Sarawak declares May 17, 18 as public holidays, blasted as ‘childish’

Sarawak PH chief Chong Chieng Jen explained that PH declared May 10 and 11 as public holidays to avoid destabilising the country’s markets and economy and to avert a 'tumble' in the financial sector. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak PH chief Chong Chieng Jen explained that PH declared May 10 and 11 as public holidays to avoid destabilising the country’s markets and economy and to avert a 'tumble' in the financial sector. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — The Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) government has decided to make May 17 and 18 public holidays instead of May 10 and 11 as declared by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.

In doing so, the state government drew scorn from Sarawak PH chief Chong Chieng Jen who told off Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg for trying to be “different”.

“What he did is very childish, immature and does not even take the operation of the financial markets into consideration,” Chong who is also Sarawak DAP chief told See Hua Daily News, a local Borneo vernacular paper.

Chong said PH did not declare the public holidays immediately after polling day on May 10 and May 11 “for fun”, explaining that it was intended to avoid destabilising the country’s markets and economy and to avert a “tumble” in the financial sector.

“This is the reason why Tun Dr Mahathir declared the holidays. We do not want to see major fluctuations in the financial markets which may impact the country’s economy,” he said, referring to PH chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was last night sworn in as the country’s seventh prime minister.

The May 10 and 11 public holidays were confirmed in a statement from the Prime Minister’ Department yesterday, and applies to all states in the peninsula while Sabah and Sarawak will make their own announcements.

May 13 has also been declared a public holiday in the peninsular states which normally observe Sunday as a working day, namely Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor.

In a separate statement, the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office yesterday declared next Thursday and Friday as public holidays in Malaysia’s largest state. The announcement means May 10 and today are considered working days, unlike the rest of the country.

Schools observing the May 17 and 18 public holidays will have to replace them over two Saturdays, July 14 and July 18, according to a statement from the Education Ministry.

The Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) said it has decided to follow the state government’s announcement for public holidays next week.

While saying that KCGCCI understood that the Sarawak government has the prerogative to declare different public holiday dates, the business chamber’s secretary-general Jonathan Chai told The Borneo Post that Sarawakians would have appreciated it if the announcement was not made at the last minute.

“Some of them have already gone to work but some were still at home. How do you expect them to go home or go to work at this hour,” he was quoted saying before 10am on May 10.

In a separate news report, The Borneo Post reported the Association of Banks in Malaysia saying the public will still have access to services by its member banks on May 10, May 11, and May 13 (the last for Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu).

The association said the banks will ensure that there is enough cash in ATM machines, while telephone and online banking, cheque deposit, GIRO and instant fund transfers will still be available on these days.

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