Hindu temple management committees in Pahang seems to be in a quandary over the move to re-open temples located in green zones starting June 10 onwards.
The prominent Sri Marathandavar Aalayam temple in Sungai Jerik, Maran is the only temple in Pahang given permission to reopen next week while other temples that wish to reopen can submit their application online before 3pm on June 7.
Some temples are not in favour of the move as the premises will operate only for two days in a week – Fridays and Saturdays – between 6pm and 9pm while some claim they need to open the doors, as the temple had no revenue and zero collection since the movement control order was implemented on March 18.
Maran’s Sri Marathandavar Aalayam Temple president G. Ramakrishnan said he was unsure about the crowd as the temple will only be opened for three hours in the evening and limited people are allowed in at a time.
“The Maran temple is usually crowded during the mornings till late noon. However, next week we can only operate between late evening till night… since inter-district travelling is allowed, people from other parts of the state might travel here and many would be eager to drop by as they have been unable to go to the temple since March.
“The main committee will hold a meeting this weekend to discuss the Standing Operating Procedures (SOP) stipulated by the Ministry of Unity and Malaysian Hindu Sangam. It is going to be a totally new experience for the management and devotees,” he said when contacted.
Ramakrishnan said the temple will station a committee member at the entrance to record the devotees full details and advice them on the floor markings, and maintaining social distancing during prayers.
Meanwhile, a temple chairman who declined to be named said it was not practical to open the premises for six hours over two days and then close it for the next five days.
“The decision to reopen temples might have been made a little too soon as it would have been better to wait a little longer once the situation further improves Although there is no compulsion for the temples to reopen but temple have also suffered a loss of income.
“Temples have not been doing any cash collection or receiving any donation as all the Thiruvizha (an annual celebration) has been called-off but they still have to pay the priest, helpers and cleaners. Temple managements are in a dilemma if they should reopen or wait till the pandemic situation gets better,” he said, adding the chosen Hindu temples will reopen on June 12.
Meanwhile, Pahang Hindu Sangam chairman N. Athimulam agreed there has been mixed reactions from temple managements towards the move to reopen temples but felt that “something is better than nothing”.
He said as long as temples strictly adhered to the SOP and ensured devotees complied to the guidelines then there should be no issues.
“So far only the Maran temple has received the green light to reopen next week but other temples can appeal and I have sent the forms to the temples located in green zones…it is up to them to decide and the final decision will be made by the National Security Council.
“Temples must follow the SOP including not allowing elderly people above 70-years-old and children below the age of 12 into the premises, ensure devotees wear face masks, provide hand sanitisers and record their temperatures,” he said, adding the approval to operate will be revoked by the authorities if they violate the SOP.
It is learnt that a maximum of 30 people including the priest and his helper are allowed inside the temple premises at a time and upon completing their prayers, the devotees will have to leave the temple area.
Last week, National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique, in a letter, announced a total of 84 Hindu temples in green zones nationwide were allowed to re-open on June 10.