Malaysia Hindu Sangam has been receiving numerous complaints from local Hindu temples relating to the problems these temples face in applying, renewing or adding the duration of the professional visit pass for their temple priests, musicians and sculptors to the Department of Immigration and Ministry of Home Affairs.
Based on the survey by Malaysia Hindu Sangam, there are a total of 2,300 Hindu temples in the country.
Currently, we have 600 local and 250 foreign priests, serving in these temples.
This means we have a shortage of about 1,500 priests in the country.
The shortage of Hindu temple priests is acute and this hampers the performance of daily rituals and ‘poojas' in the temples and the Hindu community is unable to fulfill their daily prayer obligations and duties.
In addition to this shortage, the application for bringing in priests, musicians and sculptors is beset with many difficulties and hindrances.
Each application to the Department of Immigration must be accompanied by a support letter from an Indian minister.
At that time, Minister of Human Resources Dr S Subramaniam, was the sole Indian minister and he was authorised to issue these support letters.
These support letters were issued only for Hindu priests.
For priests of other religions, they need to submit only support letters from their respective religious associations.
Hindu priests upon their arrival, have to undergo special a induction course conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources.
This special course is held only for Hindu priests and priests from other religions do not have to attend this course.
At times, when the holding of this course is delayed, temples have to obtain a ‘special pass' for their temple priests.
To apply for this, they have to obtain approval letters from an Indian minister and also from the Malaysia Hindu Sangam.
Temples have to pay RM100 to the Department of Immigration every month to obtain this special pass pending the approval of their professional visit pass for their temple priests by Department of Immigration.
This monthly renewal of special pass is an added cost to these temples.
Furthermore, the delay in conducting the induction course by Ministry of Human Resource is further causing difficulties to these temples.
To overcome these difficulties Malaysia Hindu Sangam has proposed to the Ministry of Human Resources that Malaysia Hindu Sangam be given the approval to conduct this course for temple priests.
But for the past few months, these problems have become serious because temples are unable to obtain these support letters from the Indian ministers.
Earlier there was only one Indian minister in the cabinet.
Now, we have two Indian ministers in the cabinet and there is uncertainty as to which minister is responsible for issuing these support letters.
Though this matter, on numerous occasions, has been brought to the attention of our Indian ministers, but to date there has been no solutions to these problems.
Therefore, Malaysia Hindu Sangam would like to urge our prime minister and the minister of home affairs to resolve these problems faced by the Hindu temples in this country as soon as possible.
RS MOHAN SHAN is president of Malaysia Hindu Sangam.