4:24pm 23/03/2023
Dress code: surely our ministers can right the wrong
By:Chan Aun Kuang / Sin Chew Daily

If the unity government is serious about its “Malaysia Madani” advocacy, it must instantly rid itself of the exasperating, antiquated and corrupt practices, and give us back that kind of civility that befits any modern society which puts its citizens first.

The three major points in the written reply by minister in the prime minister’s department Azalina Othman Said in parliament:

1. The government has not set any dress code for visitors to government offices.

2. Even if members of the public are perceived to be inappropriately dressed, the government will still provide services to them.

3. The dress code set by the government is only applicable to civil servants.

Happy? Relieved? Wait a minute!

This written reply by Azalina was a seven-year-old document dated November 4, 2015 in reply to a question by then member of parliament for Putatan from UPKO, Marcus Mojigoh, whether there was any dress code for visitors to government offices.

Marcus Mojigoh could have posed the question after a series of events in which members of the public wearing shorts, singlets or skirts above knee level had either been stopped at the gate by security officers at government offices, or been forced to wrap a sarong around their lower bodies before they were allowed access.

Then law minister from East Malaysia Nancy Shukri was equally unhappy with such anomaly.

The country has seen earth-moving changes in politics these past few years; the Putatan parliamentary seat has also seen new faces in charge; and even we have five different prime ministers since then, but Azalina still finds her way back at the PM’s department. The only thing that is unchanging is that the little Napoleons out there are still headstrong about how the rest of the world should dress.

The raison d’être of government offices is to serve the people. This is the value and objective of their mere existence which will be invalidated if members of the public are not allowed to visit a government office, or police station, hospital, JPJ, income tax department and the like, to seek service. Rejecting the people is outright an inexcusable offense.

These wardens take orders from their superiors comfortably seated inside their air-conditioned rooms within the same building. It is not hard to imagine that these people who are supposed to serve the rakyat never the least put this in their hearts.

With their arms akimbo, these people appear to have enjoyed looking down on people like us begging them to get our chores  done.

If those arrogant government officials were to head private companies that need to have a good rapport with consumers such as airlines, bus or taxi services, cinemas, tourist attractions and F&B outlets, allowing the same bunch of ignorant wardens to stand at the gate, it is a matter of time the companies under their stewardship will go bust.

As a matter of fact, recent incidents involving members of the public being stopped in front of hospital or police station due to the way they dress have entailed the pertinent question of human rights.

Even though these incidents have eventually managed to draw the attention of those in power thanks to broad media coverage, the root cause is left largely untouched. Moreover, not everyone has the time, energy or resources to take their grievances to court. So, more of such anomaly is expected in future.

It is not difficult at all to solve this problem once and for all. Both Azalina and Nancy Shukri can play their respective parts in this particular matter.

Azalina is now the minister in the PM’s minister in charge of law and institutional reform, and she needs to work a lot harder to address the issue of public dress code which was non-existent seven years ago but is very much evident in some of our government departments today.

Meanwhile, Nancy Shukri is now helming the women, family and community development ministry. Seven years ago, she threw a tantrum over the incomprehensible dress code, but other than that, she doesn’t seem to have done much up till this point to stop all this farce.

For so many years most of the victims of such restrictions and the subsequent ridicules and humiliation have been women, and this is where Nancy Shukri should stand up and back the law minister.

These two ministers can always bring back those old parliamentary papers for deliberation in the cabinet, and get the chief secretary to the government to issue unambiguous instructions to government officials nationwide, to reemphasize the three main points highlighted at the start of this article, and make sure all civil servants abide by the directive.

As the name suggests, the “Malaysia Madani” advocacy by PM Anwar Ibrahim is meant to create a country that is prosperous, progressive and liberal. Unfortunately, a string of events that took place lately — from public dress code, film censorship, to guidelines for foreign artistes performing here in Malaysia — attests to the fact that this new government is not any different from its predecessors, not in a way that we expect it to take us to.

If the unity government is serious about its “Malaysia Madani” advocacy, it must instantly rid itself of the exasperating, antiquated and corrupt practices, and give us back that kind of civility that befits any modern society which puts its citizens first.


Chan Aun Kuang
unity government
dress code


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