Uproar over dress code at govt depts has nothing to do with religion: Union president

Uproar over dress code at govt depts has nothing to do with religion: Union president
Signs that advise on dress codes have been put up at most federal government buildings for years to remind visitors to be modestly dressed, but there was hardly any enforcement until the recent spate of incidents.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

PUTRAJAYA - The dress code for entering government buildings has been around for at least 40 years and is meant to be followed, said Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda.

Commenting on the uproar over dressing by members of the public when going to government offices, Azih said the problem arose as a result of some people's "poor attitude and misconception".

"It's the attitude of some people. They are so against it. Some look at this through a religious point of view, but the dress code is not about religion.

"Dress codes can be found anywhere in the world, in any government. It distinguishes bet­ween formal work hours and leisure," he said.

Azih added that while the private sector allowed flexibility in dressing, this was not the case with the public sector, and this was something that "is not understood by the new generation".

"We, government servants, have our decorum. The old folks get it. But now, people just don't seem to care much," he said.

In Muar, Bernama reported Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim as saying that the dress code at government buildings should not be questioned or politicised as it was related to a sense of propriety and respect.

"The existing dress code is not race-specific," Razali told reporters yesterday after chairing a Muar Umno meeting.

He added that dressing appropriately was also in accordance with the fifth principle of the Rukun Negara - Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan (respect and a sense of decency).

Razali argued that the dress code should not be relaxed just because some quarters refused to comply with it as there were millions of citizens who respected it.

A survey by The Star found that most security personnel at government buildings felt they were caught in the middle when enforcing the dress code, which prohibits shorts as well as skirts that do not cover the knees.

At Putrajaya's Road Transport Department office, a guard said: "A few days ago, a woman wearing a short skirt walked into the office.

"I had to ask her to leave. I got scolded, but I had to do my job," she said.

Another female guard pointed out: "If a visitor refuses to listen to us, we will call in an officer and let him or her explain the rules," she said. "That has always been the protocol."

An officer concurred, saying giving sarong to "inappropriately dressed" visitors was never part of the procedure.

Azih said it was preferable for counter staff to be the ones doing the "advising", especially if the security guard was a foreigner.

"A foreigner telling you off about how you dress is different from when a Malaysian does it. We probably would think that the foreigner is trying to 'teach' us, so we dislike that," he said.

"But in terms of explaining the dress code, I think it is best for the Public Service Department to re-emphasise its importance."

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