Keratan Akhbar



Dress Code At Govt Premise In Line With Fifth Principle Of Rukun Negara

By Balkish Awang | 16 February 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) – There have been numerous cases of women denied entry into government buildings for allegedly being dressed in attire deemed inappropriate.

In the latest incident, a woman wearing a pair of shorts that did not cover her knees was not allowed to enter the police headquarters in Kajang, Selangor, when she came there to lodge a report on a road accident.

Each time a case like this is reported or goes viral on social media, it is bound to trigger a debate on the over-policing of the dress code for the public when they go to government departments or agencies.

The latest incident, which occurred on Jan 30, met with, among others, calls for the dress code to be reviewed. Criticisms were also hurled at the police for being “intolerant”.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani was later quoted as saying that the police can relax the dress code but it would depend on the type of emergency faced by the complainant.

“(In general) people must always wear appropriate attire when they go to public buildings,” he said.


Incidentally, the dress code at government premises – which is just a guideline and cannot be enforced as law – is in line with the fifth principle of the Rukun Negara, namely courtesy and morality, which is aimed at fostering unity among the people through good behaviour.

Commenting on this, Universiti Sains Malaysia School of Humanities lecturer Associate Prof Dr Mohd Nizam Sahad said the fifth Rukun Negara principle is closely related to the question of manners, ethics and morals in connection with Malaysia’s multiracial society.

“Being courteous and respecting the rules are part of the meaning and scope of the fifth principle. This principle ought to be understood and practised by all Malaysians in order to safeguard the nation’s harmony,” he told Bernama.

So, based on this principle, the existing dress code should not be disputed or reviewed, he stressed.

He added that there is no reason for the public to violate the dress code considering that the notice pertaining to dressing etiquette is displayed at every government office.

“People who don’t adhere to the dress code are mainly those ignorant of the rules,” he said, adding that lax enforcement in some premises can also give the impression to the public that the dress code is no longer applicable.


Mohd Nizam also felt that going against the fifth principle of the Rukun Negara may lead to racial tension.

“The lack of mutual respect and tolerance can cause arguments and conflicts to occur among the people,” he said.

According to him, the fifth principle also applies to views expressed by individuals particularly political and community leaders, adding that even though every individual has the right to freedom of speech, they should carefully consider the repercussions before airing their opinions.

“In giving our opinions, we’re also bound to the principle of courtesy and morality. By right, the issue of going against the dress code at government premises shouldn’t arise. Rules are rules.

“People who come to such premises must follow the rules. What’s so wrong with this? There will be harmony only if mutual respect exists,” he said before suggesting the government revs up its awareness campaign on the guidelines for the public to abide by should they need to go to a government department or agency for any purpose.

Meanwhile, lawyer Ahmad Ishrakh Saad said the dress code at government premises is only implicit and not enforceable by law.

He also does not see a need to enforce the dress code by way of a written law, saying that the existing practice is sufficient.

“If a law is drafted to enforce it (dress code), it will become too rigid and there will be no flexibility… the latter is necessary within the context of Malaysia’s plural society,” he pointed out, adding that it would be more appropriate for the government to take a moderate approach when dealing with this issue.

“If at all a law is enacted, difficulties may arise in establishing the exact definition of ‘courteous and modest’ dressing. This is because this matter is subjective and in accordance with the perceptions of each community and their way of life.”

Ahmad Ishrakh added enforcing the dress code can also trigger polemics on the right to freedom as provided for under Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution.

He said the government should look into improving the existing guidelines on dressing to ensure that the requirement to adhere to the dress code is proportionate to the well-being of the people.

“Besides that, Malaysians must also exhibit a high level of maturity and tolerance especially in terms of their dressing rights by taking into consideration the dynamic context of this nation where eastern values are practised and elements of courtesy, decency and mutual respect are given importance,” he added.

Translated by Rema Nambiar



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