Aida Zabidi
Working in the government service as a doctor is a career in what is considered a critical service – and by that standard it also means that leave for public holidays such as Eid is something that is given as a courtesy, not as an entitlement. 

My department actually went as far as to organize a competition to decide who would get leave for Eid – and we were voted for by our immediate bosses; the medical officers and the specialists based on our work performance and a Independence Day themed public speaking competition. All the house officers were given equal opportunity, regardless of race. 

As my boss liked to put it, just because you were Malay didn’t mean you would necessarily get leave, and if you were non-Malay, you still had the opportunity to win leave. 

I have to admit it was a nerve wracking experience. 

In my head I had already prepared myself for the possibility that I would not be one of those lucky few who got raya leave. Sure, I was a decent house officer – but every medical officer and specialist had limited votes – and what if it turned out to be the case that they had decided to vote for someone else instead? 

The relief when my name was announced was palpable. I never realized how much I wanted to spend the holiday with my family until that moment, and I was thankful that I had been given the opportunity for leave.

As names continued to be called and smiles of relief broke across our faces, three Malays were left at the end of it, those unfortunate ones who would be spending raya at work. 

We had been given an option at the beginning of the process. We could accept our leave, or pass it on to someone else. 

Four non-Malay house officers had won leave. And all four of them stood up, in the spirit of camaraderie and selflessness and announced that they would be giving up their leave to their Malay colleagues so that they would be able to spend raya with their families. 

Not one accepted their leave – in a department where leave was scarce and difficult to take, and all four had given it up without a moment of hesitation. 

In that moment, I have never felt so proud to have such fine colleagues – my hat’s off to you guys.It was a gesture that was unnecessary, but so appreciated in so many ways, and thanks to you, those three house officers will be able to spend that break with their families during raya,

We live in a multiracial country, and their actions really did demonstrate the spirit of tolerance that is so often preached but no so often practiced.

Selamat hari raya and maaf zahir batin everyone. May your break be with those you love the most.
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