Compulsory Thursday Batik Attire For Civil Servants Upsets Some Doctors

An Aug 21 circular by JPA compels all federal civil servants to wear Malaysian batik at work on Thursdays, except uniformed staff and for official events with set dress codes. A senior MO slams the mandate as “impractical” for doctors in clinical work.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 22 – A new ruling that mandates all federal civil servants to wear Malaysian batik at work on Thursdays, beginning this week, has exasperated some government doctors.

Public Service Department (JPA) director-general Zulkapli Mohamed issued a circular yesterday to announce that all officers in the federal public service are “mandated” (diwajibkan) to dress in Malaysian batik every Thursday at work and “encouraged” (digalakkan) to do so on other work days.

“This batik attire mandate is exempted for officers supplied with uniforms or those who are attending official events with specific dress codes,” Zulkapli said in his August 21 circular that came into effect on the same date.

The JPA DG, in his circular as sighted by CodeBlue, stated that the government wanted to “ensure continued support for the Malaysian batik industry and to ensure that it (batik) remains a heritage and symbol of identity of the Malaysian people”, ever since federal civil servants have been wearing Malaysian batik since 1985.

Before this new mandate under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration, federal civil servants were previously simply recommended or encouraged to wear Malaysian batik at work every Thursday.

A senior medical officer criticised the ruling, saying it was “abrupt” and “unnecessary”, particularly for doctors in clinical jobs who often wear white lab coats. 

“Batik for doctors who are dealing with clinical work, patients with high chances of spillage, and on-call, and making it ‘wajib’ is impractical. We are not doing just a desk job,” the senior doctor, who works at a public health clinic in the Klang Valley, told CodeBlue.

“By right, doctors have a uniform – white coat. Asking doctors to wear batik is just silly.”

She also complained about the government imposing the Malaysian batik apparel mandate on civil servants without providing a clothing allowance for it. “Batik is not cheap.”

In certain stores, short-sleeved batik shirts for men can cost from more than RM150 to over RM250; batik garments for women are more expensive, retailing at more than RM270 for a blouse or over RM300 to nearly RM400 for a dress.

The senior medical officer also complained that since this year, the government stopped providing doctors in the public health service white cloth and RM300 for stitching into a coat.

“Whenever I asked the PKD (district health office), they said, contract ended, unsure when it’s resumed.”

Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said earlier today that air conditioner temperatures in government offices and premises would be raised to 24°C to 25°C to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nik Nazmi, in his tweet, also confirmed that Malaysian batik attire at work is now compulsory for civil servants on Thursdays, and optional every other work day.

“This is for the comfort of civil servants to adjust their attire to the change in temperature, as part of the government’s efforts to save energy, and support energy efficiency initiatives while also stimulating the Malaysian batik industry,” he said.

The senior medical officer working at a klinik kesihatan, in response to the minister’s comments, said: “They don’t know that we don’t even have fans in most clinics and old hospital wards.” 

“It is as sweaty as a small kid going to school in most old clinics.”

CodeBlue has asked Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, the Ministry of Health (MOH) Putrajaya, and JPA for clarification on whether doctors in clinical work are exempted from the Thursday batik attire mandate, and whether clothing allowances will be provided to civil servants for it.

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