KOTA KINABALU: The atmosphere at the state Rural Development Ministry here today was quite different from other days as officers and staff came dressed up in their respective traditional costumes and ethnic-patterned attire.
The morning started on a more cheerful note as they took turns for group and selfie photos, before getting back to work.
The move follows a call by the state government for civil servants to wear their respective traditional garments on Thursdays to promote ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as to preserve tradition through costumes.
Prior to this, civil servants in the state are required to wear batik to work every fourth day of the week.
Rural Development Minister Datuk Ewon Benedick said wearing traditional outfits during working hours and government official events can become a culture, which can in turn help to promote the state’s clothing industry.
“This can attract interest of our friends from other states and countries when they see our civil servants are uniquely dressed in traditional or ethnic-inspired costumes. It offers them the opportunity to see our various cultures.
“I am sure over time, this will encourage fashion designers to come up with more ethnic-inspired clothing suitable for office use,” he told reporters.
Noting that full traditional costumes usually come with heavy accessories, Ewon said civil servants should opt for comfortable and appropriate ethnic attire as not to disrupt the work environment.
Today, the Kadamaian assemblyman wore a beaded Pinakol necklace of the Rungus community and donned black button-down shirt with a touch of Kadazandusun motifs. The corporate shirt has since been worn by Village Community Management Council officials and native chiefs in the constituency during official meeting and government events.
On whether the private sector should follow suit, Ewon said he had seen private companies wearing traditional attire on certain occasions, adding those working in the tourism industry should be at the forefront to help highlight Sabah’s ethnic costumes.
Rohana Naseebgul, 27, who was transferred to the Ministry two months ago was excited over the new Thursday’s dress-code, stressing it is not often that one gets to wear a traditional outfit, more so at work.
“It’s something different. We have never worn (the traditional costumes) to work. I am a Dusun and the last time I wore a traditional costume was during my primary school days. Today, I borrowed a top outfit worn by the Rungus.
“There are so many attire that I see in the office today. I get to learn something new about other cultures,” she added.
Her colleague Norsimah Kula, 45, said she now looked forward to every Thursday and already had a plan in mind on what to wear next. Today, she wore a baju kurung with a sampin.
“This one is a traditional Melayu Brunei costume. In full outfit, we usually wear with a heavy set of accessories and headgear. Next Thursday, I want to wear the Bisaya and Kedayan traditional outfit,” she said, adding she has Bisaya relatives, and her husband is a Kedayan.
Meanwhile, Lesaya Lopog, who is press secretary to deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau, said a traditional attire does not necessarily worn with decorations, as usually seen worn during functions such as the Kaamatan festival and weddings.
“Instead, we can have one designed for all occasions, including for work and meetings, among others. The call for government staff to wear the traditional attire to work every Thursday is not confined to wearing the Kadazandusun attire alone.
“Other ethnic communities can wear their own respective traditional attires albeit with a little modification to make the attire more conducive to the office environment, while maintaining some resemblance of the traditional motifs.
“This type of attire would be more affordable and could help players in the clothes industry to earn a steady income,” he added.
Last year, the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) passed a resolution during its conference, calling for Sabah’s traditional ethnic costumes to be acknowledged as an official dress code at government functions.
The move was supported by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal during a speech at the state-level Kaamatan celebration on May 31.