KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Chinese community has been urged by the government, as well as religious and grassroots associations, to observe this year’s Qing Ming festival at home amid an extended movement control order (MCO).
In a Facebook post on Sunday (Mar 29), Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said the Chinese tradition of performing rituals and paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming is something that is respected by all Cabinet members.
“However, Qing Ming falls on Apr 4 this year, coinciding with the movement control order. In order to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19, we sincerely request all Malaysians to stay home and break the chains of infection,” said Mr Wee, who is also the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association.
“Regardless of our racial and religious background, we must be united and cooperate with the government during this very difficult and critical time, in hope of finally being free of the pandemic.”
He expressed gratitude to the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong), religious organisations and the management groups of cemeteries in answering the government’s call for members of the public to observe Qing Ming in a different way.
“I would like to urge the Chinese community to work with the government by paying homage to our ancestors at home, according to the practice of your own religious belief. Once this medical crisis is over, we can all continue to honour our ancestors at their final resting places next year,” Mr Wee added.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had announced on Mar 16 that Malaysia would be under a MCO from Mar 18 until Mar 31 in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
As part of the control order, Mr Muhyiddin said that only places providing essential services were allowed to stay open with minimal staff.
Last week, he announced an extension of the MCO until Apr 14, explaining that it was necessary as the number of new cases were still high daily.
More than 30 people have died from COVID-19 in Malaysia and more than 2,400 people have tested positive for the infection.
On Saturday, Hua Zong said in a statement that cemeteries and memorial parks are expected to be locked down during the MCO period.
“In this life-and-death situation and in the best interests of the nation and the public, we the Chinese should better appreciate the importance and necessity of the MCO and give our full cooperation and comply with it,” said the statement.
“The graves of our ancestors and departed loved ones will always be there and we can always conduct tomb-sweeping activities when COVID-19 is over. It is better late than never.”
Based on Chinese tradition, tomb-sweeping is usually performed in the days before and after the Qing Ming festival, which falls on Apr 4.
The Malaysian Buddhist Association on Saturday also appealed to the community to say "a simple prayer or chanting of transference of merits to ancestors", instead of praying at ancestral tombs in cemeteries or columbaria.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Taoist Associations in Malaysia also urged people to adhere strictly to the MCO.
“Please do not go to the tombs of your ancestors for Qing Ming spring cleaning. You can pray from your homes and pray that your ancestors will protect you and your families from the dreaded COVID-19,” it said in a statement.