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When civil servants get a dressing down

Human compassion and mutual understanding should take precedence over dress codes

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The idiomatic expression “The emperor has no clothes” may not even go down well with certain government officials at the rate they are going with their overzealous application of so-called dress codes at government premises.

This, incidentally, is despite the fact that this expression does aptly depict the social reality where a group of people adopt a herd mentality in believing that their leader can do no wrong, including indulgence in massive corruption.

If you think it is absurd that the idiom above would be cast aside because of the attitude of the self-appointed moral police, then it should be equally preposterous that a woman who desperately sought medical help at Kampar Hospital was turned away from its emergency unit simply because she was dressed ‘inappropriately’.

Pray tell, which part of the emergency case concerning the woman in her 20s did the medical worker concerned not understand? That a person with health issues would not have time and the frame of mind to think of choosing appropriate items of clothing to wear for a rushed hospital visit? Does it really matter if, say, the hemline is too high when a person’s blood pressure has dangerously shot up?

This brouhaha prompted a social media user to sarcastically advise readers to get properly dressed before going to bed in case they get a heart attack in the middle of the night and have to be rushed to hospital.

Concerned folk are keeping a close watch on such controversial instances, with a 60-year-old woman reportedly prevented recently from taking the lift to the second floor of the Pasir Gudang City Council office in Johor despite wearing a dress beyond her knees.

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A security guard there allegedly disallowed her from taking the lift as he felt that her dress was ‘not long enough’ because it did not touch the floor.

She had to take the stairs as a result, although we are left baffled as to how walking the stairs in a not-too-long dress was acceptable.

Such interventions can cause unnecessary delays and inconvenience to members of the public who have to deal with government officers for official business.

Arbitrariness in determining what constitutes ‘decent dressing’ on the part of civil servants and their allied workers could lead to an abuse of power, the effect of which – as shown above – is horrifying.

To be sure, the above incidents came on the heels of another one in which a woman, who wanted to lodge a police report regarding an accident, was denied entry into a Kajang Police headquarters because she was wearing Bermuda shorts that were considered a bit too short.

In fact, we did envisage in this column recently that similar problems could emerge in hospitals in the wake of the Kajang case.

This is very disturbing for members of the public, particularly when the so-called dress code involves government agencies that provide essential services, such as the police, hospital and Fire and Rescue Department.

One would shudder to think of the outcome of such overzealousness if stretched to its logical conclusion. Imagine the ridiculous possibility of a fire victim being asked to change her slightly torn pyjamas to a decent dress before she could be saved from the clutches of the raging fire in her bedroom.

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Surely such arbitrary prescription needs to stop if government agencies are to serve the public efficiently and effectively.

Human compassion and mutual understanding should take precedence over dress codes. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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