Sri Lanka officials off the noose under new dress code

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday overturned a 26-year-old decree that made it mandatory for top bureaucrats to wear suit and tie, and said they could be dressed in clothing more suitable for the tropical climate.

"We must adopt clothing that suits our weather and climate," President Sirisena said at a construction industry meeting in Colombo. "Officials no longer need to wear suits. From now on, it is not a mandatory requirement."

He revoked the strict dress code declared in 1991 by former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was seen in public wearing a white cotton long-sleeved tunic and sarong.

President Premadasa was dressed in the national suit when he was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack during a May Day rally in Colombo in 1993. Even after his death, the dress code remained.

Under former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, even journalists covering his events were ordered to wear a full suit.

President Sirisena said bureaucrats who continue to wear full suit will not be penalised, but believed that the 1991 decree had made officials suffer in silence for too long.

Even at Buddhist religious events, officials were seen wearing full suit, President Sirisena said he was not against anyone who wished to get into Western clothing.

He commended civil servants in neighbouring India for wearing clothing more appropriate for their weather and climate, and not getting into Western jackets and tie.

Sri Lanka’s civil service is largely based on systems inherited from British colonials who ruled the Indian Ocean island for 133 years till 1948, a year after leaving neighbouring India.

Unlike bureaucrats, most politicians since independence have opted for the national dress in public to claim nationalistic credentials, while at other times wearing Western clothing, including when travelling abroad. (COLOMBO, January 9, 2017)





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