Ball now in Speaker’s court to allow batik in Parliament

It was a 10-minute meeting.

However, the brief discussion between Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun yesterday, had started the ball rolling en route to achieving a historical goal – in allowing MPs to wear batik in Parliament.

Azhar should have no problems in allowing it, based on 41(f) of the Dewan Rakyat’s Standing Orders, which reads:

“During a sitting, male members shall wear either the national dress or a lounge suit; female members shall wear either the national dress, sarong and a long-sleeved blouse, or a knee-length skirt and a long-sleeved blouse; and all members may also wear a ceremonial dress, or such other dress as may be permitted by the Tuan Yang di-Pertua.”

The last line of the Standing Order in Bahasa Melayu, reads “… atau apa-apa pakaian lain sebagaimana dibenarkan oleh Tuan Yang di-Pertua.”

In short, any other clothing allowed by the Speaker.

If Azhar, a trained lawyer, wants a precedent, he could always refer to what had happened in 2006 when then Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri (now Tan Sri) Rais Yatim, wore a black Nehru collar-like shirt and a jacket to the august house.

Despite the hue and cry by other MPs, then Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib did not object to Rais’ attire. In fact, Ramli had then said: “It is an alternative attire, although there is no black and white (directive). No one is forced to wear it.”

Getting MPs to wear batik once a week would be a good start. Allowing them to wear batik whenever they felt like it would be even better. It would then be a personal choice, instead of one that was forced upon them.

Azhar need not worry about MPs opposing such a proposal. When PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar suggested that MPs wore batik in the Dewan Rakyat in 2019, she received support from MPs on both sides of the divide.

The majority of the MPs would welcome the decision.

Azhar could very well ink his name in the history books for being the Speaker who allowed the Malaysian batik in Parliament. It would also be an acknowledgement to the art form, and a recognition of its designers and manufacturers.

With Parliament being televised ‘live’, this would mean that batik would get plenty of air time, thus allowing more Malaysians to appreciate the art form.

If Azhar says yes, it would further motivate Nancy and her ministry to continue promoting batik locally and abroad.

Parliament is supposed to maintain its exclusivity, and image is of paramount importance.

However, as I wrote on Sept 26, batik is an art form that transcends status, colour and creed. Batik is indeed, for all.

Be a sport, Azhar. Score this goal. Make Malaysian batik proud.