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“Executive functions of Penang Hindu Endowments Board are with the state not fed govt” – Ramasamy

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COMMENT BY PROF DR P.RAMASAMY,
INTERIM COUNCIL CHAIRMAN, URIMAI PARTY

Executive functions of Penang Hindu Endowments Board are with the state not fed govt

As reported by FMT (January 5, 2024) that the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) has been taken over by the national unity ministry might be misleading.

The PHEB from the time of its creation under colonial Hindu Endowments Ordinance in 1906 has been the entity under the state. So, was the creation of Hindu Endowments Boards in Singapore and Melaka.

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Like Penang, these were Straits Settlements states of the colonial government. After independence in 1957, relevant colonial legislations such as the Hindu Endowments Ordinance were placed under the federal government.

A look at the Constitution will reveal that endowments such as the Hindu Endowments come under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The Melaka Hindu Endowments Board that created after the formation of the PHEB has disappeared without a trace.

Recents attempts to revive the Melaka Hindu Endowments Board has not been successful.

With the independence of Singapore in 1965, the Singapore Hindu Endowments Board has been placed under the Singapore Hindu Endowments Board Act.

Penang was the first state to create a Hindu Endowments Board. If I am not mistaken, the establishment of a Hindu Endowments Board in Tamil Nadu, India, followed the example of Penang.

Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA) was a special federal agency created to financially assist the Indian community. It is a special purpose vehicle.

Since the Hindu Endowments Ordinance was placed under the purview of the federal government after independence, from time to time, the PHEB was assigned to a particular department or ministry for the purpose of submission of accounts including the presentation of annual reports to the Parliament.

Insofar as the PHEB is concerned, the federal government has a formal role, not an executive one. The commissioners and the chairman of the PHEB are are appointed by the state executive council with the consent provided by the Governor.

The executive functions of the PHEB are with the Penang state government. Presently, the PHEB manages the properties, about 13 temples, burial grounds and others. The PHEB organises the annual Thaipusam festival in the state.

It is not correct to say that the management of the PHEB has been taken over by the national unity ministry.

Neither should the minister of the national unity ministry give the impression that with the assignment of both Mitra and the PHEB under his purview, problems of the Indian community could be taken care of.

In fact, during the days when I was the chairman of the PHEB, it was assigned to the human resource ministry. Earlier, it was under a different ministry.

Assigning the PHEB to ministries or departments is nothing new or unique. It has been done in the past as required by the law especially for reasons of accountability. The present assignment of PHEB to be placed under the national unity ministry is a continuation of the past practice.

It is unfortunate that even the present board members including the chairman of the PHEB don’t really understand the broader legal framework in which the board operates.
The PHEB is not Mitra, it is a legislative mechanism to protect and safeguard Hindu properties especially temples.

This is why when I was the chairman of the PHEB I sought the help of the federal government to establish Hindu Endowments Boards in other states with large Hindu populations.

It should not be forgotten that Hindu Endowments Board is not a religious organisation but an organisation meant to administer the affairs of Hindus in the country.

Yet there are Hindu religious organisations in the country who are vehemently opposed to the creation of Hindu Boards, essentially as statutory bodies.

I hope that the matter of the ritualistic placement of PHEB under federal ministry or department is not misinterpreted as takeover of the board by the federal government.