JOHOR BARU, June 22 — Johor residents and businesses have reacted positively to the state government’s suggestion to make Saturdays and Sundays the official rest days once more and ending nearly a decade of weekends starting on Friday.
Resident Eric Wong said he looked forward to possibly enjoying full weekends with his wife, which he said has been difficult as she was in the civil service that observed the Friday-Saturday rest days while he was in the private sector that was given the prerogative to choose when the change was introduced in 2014.
Johor is one of four states that observe Friday as the start of the weekend to facilitate the compulsory Muslim prayers on the day.
The 38-year-old billing solutions technician said Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi’s comments on possibly returning to Saturdays and Sundays as the official weekend was welcome.
“Since being married in 2018, my wife Hamiza Rusli and I seldom get to experience a full two-day weekend together as her department observes the Johor government’s Friday and Saturday as weekend rest days.
“On the other hand, I am in the private sector and my company practices Saturday and Sunday as our weekend rest days.
“It can be frustrating for me and my 36-year-old wife in many ways as we basically lose out a day of quality time every week,” said Wong when contacted by Malay Mail recently.
Last week, the Johor government proposed returning to the more typical weekend to address problems arising from having different rest days for public and private sector workers.
As most in the private sector opted not to adopt the Friday-Saturday weekend, it meant there was one day fewer each week that businesses could deal with government departments and agencies.
Wong, who resides in Skudai near Johor Baru, believes many married couples in Johor shared his family’s predicament.
“Basically, as a couple or those with children, we lose out a day in having our quality time on most weekends,” he said.
Hamiza, who works as a federal government agency administrator, added that under the current arrangement, her weekly activities with the family could only be planned for Saturdays.
“I hope the proposal will go through and be a reality soon as having a common Saturday and Sunday weekend also makes it easier and convenient to plan for holidays or trips,” she said.
Johor Baru resident Azlan Taha Baharim, 47, said having the more common Saturday-Sunday weekend would allow him more quality time with his two children.
At present, the manpower services manager said he and his wife observe Saturday and Sunday as their rest days.
“However, my two children, aged eight and 12, are in government schools and the weekend is on Friday and Saturday for them.
“With differing rest days, planning a family holiday or trip together can be frustrating for us as we need to consider that my children start their school week on Sunday,” said Azlan when met by Malay Mail here recently.
Azlan explained that the misaligned weekends affected family outings, especially for weekend getaways or short trips such as returning to his hometown of Telok Panglima Garang in Selangor.
“At present, my family is left with only Saturday for us to be together. At times I have to work on Saturday and it will leave me with no family interaction with my children as they start school in Sunday.
“I hope that the government is able to revert to the previous weekend rest days soon,” he said.
Besides families, business owners in Johor also responded positively to the proposal.
Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said many firms would support the proposal to revert to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, adding that this could be seen in how most firms, especially the small-medium enterprises, kept the Saturday-Sunday weekend despite the 2014 change.
“However, this doesn’t match with the government offices and any submissions by companies may take longer,” he said when contacted.
Teh pointed out that the private sector in Johor only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to deal with government offices.
“If the proposal is enforced, most of our administrative work will match and can be completed much earlier compared to now,” he said.
Hong Fatt Garage proprietor Yeap Leong Eng said the proposed change was certain to improve efficiency.
“It’s a good move since Johor can have the weekend of Saturday and Sunday rather than the current arrangement.
“This can also streamline dealings with our outstation suppliers and also government agencies,” said the 40-year-old when met at his Taman Perling workshop.
Kampung Tuah Jaya food trader Azman Sapari said he would not be significantly affected either way, and would prefer if the Friday-Saturday weekend was retained as it would make prayers easier.
“As business owners, I think it won’t make a difference at all if the official weekend falls on Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday,” said the 61-year-old nasi lauk trader when met at his stall recently.
“If Friday was a rest day, we would not need to rush for our prayers,” he said.
Johor Baru Malay Smallholders and Light Industry Association secretary Mohammad Salezan Mohd Salleh said he observed support for the proposed change.
“I did a small response poll on my rounds last weekend, and many traders under our association said they will support the state government’s decision.
“As traders, many will take a weekday off as long as business is good it will not matter to them,” said Mohammad Salezan when contacted by Malay Mail.
However, Mohammad Salezan also said he would prefer to have the current weekend retained to make it easier for Muslims to pray on Fridays.
He pointed out that the Friday-Saturday weekend was not new to Johor as the state had observed it prior to 1993, before it was shifted to Saturdays and Sundays.
The Johor government has been observing Friday and Saturday as its rest days since January 1, 2014, following a decree from Sultan Ibrahim in conjunction with his 55th birthday celebration on November 23, 2013.
However, it only applies to the public sector while the private sector was given an option whether to follow, and most chose to retain the existing off days of Saturday and Sunday.
Last week, Onn Hafiz said the Johor government was aware of the people’s concerns and will review the matter concerning the Saturday and Sunday weekend rest days so parents and children can rest on the same days.
Yesterday, state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Jafni Md Shukor said the decision to return to weekend rest days of Saturday and Sunday may not happen “so soon”, as it requires the consent of Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.