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Kedah cancelled their Thaipusam holiday. Can state govt's cancel other holidays too?

almost 2 years ago Ariff Kamil





This article is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to be used or construed as legal advice in any manner whatsoever. All articles have been scrutinized by a practicing lawyer to ensure accuracy.




We Malaysians love our public holidays. When Malaysia plays sports at an international level, one reason we want them to win is because a win can mean a public holiday.

But recently, Kedah made the headlines when the state government announced that the Thaipusam holiday would be cancelled this year. According to the state government, since there will be no celebration this year due to the MCO, there will also not be a holiday.

Though that made us think: you can do that? You can cancel a holiday?

As we found out, yes, Kedah can do that because….


Thaipusam is not a public holiday in Kedah

Image from Wikimedia

Thaipusam is not a public holiday in Kedah, but an event holiday (cuti peristiwa). Instead of being gazetted like other public holidays, the holiday is “renewed” every year through a state exco meeting. So in their case, they did not cancel it, but decided not to “renew” it.

Thaipusam holiday is also quite a recent thing in Kedah, which was given since 2017.

This is different from a public holiday, which is provided under the law. For Peninsular Malaysia, this is under the Holidays Act 1951. As for Sabah and Sarawak, it is provided by their respective Holiday Ordinances.

The federal government has gazetted 12 holidays which are observed nationally:

  • Chinese New Year
  • Labour Day
  • Hari Raya Aidilfitri 
  • Wesak Day
  • Agong’s birthday
  • Hari Raya Haji
  • Awal Muharram 
  • National Day (31 August)
  • Malaysia Day (16 September)
  • Maulidur Rasul
  • Deepavali
  • Christmas


You can’t cancel public holidays

The holiday that will always be there in Kedah. Image from Ticati

Besides national public holidays, there are also state holidays which will be observed in the state. For example, Thaipusam is a public holiday in 5 states and two Federal Territories (Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur). Those of you who celebrate New Year’s Day might also think that it’s a national public holiday. However, it’s only observed in 8 states and all 3 FT’s. 

Unlike event holidays, these holidays can’t be cancelled, as they have been gazetted by law. So unless it’s a public holiday, state governments can “cancel” event holidays, so to speak.

But surprisingly, under the Act as well as the Ordinances, we found out that ministers can exclude public offices and departments from taking a public holiday. 


Kedah might get an extra holiday on Deepavali

Image from Ming Thein

The Kedah Chief Minister, Sanusi Md Nor, drew flak from MIC for cancelling Thaipusam. MTUC (Malaysian Trade Union Congress) has also urged Kedah to reinstate the holiday, so devotees will not have to take leave to fulfill their vows and prayers. However, Sanusi’s special officer for Indian Affairs, B.K. Kumaresan, explained that, “a public event must be held to qualify for the holiday, even though people will be praying at home.”

He did give some hope by saying that they could use the holiday for other festivals, such as adding an extra day for Deepavali. So despite the disappointment of the Thaipusam holiday being cancelled, hopefully this promise can brighten the Kedah people’s day.

state government
federal government
holidays act 1951
holidays ordinance
sanusi md nor
chief minister





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