In a move that has elicited mixed reactions among government workers in Putrajaya, the Malaysian government recently implemented a significant change. Starting from August 21st, a new directive mandates civil servants to wear traditional Malaysian batik attire every Thursday. The circular, signed by Zulkapli Mohamed, the director-general of the Public Service Department, outlines that all federal civil servants are now required to don batik clothing when reporting to work on Thursdays.
Exceptions to this requirement exist for employees who already have designated uniforms or those participating in official ceremonies with specific dress codes. The directive also goes beyond Thursdays, encouraging the wearing of batik attire on other working days. The primary objectives of this regulation are twofold: to provide continuous support to the local Malaysian batik industry and to ensure the preservation of batik as a cultural heritage representing the Malaysian identity.
The implementation of this policy is contingent upon the acceptance of relevant authorities. Moreover, the directive’s scope extends to state public services, statutory bodies, and local authorities. This directive supersedes the previous Service Circular No 1 of 2021, which pertained to the utilization of Malaysian batik attire among federal public service officers.
While the policy aims to celebrate and sustain the cultural significance of Malaysian batik, it has stirred a range of sentiments within the Malaysian government workforce. Some employees view it as a positive step toward cultural preservation, while others perceive it as an imposition disrupting their established attire routines.
Notably, a senior medical officer has voiced strong criticism of the ruling. She considers the directive “abrupt” and “unnecessary,” particularly for doctors in clinical roles who traditionally wear white lab coats. The senior doctor, employed at a public health clinic in the Klang Valley, emphasizes the impracticality of enforcing batik attire for doctors actively involved in clinical work. She highlights the challenges doctors face in terms of patient care, potential spillages, and on-call duties, asserting that these demands are unrealistic given the nature of their responsibilities. She stresses that doctors are not confined to desk jobs and questions the idea of requiring them to wear batik attire, labeling it as “silly.”
This new policy showcases the government’s effort to promote Malaysian culture while triggering a debate about its practicality and impact on different roles within the public sector. As the directive takes effect, its implications on cultural expression and professional demands remain subjects of ongoing discussion.