, yes, its their duty as well. Probably they can try make arrangements to get colleagues who are not celebrating to cover their shift.

Interestingly, this time around MIC was able to get IPTAs to provide extra days off for Deepavali. I think the fact that semester is starting in September is also partly a reason, since the semester exams won’t be near Deepavali.

Deepavali, being a religious event, involve prayers on the eve (for the departed). However, probably the lack of exposure of the planners/authorities led to this situation. We can’t ignore this because the lack of proper exposure to the diverse background of Malaysians and too much focus on only one segment of the society (from school till tertiary education) may have led to this condition. Perhaps those in charge (not only in parliament, but in schools, IPTAs, and other dept/agencies) should be given some knowledge through courses/seminars on the diverse cultures. If not we can expect this issue to occur again and again.

So, while one hand we expect the elected representatives to do their duty, I also expect that sensitivity, acceptance and common sense is also used when making preparations. After all, if this was eve of Hari Raya or Chinese New Year or X’mas, would there be a sitting? Hypothetical question, of course. Perhaps someone should check the records and verify if there were any cases of parliament sitting being held on eve of other major religious festivals.

Wonder if we can say that the sensitivities of the majority is more important than the sensitivities of the minority. I hope not.

DAP parliamentarians have expressed displeasure that Parliament will remain in session on Oct 25, the eve of the Hindu festival of Deepavali.

“This year, Deepavali falls on Oct 26. I am therefore surprised that a parliamentary meeting has been scheduled on Oct 25,” Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran told a press conference in the Parliament lobby today.

Reading out a joint statement, he said the situation would hamper preparations to hold ‘open house’ on Oct 26, as well as disrupt prayers for ancestors that are traditionally conducted on the eve by those observing the festival.

“The party hereby calls on the prime minister who is the government leader in the House to cancel the Oct 25 meeting, as it is a practice for Hindus to pray to their ancestors on the eve of Deepavali and (hold an annual) reunion with family members,” Kulasegaran said.

He pointed out that the all the main roads would be congested on Oct 25, making it difficult for the Hindu MPs to get home from Parliament.

“This morning (M) Manogaran (Teluk Intan MP, left) and I met de facto law minister (Mohd) Nazri (Abdul) Aziz and speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia and requested them to vacate the sitting on Oct 25. Both agreed to consider our request favourably and will revert soon,” he said.

The DAP representatives questioned the premier’s sincerity in announcing that issues faced by Indian Malaysians would be resolved – for instance, examination dates have often clashed with that of the festival.

They recalled that, when launching the 1Malaysia India Students Movement at Universiti Malaya in July, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had announced that public tertiary institutions would revamp their curriculum and examination schedules to ensure that these do not clash with Deepavali.

Najib was also quoted to have said the decision would resolve the two-decade-old problem affecting Indian students, who have had to miss the celebrations as their examinations have almost always fallen a day before – or even on the day of – the festival.

“Would this have happened if it were Hari Raya?” asked Batu Kawan MP P Ramasamy who was present.

‘Be sensitive in fixing schedules’

If the premier’s promise holds true, the DAP members said, the government should show the same sensitivity in scheduling sittings of Parliament and government functions.

“This could well be an oversight, but it certainly reflects the need for government officers who are involved in planning meetings to have better knowledge of all festivals (observed),” stressed Kulasegaran.


There was a side issued raised, about the teachers and exam papers.

I did some checking: between 2008 and 2010, the exams dates are such that it doesn’t fall within a week or two of Hari Raya. The nearest was in 2009, where UPSR ended about 10 days before Hari Raya. For this year, the last day of PMR is about 2 weeks before Deepavali, so I think there’s ample time for the teachers involved to mark the exam papers and return them on time. Unless the answer scripts are delivered late and teachers end up having just few days to mark.

Anyway, here its mentioned “to check exam papers” so not sure what that means. But to arrange it on the next day after a public holiday is only inviting bad publicity because if the teachers take leave to balik kampung, they are forced to come back or cancel the festival plans. Not exactly a good motivation or planning by employers.

Meanwhile, Manoharan slammed the education ministry for assigning Indian Hindu teachers to check PMR question papers the day after Deepavali.

“It is embarrassing to assign Indian teachers to check question papers when they will be celebrating Deepavali. We want the education ministry to revoke the idea as well,” he said.


In short, if its not critical (life and death) matter, can always postpone. No big deal. Unless you are the type of sadistic employer that likes to torture employees.


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