Other articles pertaining to the potential / power of petitions :
Update : This is the response from the Ministry of Manpower (from todayonline, 14 Feb 2015)
FROM ALVIN LIM, DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR, WORKPLACE POLICY & STRATEGY DIVISION, MINISTRY OF MANPOWER :
We appreciate the perspectives shared by many Singaporeans on whether Thaipusam should be reinstated as a public holiday. As many have noted, it was a public holiday until 1968. (“Reinstate some public holidays”; Feb 11, online)
The prospect of the British withdrawal and the need to compete for a living in world markets necessitated many changes in the country. The Government decided to reduce the number of public holidays, among other things.
The decision on which to give up in 1968 was reached only after careful discussions with various religious groups. The Muslims chose to give up Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday and an extra day for Hari Raya Puasa.
The Christians, who also had to give up two days, chose the Saturday after Good Friday and Easter Monday.
The Hindus had to choose between retaining Thaipusam or Deepavali as a public holiday and chose the latter.
These were difficult decisions for the leaders of each faith, with each group giving up something of value in the larger interest. The Buddhists, who comprised the largest faith and had only one public holiday, Vesak Day, to begin with, were not asked to offer any cuts.
Some groups continued to celebrate religious events of significance to them, such as Vesakhi for the Sikhs and Lao-Tzu’s Birthday for the Taoists, without these being public holidays.
The resulting number of public holidays we enjoy now, 11, is neither high nor low when compared to that of other countries. It is the same number enjoyed by New Zealanders, Canadians and the French, among others.
Our closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, enjoy a few more days than we do, but we have a few more than developed countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany.
Beyond numbers and economics, our calendar of public holidays is a reflection of our multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. There is much value attached to each of our ethnic and religious festivals, including Thaipusam, both among that particular group and Singaporeans in general.
But any move to reinstate any one festival as a public holiday would immediately invite competing claims and necessitate considerable renegotiation with all communities. Balancing the wishes of each community would not be a simple matter.
Neither can we simply reallocate public holidays by ethnic group, as among both Chinese and Indians are citizens of a few different faiths.
While we will always ensure that all Singaporeans can practise their faith freely, it is impractical to make all important festivals of all faiths public holidays.
But it must always be possible for Singaporeans of all faiths to make arrangements to observe their respective religious festivals. We encourage all employers to show understanding and flexibility in this regard.
We have learnt to live harmoniously with one another with this balanced approach, where everyone makes some compromises for the greater good. It has served us well for the better part of five decades and remains the best way for Singapore.