Ministry of Manpower weighs in on Thaipusam Holiday decision with aplomb

After a series of forum letters and even a petition, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has decided to respond to recent calls to reinstate Thaipusam as a national holiday. And the letter written by Alvin Tan, Divisional Director of Workplace Policy & Strategy Division is classier than Justin Timberlake at the Grammys.

The letter released last Friday (13 February) is pretty long, so we’ve picked out the key points just so that everyone is on the same page.

1. Holidays that we gave up

The letter observed that Singapore used to have 16 public holidays, but in a bid to remain competitive in world markets amid British withdrawal, these holidays were reduced. The Muslims, Christians, and Hindus were asked to give up holidays of significance.

The Muslims chose to give up Prophet Muhamed’s Birthday as well as an extra day for Hari Raya Puasa. The Christians, who had to give up two days as well, chose to give up the Saturday after Good Friday and Easter Monday. The Hindus had to choose between retaining Thaipusam or Deepavali as a public holiday, and chose the latter.

Guess this means Vesak Day isn’t actually for the Indian community, as previously suggested on other websites.

2. Why we can’t just reinstate a public holiday

But reinstating a holiday isn’t as easy a snapping one’s fingers. By moving to restore the status once enjoyed by Thaipusam, MOM will potentially face a deluge of requests to reinstate other holidays. Other faiths might also be unhappy, and to appease them will take some work. At the end of the day,

Balancing the wishes of each community will not be a simple matter.

3. The best way to deal with the whole saga

In order to maintain this hard-earned harmony, we should all be sensitive to all religions by allowing flexibility and compromise. Employers should allow members of different faiths to observe religiously significant days while understanding the importance of these festivals. Making sacrifices for each other should be the way to go.

While we will always ensure that all Singaporeans can practise their faiths freely, it is impractical to make all important festivals of all faiths public holidays. But it must always be possible for Singaporeans of all faiths to make arrangements to observe their respective religious festivals. We encourage all employers to show understanding and flexibility in this regard.

Kudos to the MOM for handling the public outcry so well, and keeping to the core of Singapore’s way of handling such sensitive religious affairs. Because at the end of the day, as much as we keep our faiths close to the heart, mutual respect is the Singaporean way.

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With reference via Channel NewsAsia
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