PHEB holds town hall sessions to engage Hindu community in Penang

THE Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) is embarking on a mission to assist the Hindu community in Penang, said its newly appointed chairman RSN Rayer.


For a start, the PHEB held two town hall sessions, one on the island and the other on the mainland yesterday (Sept 17), to engage the Hindu community, and gather feedback on issues such as temple management, education and health.


The first session was held at Town Hall in Esplanade, followed by the second one at the Butterworth Digital Library.

Those who were present during the town hall session on the island

It is learnt that more than hundreds of participants thronged both venues, mainly temple leaders and youths.


At Town Hall, answering questions related to education, PHEB deputy chairman Senator Dr R.A. Lingeshwaran said the board has plans to increase its education funds to provide financial assistance to students for university admissions.


“Soon, we are going to launch an online application for grants for university enrollments. It has been a while since we last opened application for this grant (university admission).


“Everything will be transparent and each grant that is given out will be published by the PHEB,” he said while adding that PHEB is also planning to conduct tuition classes at temples, which will also include religious teachings.

One of the participants sharing his thoughts with the board

The participants also hoped for PHEB to play an instrumental role in providing essential knowledge related to religious and cultural studies and ensure that the Hindu community is equipped with in-depth knowledge in matters concerning religion and culture.


They also provided a few suggestions to the board for consideration.


These suggestions included the promotion of pre-marriage courses for Hindu couples and the formation of a special task-force to monitor religious events to ensure that they adhere to Hindu customs.


Apart from that, they also hoped that the PHEB could provide facilities for the devotees at the Waterfall Shree Muniswarar Temple during the Thaipusam celebration, as it serves as the starting point for their pilgrimage to the Waterfall Hilltop Temple to fulfil their vows.


Among other topics discussed were the well-being of Tamil schools, temple committee selection and concerns regarding the improper execution of funeral rites by certain funeral service companies.

Rayer answering to the questions raised by the participants at the Town Hall in Esplanade

Meanwhile, on the mainland, where most of the participants raised questions about temples under the care of PHEB, Rayer said the new board no longer intends to take over any temples in Penang but instead, it wants to focus on uplifting the Hindu community regarding education and health.


“We are here to listen to the people’s feedback and to see how we can discharge our responsibilities for the Hindu community in Penang more effectively without repeating the mistakes of the past.


“Gone are the days when the board decides on important matters and just wants the public to follow.

A youngster seen voicing out his opinion at  the townhall session on the mainland

“We are here because we want to listen to all of you and to engage more effectively as we believe PHEB belongs to each Hindu in Penang,” Rayer said while adding that donations from the board to temples in the state will also be discontinued.


It is learnt that the board will also soon set up two dialysis centres in the state, with one each on the island and mainland.


PHEB commissioner Kumaran Krishnan said that the board is focused on governing in a more proper and organised way for the benefit of the Hindu community in Penang.


“Although the topics discussed during the town hall sessions revolved around past mistakes, it is okay because the people have all the right to share their thoughts and discontentment.


“We are here to listen, and we are glad to hear many voices, which will give us a better understanding of how things should be dealt with in the future,” he added.


Also present was MIC chairman Datuk J. Dhinagaran, who said that a lot of good things will happen in the future under the new PHEB committee.



Story by Kevin Vimal & Tanushalini Moroter

Pix by Muhamad Amir Irsyad Omar & Darwina Mohd Daud