President David Granger has voiced disagreement with some of the requirements outlined in the dress codes for entry into government buildings and says that the focus should be on serving the public and not on what is worn.
“They (the requirements) seem to be a bit backward,” he said during the ‘Public Interest’ interview programme, which was aired last Friday.
Asked specifically about the calls for the relaxation of the dress codes for entry to government agencies and offices, Granger said that he does not know the origin of the dress codes but in the 70s there was a move towards comfort, particularly with respect to females dressing comfortably, in accordance with “the weather and of course what they could afford.”
Critics have said that many of the requirements in the codes should be relaxed given the local climate.
Pointing out that these codes are not law, Granger said, “I don’t think there is need in 2016 for that sort of restriction. It is an unnecessary imposition particularly when people have to travel distances to transact business with the government. It has been taken to ridiculous extremes.”
He noted that he has gotten complaints from the parents of students attending school in the hinterland, who were being told that their children have to wear white socks and black shoes.
“I have been to schools in which an entire class was barefooted. They had no shoes at all. You mean because of the dress code those children will be deprived of an education? They can’t afford shoes,” he said.
Granger said that rules outlined in the dress codes are probably prejudicial but “we need to be much more liberal and I am in agreement with serving the public interest first. If the person is clean and decently clad and doesn’t offend public morality, I think the public services should be extended to those persons.”
He also said that if the dress code is a “public nuisance,” then government should take a look at it.
The stringent dress codes have been under scrutiny recently and following public complaints some government agencies have moved to relax their enforcement. Notably, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, upon the appointment of Trevor Benn at the helm in May, decided that it would be flexible with its application of the dress code. “We took the decision to, I don’t know if you would call it relax the dress code but to accept persons… once they passed the security requirements,” Benn had told this newspaper.
And last week, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) followed suit.
“We don’t want the taxpayers to feel as if we are turning our backs on them… and more so if they are coming to pay their revenues,” Chairman of the GRA Board Rawle Lucas told Stabroek News.
The GRA was one of many government agencies countrywide that enforced a strict dress code that prohibited, among other things, torn clothing, armless clothing, slippers, short pants in the case of both men and women as well as tights and short skirts.