Singapore, Jan 21: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has declared Thaipusam, a festival celebrated by Hindus of South Indian origin, as public holiday in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, the new Malaysian capital.
Speaking to more than 20,000 ethnic Indians, the Prime Minister said he had considered the request by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) to declare Thaipusam a public holiday. ''They said that during Thaipusam there would be traffic jams everywhere in Kuala Lumpur and it is difficult to get to work. So let it be a holiday,'' he said.
Thaipusam, which falls on Wednesday is already a public holiday in Selangor, Penang, Perak, Negri Sembilan and Johor, the Malaysian states with singificant Indian population. However, it is not a national holiday.
''The Hindus in Malaysia have been waiting for a long time for such good news, and I hope they will not be disappointed,'' said MIC President and Works Minister S Samy Vellu welcoming the news. Vellu also conceded that there were still many unresolved grievances within the Indian community in Malaysia.
''At the heart of the problem are many issues related to delivery and implementation by the civil service and local governments.
Ethnic Indians claim they were left out of the Malaysian prosperity.'' the Malaysian media today quoted Samy Vellu as saying.
MIC is part of the ruling Barisan Nasional or National Front coalition which goes for general election in March. Mr Abdullah's United Malay National Organisation leads the coalition with Malaysian Chinese Association.
But the rally by ethnic Indians on November 25 2007 where 20,000 people participated, has brought about issues being faced by minorities in pre-dominantly Muslim Malaysia.