YOU are about to go to an office of a government department to submit an application, make a payment, renew your licence or perform some other transaction. What must you check before you leave?
In a more sensible time, the most important thing is to ensure you bring the relevant documents and whatever else that is required by the department. These days, there’s more.
You have to first look in the mirror. Show up in the “wrong” clothes and you may be turned away.
This is what several people have learnt in recent times.
On June 8, Suzanna G.L. Tan was asked by a Rela member to wear a sarong before proceeding to the counter at the Road Transport Department office in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur. Tan’s skirt appeared to be only a few inches short of knee-length.
Two weeks later, two women in dresses that ended slightly above the knees were told by a security guard that they could not enter the Selangor state secretariat building in Shah Alam. One of them was offered a green sarong.
Shorts can be a problem, too.
On June 16, security guards at the Sungai Buloh Hospital stopped a visitor because she was wearing shorts. She had to wrap her legs in a towel borrowed from a patient before she was allowed in.
A man in sandals and knee-length pink shorts was asked to go home and change when he went to the KL International Airport in early May to collect a bag he had left behind.
Penang’s Balik Pulau court complex also has an issue with the hemline. Insisting that the knee-length skirt of a woman in her 50s was too short, a security guard prevented her from entering the place.
Typically, apologies or clarifications were issued after these cases were highlighted in the media. The blame was usually pinned on the overenthusiastic guards.
We can all agree on that, but apology upon apology do not eliminate inconvenient and restrictive practices. Can it be that these guards acted entirely on their own, based on rules they dreamed up on the day they reported to work?
The fact is, for years, there has been a dress code for visitors to certain government offices. Some of these buildings display notices on the code.
In July last year, the National Registration Department tweeted on the do’s and don’ts of how to dress when going to the department for counter services. The code, says the department, is in line with the fifth principle of the Rukunegara – Good Behaviour and Morality.
We can all accept that decent and proper attire is expected when we seek government services. Or even when we are in public places.
But how do we define decent and proper? And how strict should we be about clothes people wear? Should we be perturbed by the sight of somebody’s knees?
In our multi-cultural society, is it not best that we find a comfortable middle ground where we do not impose one group’s values on the others?
As Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai pointed out, the dress code is not something cast in stone, and should be reviewed from time to time in keeping with society’s needs. After that, let us be clear and consistent about how the code should be observed.
When we are unduly focused on the length of skirts and shorts, we are likely to miss the bigger issues. The STAR Home News Opinion The STAR Says July 1, 2015