TEACHERS are supposed to teach. And when members of the public visit the hospital, the Road Transport Department, or any government facility for that matter, they are there for a service, and they expect to be given that.
After all, as has been said many times before, the public service exists because the taxpayers are the ones who pay the salaries of the civil servants.
But things do become complicated when some individuals get side-tracked from their job specifications, and start to bring politics and religion into play.
The problem with some Malaysians is that we are also not very good at exercising reasonable discretion. Maybe we fear those who hold higher positions and dare not question their authority, as it is not part of our culture, or simply because of fear of reprisals.
So, if you are a security guard, whether a member of the People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) or someone from a security firm, you would be expected to just carry out the orders made by the boss, or maybe the smaller bosses, which in most cases, can be more difficult than the real top boss.
Malaysians would know by now, judging from incidents in the past weeks, that it’s always these little guys who get the blame.
If you are being asked to wear a sarong over your skirt which is deemed too short, you will look quite unnatural, and are bound to draw strange looks from others. Wouldn’t the front desk officer enquire from you, in a puzzled manner, why you are wearing a skirt with a sarong on?
But if the officers are indifferent to the situation and the head of the front desk does not even bat an eyelid, it is obvious that they are fully aware of what the security guard has ordered the member of the public to do.
Maybe this has been going on for a while, except that no one has complained, and a recording of the event had not gone viral.
Since incidents of such a “humiliating” exercise have been reported, many others, including a former colleague, have shared their experiences on social media.
My ex-colleague took her case all the way up to the JPJ chief, who apologised for the unfortunate incident. But in her case, she has access to the boss because of her job.
I have been following the exchange of opinions on social media and, by now, we are well aware that we are also not very good at articulating or advocating our case well. Many of these views seem racially and religiously prejudiced and, as a result, a sense of reasonableness is lost.
Dress codes are not something unusual. Even casinos, as some have pointed out, have strict dressing codes before anyone can enter. But the question here is how these rules are reasonably enforced in our government departments?
In all fairness, checks by our reporters have shown that most government departments are reasonable and seem to totally ignore even their own dress codes. Their priority is to provide service and the people are served even if the skirt’s hemline is above the knee or they are wearing slippers.
We actually have photographs of inadequately dressed men, including one in a pair of shorts and singlet, rushing into a JPJ office and were properly served.
As with all debate, there are those who argue whether micro mini-skirts and bikinis would be tolerated, which I think is stretching the argument too far. Anyone who wants to dress that way in public, not just in a government facility, will most likely be hauled up.
No sane person would go to any office, private or public, in a bikini, so such arguments are flawed and unreasonable.
The recent cases whereby the women were asked to wear the sarongs are certainly not in this category. Anyone with a fair and objective mind would surely agree that all the ladies were properly and decently dressed.
Then, there have been a number of cases brought to light recently of teachers who want to play moral guardians in schools.
One incident was when a teacher reportedly confiscated the little crucifix that a student was wearing. A police report was subsequently lodged.
But according to the latest report, the cross has since been returned to the student and the father has accepted an apology from the school principal and also withdrawn the report.
It has also been reported that pressure was exerted on the headmaster and school management board of St Mary Labuk in Sandakan to remove the cross from the new school building. But Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap stepped in and guaranteed that the cross would remain, saying it had been clearly stated that mission schools are allowed to upkeep the ethos and characteristics of these schools.
It seems to be a phenomenon of the past decade. We all know the crucifix has long been removed from classrooms in mission schools, because of an order from the then minister who is now in the opposition.
About the same time, the symbol of the crucifix was also taken out of mission school badges. The Latin mottos fortunately have remained and presumably no one understands what they mean.
Well, Malaysia’s problem, or rather the Little Napoleons’ problem, is that we seem to channel our energy in a very unproductive way. There is a lot of fire-fighting because these people think they can get away with anything, and only when it becomes an issue do they step back.
Teachers should be striving to make our students top in Maths and Science and be competent in the English language. Instead, in these core areas of education, we have continued to deteriorate further.
Our students are no longer gaining entry into Ivy League schools such as Harvard as we used to. Schools used to be able to boast of these achievements but these days, many of them get into the news for all the wrong reasons.
Even if we seem to be generating many students with a string of As in the public examinations, these premier universities are not that easily impressed.
Meanwhile, no one will deny that our government-run hospitals are providing good service to the people. We must commend our doctors and nurses who toil daily for the public, at wages that are far less to what their counterparts in the private hospitals can command.
But the people who run these hospitals must also focus on keeping the standards high, and even raise the bench mark. The least of their concerns should be to worry about how visitors are dressed.
Just like at the JPJ, surely worrying about the dressing of the public is not part of the JPJ mission statement.
Malaysian taxpayers should be treated as customers who deserve the best service. They should not be sent home, denied entry or asked to wear a sarong, simply because someone takes offence to how they dress.