CHIEF Minister Chow Kon Yeow today congratulated the Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA) and the Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee for successfully organising the Wesak Day celebration this year, which also marks the 60th anniversary of Wesak Day as a national public holiday.
He said over the past two years, the spread of the coronavirus has brought many negative economic, social and spiritual impacts around the world, including in Malaysia.
“In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, religious groups in the society have shown their spirit of helping others, working with the government to support those in need.
“Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Malaysian Buddhist Association for leading various Buddhist groups, adhering to the teachings of Buddha, showing the spirit of compassion and benefitting others, giving social care, distributing items and supporting people in need.
“The theme of this year’s Wesak Day is ‘Promote Harmony Through Mutual Respect and Helping Each Other’. This spirit is very important for Malaysia,” Chow said in his speech at the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Wesak Day as a national public holiday at the Malaysian Buddhist Association in Burma Road today.
Throngs of devotees flocked to the MBA building to pray as well as to take part in the Buddha bathing activity. However, this is the third year that MBA is not holding the annual float procession.
Among those present at the ceremony were state executive councillor Chong Eng, Bukit Bendera MP Wong Hon Wai, senator Lim Hui Ying, assemblymen Chris Lee (Pulau Tikus), Daniel Gooi (Pengkalan Kota), Ong Ah Teong (Jelutong), Joseph Ng (Air Itam), MBA president Ven Jit Heng, Penang Wesak Celebration Committee chairman Datuk Dr Loh Hock Hun, and Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (Penang Branch) chairman Tharman Anandan.
Chong Eng also commended MBA for its strong relationship with the state government and the Penang Harmony Corporation (Harmonico).
She said MBA took the initiative to encourage its devotees to get vaccinated to reach a high vaccination rate and achieve herd immunity.
“MBA’s initiative and commitment to help during the pandemic is something to admire and an inspiration for all of us to follow suit.
“The state government is very fortunate to have MBA headquarter set up in Penang and that it can become the state’s partner in time of crisis and the state’s collaborator in implementing the government’s policy to promote interaction between religions,” Chong Eng, who is in charge of the state’s Social Development and non-Islamic Religious Affairs Committee, said in her speech.
Dr Loh said it has been 73 years since the Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee was formed in 1949. While they are not holding the float procession, he said they also celebrate with Buddhists all over the country through a live broadcast celebration.
He added that besides holding the celebration to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Buddha, they also have several meaningful events such as blood donation, alms offering, charity activities and Dharma talk.
Ven Jit Heng said on Jan 3, 1962, the Federal Government declared Wesak Day as a national holiday through Radio Malaysia, which came into effect that year.
“Reviewing the application process of Wesak Day to be a national public holiday, it is the fruitful outcome of the cooperation, tolerance, respect and mutual agreement of the Buddhist elders and sages from various traditions.
“The spirit of this year’s theme is to carry out group mutual assistance with an attitude of harmony and respect, and promote the execution and negotiation of matters harmoniously,” Ven Jit Heng said.
The organisers later presented a donation of RM2,000 each to the Penang Pure Lotus Society Hospice of Compassion, the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (Penang Branch) and Wan Ching Yuen Centre.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Darwina Mohd Daud
Video by Ahmad Adil Muhamad