The Government has agreed to most of the recommendations by the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) on Thaipusam, which includes reinforcing the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol during the annual procession.
More religious music for devotees in the form of “music points” at seven locations on the Thaipusam route will also be added, said the HEB in a press release on Wednesday (Dec 2).
The third recommendation, which calls for the improvement of the movement and flow of devotees along the route, will allow for the last kavadi – intricate structures of steel and wood incorporating body piercings – to leave the Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple at 7pm.
These come after HEB completed a public feedback exercise – conducted over 10 sessions with more than 100 participants – on the religious festival.
HEB said it had taken “serious note” of the Government’s view that the primary concern was to tackle disorderly behaviour that occurred during the procession earlier this year.
The Feb 4 procession was marred by the arrest of three Singaporean men who were involved in a scuffle with police officers along Desker Road.
The trio were said to have hurled vulgarities at officers and injured one of them. They were later charged for disorderly behaviour and attacking police officers.
They were allegedly part of a group which hired drummers in the procession, with the altercation arising when they were told by the police to stop playing.
The incident, which was further inflamed by untrue remarks spread on social media, sparked a public outcry over the banning of music at Thaipusam, and led to Law Minister K. Shanmugam addressing the issue.
In a separate statement, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said its priority was to ensure public safety and maintain law and order.
It added that the foot procession “presents unique challenges in maintaining law and order”, as it draws around 10,000 devotees who walk more than 3km through the heart of Singapore over 26 hours. Thousands of supporters and onlookers also throng the route.
“The Police’s approach is to strike a balance between facilitating the procession and ensuring law and order,” said the statement.
“The actions of a few individuals can easily disrupt the event and risk the safety of other devotees and the public.”
Besides agreeing to the seven additional music points, which include four music transmission points and three live music instrument points, the SPF is also introducing resting bays and a dedicated lane for women and children devotees along Clemenceau Avenue.
HEB added in its press release: “The vast majority of participants are law-abiding and fulfil their religious obligations in an orderly manner. It is a small minority who seem to cause disturbance.
“Rules are therefore needed to ensure that the majority enjoy a safe and orderly Thaipusam.”
Later this month, HEB will start briefing participants of next year’s Thaipusam, which takes place on Jan 24.