Friday June 22, 2012
Dance groups unhappy over being denied use of auditorium
By ANDREA FILMER
GEORGE TOWN: Indian dance groups are seeking an explanation after a request to book Taman Budaya Negeri’s P. Ramlee Auditorium was allegedly rejected on religious grounds.
Penang Hindu Association deputy president P. Murugiah said a request had been made to book the hall for a salangai pooja ceremony, an occasion when an Indian classical dancer is granted anklets by her teacher for the first time.
“During the ceremony, a short blessing is made for the students and a statue or photo of the lord Shiva is placed on the right-hand side of the stage.
“The blessing only takes about five minutes, but we have been informed that due to this, we cannot use the auditorium,” Murugiah claimed.
He said the association had hand-delivered a written request to book the hall to the Penang National Culture and Arts Department (JKKN) in Lintang P. Ramlee on June 5.
Murugiah said the association received a call two days later saying that the request had been denied on the basis that religious ceremonies were not allowed on the stage.
He said a written rejection stated that the reason was because the hall was booked for another function.
“We have been doing the salangai pooja ceremony at the P. Ramlee Auditorium for at least two years without problems.
“We don’t understand why this new ruling has come into effect. It is contradictory to the concept of 1Malaysia and the Rukun Negara,” said Murugiah, urging the Indian Affairs Department in the Prime Minister’s Department to look into the matter.
The Temple of Fine Arts, based in Brickfields, said they had a similar experience when booking the P. Ramlee Auditorium for a solo dance ceremony.
When contacted, Penang JKKN said its department director Mariam Sulaiman was not available for comment as she was in Kuala Lumpur.
Penang Town and Country Planning, Housing and Arts Committee chairman Wong Hon Wai said the auditorium was under federal jurisdiction.
“However, there should be no problem for public halls to be used for religious functions as they are meant for public purposes.
“For example, Dewan Sri Pinang has been used for state Wesak Day celebrations, Hindu functions, Christian meets and Muslim activities. We all should respect the right of freedom of religion as stated in the Federal Constitution,” Wong said.