‘Clear the air on dress code’

PETALING JAYA: The police have said that lodging of reports is more important than the clothes worn by victims, while the Health Minister says there is no reason to bar anyone wearing shorts from hospitals.

But there are still cases of people being stopped from entering government offices just because of how they are dressed, some purportedly due to the tenets of the Rukun Negara.

It is time for clear and standard dress code guidelines, says moderation advocate Anas Zubedy.

He said he supported a dress code rule for government departments or agencies, but suggested that Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali issue a clear directive on the matter.

“If we are to work towards being a more cultured society, the Chief Secretary should make it clear that the dress code directive applies across the board. Or will states be allowed to decide for themselves?” he said yesterday.

With Malaysia being a multicultural nation, Anas said differing cultural expectations must be managed.

“The public should be made aware that the dress code is based on the interpretation of tenets of the Rukun Negara on ‘kesopanan dan kesusilaan’ (courtesy and morality),” he said.

Government officers must also be taught not to belittle visitors but to politely explain the rationale behind the dress code, he added.

“I am usually very casual with my dressing but will dress up accordingly when visiting a government department or agency.

“It shows I am culturally sensitive of others, particularly the majority Malays who make up the civil service,” he said.

If it is adopted as a standard practice, Anas said the departments or agencies must provide clean “kain pelikat” for men and “kain batik” for women to don if they are not in compliance with the dress code.

He said exceptions should be allowed in cases of emergencies, for instance when a robbery victim wants to lodge a police report or if someone is rushing to visit a family member admitted to hospital.

Penang police chief Datuk Khaw Kok Chin said last week that a person’s dress code would not determine whether they can lodge a report at any police station,

Anas asked to comment on the incident where a man wearing shorts was given a sarong to wear before being allowed into the Kuala Selangor Municipal Council office on Thursday.

The 53-second video, which has since gone viral on social media, shows the man putting on the sarong after being told to do so by a security guard.

On Monday, a 72-year-old man was turned away by a security guard at Hospital Seberang Jaya after he was deemed to be dressed inappropriately.

He was told the dress code was in line with the Rukun Negara.

Another moderation advocate Tawfik Ismail said the government had the right to impose a dress code, but it had to be one that was clear, yet allows for flexibility in certain circumstances.

“I think the government has every right to impose a dress code but in a flexible way.

“For example, someone might be ill or has a medical condition and is unable to wear long pants.

“The authorities should allow some kind of flexibility,” he said.

Tawfik, the son of the country’s second deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, said there was a need for a dress code on certain occasions or when visiting certain places.

“It is obvious that being decently dressed is required in circumstances such as visiting houses of worship or at weddings, or when eating at a classy restaurant.

“People know how to dress without being told. It is a matter of conduct and tradition,” he said.

Tawfik also said the government should also explain the need for the dress code, and why it is in line with the Rukun Negara.

“Fashion is not dictated by politics. There should be clear explanation for the dress code,” he added.

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