Govt urged to postpone Aidilfitri celebrations

Retailers are asking Putrajaya to postpone Hari Raya celebrations to December as the move could help jumpstart the retail industry, which is struggling to survive under the MCO

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA’S largest hypermarket chain Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd has urged the government to postpone Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations to December, following Indonesia’s recent decision to hold back its festivities due to concerns over further transmission of the coronavirus.

Mydin MD Datuk Wira Ameer Ali Mydin said the move could help jumpstart the economy, especially the retail industry, which has been severely affected by orders to close shop under the Movement Control Order (MCO).

“I think the government should consider adopting Indonesia’s move to postpone Hari Raya celebrations to the end of the year. It is a better time because schools will be on their year-end break and we hope there will be open houses then, so I think it is a good move,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Indonesia had announced that its Hari Raya holidays would be on Dec 28 to 31, instead of May 26 to 29 this year, to keep people from returning to their hometowns. Penang Mufti Datuk Dr Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor had lauded the idea, saying it is permissible and the government has the authority to do so.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in his daily briefing on Monday said the government will consider adopting the same move upon the advice from the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Zulkifli reportedly said there will be discussions with the National Fatwa Council on whether the Aidilfitri celebrations can be postponed to another time due to the MCO.

The Star reported the minister as saying that Muslims should celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but they can delay the festivities.

It is customary for many Muslims who live in big cities to visit their hometowns and gather with their families at the end of the holy month to celebrate Hari Raya. Such practices, however, raise concerns that an exodus could take place and cause the spread of Covid-19 to rural areas.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association VP Datuk Liew Bin has lauded the suggestion to postpone Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations to year-end as current restrictions under the MCO have seen little to no sales for many retailers.

“That is a fantastic idea. There is no point if we celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfiltri when there are a lot of restrictions now. In terms of sales, I don’t think there will be any sales now. If it is in December, everyone will be happy,” Liew said.

Retail Group Malaysia’s (RGM) recent projection showed that sales in April are expected to plunge by 60.7% as most shops are forced to close until the end of the month. Revenue in March is estimated to contract by 28.9% against the same period in 2019.

RGM said over 209,000 retail stores have been shut down under the partial lockdown period, leaving 732,000 employees out of work. In contrast, only 37% of total retail outlets in Malaysia or 126,000 retailers remain open during the MCO period.

With an estimated annual retail sales of RM108 billion for 2020, Liew said an average drop of 60% would translate into a loss of about RM64.8 billion this year.

For Mydin, Ameer Ali said the company is facing a potential loss of up to RM100 million as non-food items are not allowed to be sold and are therefore put in cold storage. Mydin currently has a massive stockpile of items intended for sale during Ramadhan that cannot be sold under the MCO.

“Normally, people would buy new clothing items like telekung, baju kurung and baju Melayu for tarawih prayers in Ramadhan. But with the MCO, these items are (just) lying in our stores. We are trying to sell them online, but it is not the same as physical purchases.

“Apart from apparels, we have also brought in prayer mats, decorative lights, canisters and perfume oils that we ordered eight months ago. Now, we are stuck,” he said.