Article from Daily Mirror Sri Lanka
In this New Year the declared public holidays amount to 25, of which 21 are related to the religions practised in this country. Seven holidays fall either on a Saturday or a Sunday. Strangely, banks have declared an additional holiday for themselves. With a five-day working week, in effect we will be holidaying for nearly four more weeks, in addition to the Saturdays and Sundays. Can we, a developing nation afford such a large number of holidays? The holiday mentality spills over to the days preceding, and the days following a holiday thus affecting efficiency of work performance.
Can the declaration of a national holiday, in commemoration of an important religious event, where the majority of the people will do nothing connected with the particular event, be justified?
Scrutiny of declared holidays shows only two that are common to all sections of society, i.e. the Independence Day and the May Day. To this may be added another eight days considered to be of the highest importance to ethnic and religious groups: Thai Pongal, the National New Year (2 days), Vesak (2 days), Poson, Ramazan and Christmas. During these eight days there are large-scale religious observances, social events or family reunions. This group of ten could well suffice for our national holidays.
The remaining Poya days, Hajj, Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, Mahasivarathri, Deepavali and Good Friday could be working days, with the exception that the first two hours i.e. 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. be spent in an activity devoted to the significance of that particular event.
As an example, a dhamma desana/bhavana on a Poya day; on Hajj and Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, a programme on some aspect of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet; on Deepavali and Maha Sivarathri Day a Hindu cultural programme, and on Good Friday a Prayer Service, talk and discussion on the life of Jesus Christ.
This will ensure that everyone will at least spend some time meaningfully, in observance of the particular event commemorated.
It is also likely to promote understanding of the different cultures and integration and harmony amongst the different religious and ethnic groups, as all separate groups will jointly organise and participate in each other’s function, and disperse for work after partaking in fellowship.
This proposition, as well as taking a cue from our President-he engages in his daily administrative duties after listening to a sermon, on Poya Days-will curtail the number of holidays, thereby helping the country’s smooth administration and economy, as well as promoting understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures essential for harmony and oneness — particularly important in National Integration. Could our religious and political leaders ponder over this and come to some consensus so that Sri Lanka will truly be a multi-religious and multi ethnic country where there is lasting unity in diversity, where people of any religion or race while practising their religion and culture will respect the religious beliefs and culture of others.