Train priests locally, Malaysia tells Sikhs

April 20th, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 20 (IANS) The Malaysian government has advised the 100,000-strong Sikh community in the country to train priests locally to reduce dependence on those from India. But the Sikhs have cited problems similar to those of the much larger Tamil Hindu community.

“Local Sikh youths are not willing to work for a pay of RM 700 to 800 (around $250). Furthermore, in-depth training is required,” Malaysian Gurudwaras Council secretary Malkith Singh said Saturday after a Sikh delegation met Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

The learning of Punjabi was limited, Malkith Singh said.

“All Punjabi language schools are run on a voluntary basis without any grant from the government,” he said.

The Hindus, predominantly Tamils, had a relief after prolonged representations, when the cabinet approved last week renewal of visas and permits for Hindu priests, musicians and artisans from India.

In the case of the Tamils, the priest must learn scriptures in Sanskrit and must remain vegetarian, the government was told.

Most ethnic Indians, who form eight percent of Malaysia’s 28-million population, settled here during the British era.

Malkith Singh said the Sikh body proposed to purchase a building for RM 1 million ($4.5 million) to replace the current single-room office at the Sikh Gurudwara in the Sentul area.

The council also wants to establish a legal aid and counselling centre for Sikhs next month.

The council Friday evening hosted Baisakhi Dinner 2008. Razak could not attend, but was represented by Deputy Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Hasan Malek, the Star newspaper said Sunday.

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