Malaysian Hindus seek extended visas for priests, musicians

April 8th, 2008 - 2:15 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 8 (IANS) A group of ethnic Indians in Malaysia have urged the government to review its decision to shorten the visa period for foreign Hindu priests, temple musicians and sculptors. Malaysia Hindu Sangam President A. Vaithilingam said the cabinet’s decision made late last year had seriously affected the temples in the country.

“These foreign workers are specialists and skilled in their respective profession. They are very much needed in the large Hindu temples throughout the country,” The Star newspaper Tuesday quoted him as saying.

Vaithilingam said there were more than 17,000 Hindu temples in Malaysia but only about 180 foreign priests and 50 temple musicians.

Before December 2007, temple priests were given five-year visas, temple musicians were given three-year visas and sculptors were given six-month visas.

Vaithilingam said that after December, priests were only given extensions of about a month while sculptors were given extensions of a few days.

The Sangam had explained to the government that it was difficult to train priests from local Tamil youths in a short time because they were required to learn Sanskrit and religious scriptures and remain vegetarians.

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