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Public Says YES To Having Gawai & Kaamatan As National Holidays

Public Says YES To Having Gawai & Kaamatan As National Holidays

As of 2022, Malaysia has a total of 32 official public holidays but not all are observed nationwide.

Akmal Hakim

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So a group of NGOs are insisting that the federal government declare the Kaamatan and Gawai festivals celebrated by East Malaysians as national public holidays, once and for all.

In Sabah, Kaamatan takes place between 30 and 31 May, while Gawai is celebrated in Sarawak every 1 and 2 June. The two are separate harvest festivals celebrated by a diverse group of ethnicities in East Malaysia.

Read More: No, Kaamatan And Gawai Are Not Interchangeable

Both festivals are gazetted as public holidays at the state level, but not nationally.

But public servants in Peninsular Malaysia who were born in East Malaysia can officially get one leave of absence to celebrate the festivities if they apply for it.

For years, people have been urging the government to observe the harvest festivals as national public holidays that the entire country can celebrate.

(Credit: Abdul Malik Mohd Eusoff via Flickr)

Sarawak’s former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun once said that the two festivals carry the same weight and mean just as much to the people of East Malaysia as Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Chinese New Year do to the rest of the country.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal once explained that the holidays would allow thousands of East Malaysians in the Peninsular to properly plan for and celebrate the occasions in their hometowns.

Do we need more public holidays? Absolutely yes!

(Credit: John Ragai via Flickr)

As of 2022, Malaysia has a total of 32 official public holidays at the federal and state level.

But only federal holidays are observed nationwide.

So depending on where you live, work or study, you’ll get at least 12 national holidays for;

  • Merdeka
  • Malaysia Day
  • Labor Day
  • The Agung’s Birthday
  • Hari Raya Aidilfitri
  • Hari Raya Aidiladha
  • The Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
  • Awal Muharram
  • Chinese New Year
  • Christmas
  • Deepavali
  • Wesak

Celebrations like New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Thaipusam and others are considered state holidays, where each state gets to decide if they want to observe them or not. The same applies to federal territories too.

Malaysians mau cuti!

Opinions we’ve seen online seem to show that the rakyat is in support of Kaamatan and Gawai being declared national holidays.

Many agree that gazetting the festivities as national holidays was the right thing to do to celebrate Malaysia’s diversity, let families and friends spend time together, and of course, let people enjoy more days off.

Others also pointed out that we need to recognise other religious and cultural occasions here in Malaysia and make them national celebrations too.

Meanwhile, there were those who suggested that, because of demographic reasons, it would be more practical to let each state pick and choose to gazette Kaamatan and Gawai as needed.

Some commenters also think that we can also simply “swap around” the other holidays that we have to accommodate and appreciate more diverse celebrations.

Additionally, in 2021, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri revealed that there was public outcry for Kaamatan and Gawai to be included as national holidays.

Both Kaamatan and Gawai are already highlighted in Tourism Malaysia’s “Cuti-Cuti Malaysia” campaign.

Nancy mentions that including them on the list of festive holidays would be a great way for Malaysia to strengthen our unity, showcase our diversity and boost our tourism.


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