Singapore Police Force (SPF) has released a statement regarding the commotion between police and Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) officers and devotees during Thaipusam procession on 31 January along Serangoon Road and Selegie Road.
In the video posted by Pradeep Thana, netizens can clearly see the officers recording the devotees as they held the ceremony, causing discomfort for all of them. Mr Pradeep reported that the recording lasted for as long as 30 minutes, despite the fact that the devotees were keeping the volume down as they were aware there were a few HDB blocks around.
In the statement, the police said that outdoor religious foot processions are generally not allowed.
“The Government, however, makes an exception for the Hindu community for Thaipusam, and allows an outdoor religious foot procession, in view of the festival’s significance and importance to the community,” it said.
According to the police, over the past few years, the Police have worked with the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) to ensure that the Thaipusam foot procession takes place safely for devotees, participants and the general public, and in a manner which is considerate to residents and businesses along the route.
It noted that the restriction on the playing of musical instruments along the procession route was introduced in 1973.
“Nevertheless, in response to feedback from devotees who wanted a more vibrant event, the Police and HEB have increasingly allowed religious music over the years. Since 2011, devotees have been able to sing religious hymns along the procession if no amplification devices are used,” the police said.
“Static music transmission points were allowed in 2012 to broadcast music to devotees. The number of such music points allowed has increased from just two in 2012, to 23 since last year. Since 2016, three live music points were allowed along the procession route,” it added.
The Police stated that they are aware of videos circulating online of a kavadi procession at this year’s Thaipusam.
The police said that this incident took place at around 4 am, when some participants in a group of about 16 were singing, amplified through portable loudspeakers, and playing musical instruments.
The police said that a HEB official advised them to stop, as it was not permitted under the Thaipusam permit conditions. However, one of the participants challenged the HEB official by claiming that what they were playing were not musical instruments. The group, however, eventually complied with the HEB official’s advice, and continued with the procession.
The statement then noted that at around 4.30 am at Selegie Road, near the Selegie HDB residential estate, the same group of persons was observed to be singing and amplifying the singing through portable loudspeakers. HEB officials and Police officers engaged the group a second time, and advised them to lower the volume.
“In fact, earlier in the night, Police had received a noise disturbance complaint related to the Thaipusam procession,” the police noted.
The police rebutted the statement of Mr Pradeep who said that the devotees were being followed by the police and HEB officers for more as long as 30 minutes, saying that each of the two engagements by the Police in support of the HEB officials was no longer than 10 minutes and the allegation circulating that the group was filmed and followed for 30 minutes is patently untrue.
The police claimed that its officers and HEB officials were accommodative during the engagements despite the group having broken the law and challenging them.
“Both engagements were filmed in their entirety by Police for evidentiary purposes, both in the interests of the devotees and the Police,” it added.
The Police stated that it will continue to work closely with HEB to ensure that the Thaipusam procession continues to take place in a peaceful and safe manner, for the sake of the devotees, their families and the many children who also participate, and the residents, businesses and general public along the procession route.