Thu, 08 May 2003

Nation slated for another long weekend

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country will relish another long weekend next week as the government has decided to shift the holiday observing the Ascension Day of Prophet Muhammad on May 14 to May 15 ahead of the Buddha's Day of Enlightenment.

The moving back of the Islamic holiday, which falls in the mid-week, the public will spend a half of the week at home or at recreational sites between Thursday and Sunday.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla said on Wednesday the decision would apply to all civil servants and private employees, as well as school children and teachers.

"The government has shifted the May 14 holiday to May 15, so everybody can enjoy four days of vacation," Jusuf told The Jakarta Post.

The decision was part of the government's policy to move back or forward holidays that fall in the mid-week to Monday or Friday to enable a long weekend. The policy is aimed to boost tourism, which has taken a slump following the Oct. 12, 2002 bombings in Bali.

The government expected an increase in the number of domestic tourists to visit Bali or other tourist spots across the country to replace the decreasing number of foreign tourists.

Already there are eight holidays to be shifted this year.

A joint ministerial decree issued on Nov. 25, 2002 stipulates that public holidays falling on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday would be shifted to Monday, while those falling on Thursday would be shifted to Friday.

Several holidays, however, will be exempted, namely Idul Fitri, Christmas, New Year, the Islamic Day of Sacrifice (Idul Adha), the Hindu Day of Silence and Independence Day.

The decree also stipulates that should any of these holidays fall on Sunday, the government would extend the holiday until Monday.

Also in the decree was the regulation to extend Christmas and Idul Fitri holidays last year. It has not been decided yet whether the extension will also apply this year.

The first practice of the holiday shifting this year took place in March when the celebration of the Islamic New Year was moved forward from Tuesday, March 4 to Monday, March 3.

Jusuf contended that so far the policy has managed to increase people's awareness to visit tourist attractions across the country.

"I hope the regulations will be applied in all private sectors," the minister remarked. -- JP