An average gurdwara in Malaysia requires about RM115,00 per annum to provide the basic services to the local Sikh community. Government funding plays a critical role when it comes to gurdwaras serving smaller communities and handling major renovations.
In view of this, the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) has requested the Federal government to restart the funding for gurdwaras and Sikh societies that began in 2011.
“After 2015, there had been a freeze (on allocations),” MGC president Jagir Singh told a gathering to honour the appointment of Gobind Singh Deo as the first Sikh to be made a federal minister in Malaysia.
Gobind was the guest of honour of the hi tea by the Sikh community led by MGC. He was accompanied by his mother Gurmit Kaur, wife of the late legendary politician and lawyer Karpal Singh.
Gobind, 45,took oath as the Minister of Communications and Multimedia on 21 May 2018 under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad which defeated the Barisan Nasional (BN) in a stunning electoral victory.
In his speech, Gobind said that though the Government was trying to reduce expenditure, ‘we must continue with contributions to the community’.
He said he had asked Jagir Singh to outline the needs of the community so that it could be extended to the Prime Minister as a first step.
“We will work with all organisations,” Jagir later told Asia Samachar.
On the long standing issue regarding granthis, Gobind said he would arrange a meeting with the Home Minister to resolve the matter.
In his speech earlier, Jagir had requested the Malaysian government to restart the annual funding to the Sikh societies and gurdwaras as well make special provision for the 550th anniversary celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak taking place in 2019.
“In the past, when we received Federal funding, we made sure all gurdwaras in Malaysia, whether or not they were members of the MGC, received funding.
“And we ensured accountability, we imposed a one hundred percent check. All payments and receipts were forwarded to the Prime Minister’s office, and also an undertaking that the monies will be used for the purposes intended,” he said.
On the estimated average annual expenditure of about RM115,000 for a gurdwara, Jagir said it included monthly salaries for granthi (RM1,00-RM2,000), cook (RM1,000), utilities (RM3,000) and utilities maintenance (RM1,000).
“Some gurdwaras are only supported by about four to five families. But the gurdwara is used when there is a festival or a wedding, and when relatives join. For these smaller gurdwaras, even the RM10,000 annual funding is helpful,” he said, referring to the previous funding carved out of the federal government assistance.
MAKE THE COMMUNITY SHINE
Moving forward, Gobind said: “We have to look at gurdwaras, but we also have to look beyond that. We have to finds ways to enhance our community.
We must inspire our young. We must ensure the youth of today are inspired, and that they understand the direction that the community has taken all these years, and that they appreciate the sacrifices of the past.”
He also called on the community members to come forward to play their part in building the community and the nation.
“Despite the heavy and hectic schedules all of us have, we are responsible for our community. We must make time.
“We must work together. We must make sure that, at the end of the day, our community remains strong, united and respected not just here in Malaysia but all over the world. That must be our priority,” he said.
Gobind said that he had received visits from many non-government organisations (NGOs) that support the Sikh community.
“Please feel free to come forward. We can sit together and discuss how we can work together so that we can improve the Sikh community in Malaysia,” he said.
At a sideline event, MGC had joined the Merdeka Day Shining Turban campaign initiated by Asia Samachar. The simple aim of the campaign is to get Sikhs to wear a turban on 31 August 2018 as Malaysia celebrates the 61st independence day.
In a symbolic gesture, Gobind held the #MerdekaDayShiningTurban campaign poster with Jagir, accompanied by Tech Line Group of Companies group managing director Mahinderjit Singh Budwal, one of the sponsors of the campaign.
Gurdwara Sahib Taiping and Wadda Gurdwara Sahib Penang are among the gurdwaras that have responded to the call of the Merdeka Day Shining Turban campaign. They will encourage their congregation members to wear a turban on Merdeka Day.
[For gurdwaras and Sikh societies that are keen to support the campaign, drop Asia Samachar a message via Facebook or Whatsapp +6017-3351399]
Newly minted minister Gobind Singh Deo visits Sikh gathering in Malacca (Asia Samachar, 25 May 2018)
Historic moment. Gobind becomes first Sikh minister in Asia outside India (Asia Samachar, 21 May 2018)
Gobind to request for federal funding for Jalan Loke Yew crematorium (Asia Samachar, 6 Aug 2018)
Merdeka Day Shining Turban (Asia Samachar, 1 Aug 2018)