On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Happy holidays – again!

A check on the Internet shows that Malaysia is on the list of top 10 nations with the highest number of public holidays.

IT’S 4.30pm, Aug 8, 2013 – the first day of Hari Raya. I have personally wished the Prime Minister Selamat Hari Raya at his residence in Putrajaya early in the morning before the thousands of guests started drifting into Seri Perdana.

I have sent out countless SMS to my Muslim friends, and that would surely make our telco operators happy. I have visited the homes of my Muslim friends.

I have also been smart enough to call them up before I showed up.

One said he would not have any open house because his house was filled with boxes. He was in the midst of moving house.

I found the gates of another friend’s home completely shut. I wasn’t sure if I had read the invitation correctly or got my dates mixed up. Since there were no cars outside his home, it had to be a mix-up on my part. To save myself embarrassment, I just drove quietly away.

Another friend called to say his dad had just passed away and that he was leaving Kuala Lumpur immediately.

So I am all alone in the house now. The wife has left for a break overseas with her colleagues.

I have nothing against holidays as people deserve to have time to unwind and to bond with their families and loved ones. Holidays are also celebrations to remember national or religious events, thus their importance.

Then there are holidays to commemorate the birthdays of our King and the respective Sultans and Yang Dipertua Negeri. The newest holiday is Sept 16 to celebrate Malaysia Day, where we remind Malaysians that Sabah and Sarawak helped to form Malaysia and NOT that Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia! The holiday was gazetted in 2010.

Most of us, as we get older, have realised that we also need another holiday – after a holiday – to recover from jet lag and the stress of too much walking and regimented 6am wake-up calls during the tours.

Having just had a break overseas a month ago, I told my boss that I needed to go for another one during this Hari Raya season.

He wasn’t convinced despite my beautifully handwritten note to support my application, with convincing and clever arguments, which lawyers would have fought to copy for their own use.

Now that it has been shot down, I have to say that Malaysians have too many holidays! We used to just take two days off but now it has become a trend to tie public holidays in with the weekends to extend the time off to a week or longer!

So I wasn’t that surprised when a check on the Internet showed that Malaysia is on the list of top 10 nations with the highest number of public holidays!

Despite the whining and complaining among our middle class urbanites, most of us have chosen not to migrate into shoebox-sized apartments, with no Indonesian maids to clean up our homes, no Bangladeshis to blame during general elections and, worse, to fight for space in sardine-jammed subway trains to and from work!

But nothing beats the long holidays. There seem to be some variations but most portals put us at No. 7 with 14 days of public holidays. That excludes the school holidays and our leave entitlement!

Most said we have good reasons because we are a multi-racial country that respects all religions. Even the right wingers and extremists who think the 9.9% Christians in Malaysia are a threat to national security would readily agree that Christmas must be a public holiday.

Thailand and Indonesia beat us with 15 days despite their almost mono-ethnic and mono-religious make-up.

The top spot goes to China with 16 days but, as one blogger puts it, the billion of Chinese deserve their break as everything is now “Made in China”.

Egypt is at number two – guess they need to chill out even more now from the daily protests.

The third spot went to India with 15 days. It used to be 17 days, it seems.

On the eighth spot is South Korea, which said blogger rightly feels they deserve more with their busy schedule of Korean dramas, K-pop and churning out the latest smartphones and flat screens. If I may add, the busy plastic surgeons!

The last two spots went to Chile and Turkey.

But there are contradictions in these measurements. Another portal claims that workers in Spain have a total of 36 holidays, with 22 statutory holidays and 14 public holidays. I do not know if this is a lot of bull, pardon the pun, but that’s a lot, and I am sure the unions must have fought hard for all these days!

According to China.org.cn, No. 2 is actually Venezuela with 36 holidays comprising 24 statutory holidays and 12 public holidays.

The Chinese-portal, not surprisingly and conveniently, left China out, and even Malaysia with its method of calculation, instead listing Austria at No. 1 with a total of 38 holidays including 26 statutory holidays and 13 public holidays.

Going through all these claims, rebuttals, denials and clarifications has been very confusing and complicated but the bottom line is that long holidays are bad for the newspaper business.

When newspapers take a break, it means newspapers are not on sale and when there are no advertisements, it means a loss in revenue. Obviously, salaries must continue to be paid to workers – who are on holiday!

It’s no good sitting alone in the house. I’d better start making calls again to my Muslim friends to tell them I am dropping by and to keep the lemang and satay for me, please!

Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim readers and to all Malaysians!