Policies on religious celebrations referenced with other religions: Shanmugam
PUBLISHED ON 27 Mar 2018
Singapore takes a stricter view on religious events as they are more likely to become flash points as compared to cultural ones, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam at a post-Thaipusam dialogue with the Hindu community.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised, “Government policy-making does not operate in a vacuum in Singapore… What can and cannot be allowed for Thaipusam has to be by reference to what is allowed and is not allowed for the other religions. You cannot divorce the two.”

The dialogue was conducted after a few online posts surfaced comparing Thaipusam and St Patrick’s Day celebrations, pointing out that the Government was being unfair in its restrictions as St Patrick’s Day celebrations included a parade of bagpipers and drummers. Live music during Thaipusam was first banned in 1973 because of rivalry and fights which disrupted the procession. The ban was softened in 2016, allowing approved musicians to play specified traditional instruments at three points along the procession route.

On comparisons between St Patrick’s Day and Thaipusam, Mr Shanmugam noted that the former honours a patron saint for Ireland and is celebrated as a cultural event in Singapore, and Thaipusam is one of the three religious festivals that is celebrated with a procession in Singapore.
“St Patrick’s Day in Singapore comes with a series of conditions. There should be no religious symbols, there should be no religious music, there should be no religious gear. In Singapore, we require them to celebrate in a cultural way,” he added.