Allyson West, Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation

Unlike their Tobago counterparts, members of the public in Trinidad, outfitted in slippers, sleeveless or short pants will have to wait a bit longer to access public offices.

According to Public Administration minister, Allyson West, while efforts were ongoing as it related to public service reform, dress code was not high on the agenda.

“There are just too many more important areas of focus for us to turn our attention to dress code at this time. Any adjustment to that may come in the future will be a whole of government approach.”

Minister West’s comment on Monday was in response to questions from Guardian Media about recent plans announced by Tobago House of Assembly’s Chief Secretary Farley Augstine’s to remove dress code policies at THA buildings. At a media briefing,  Augustine said the policy change was not for workers but for the public and among sweeping changes aimed at improving citizens access to services. Augustine labelled the current system as a vestige of colonialism.

Guardian Media spoke to citizens outside several public offices in Port of Spain, many of whom were in support of the reversal of the dress code policy and for similar steps to be taken in Trinidad.

According to Heidi Balkaran, ” We have to upgrade, because I don’t see nothing wrong if you come in a slippers or an armless, I really can’t see no problem…is clothes we have on.”

A woman outside the ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs said,

” We could go with slippers, little sleeveless, I really can’t understand why we have a problem.”

Christian Philemon was also in agreement with Chief Secretary Farley Augustine who announced the removal of the policy on Sunday, for him, the mandate came at a cost.

” My stepfather recently passed away and I needed to get the land and building taxes. So, we had to come here and I was directed from the other government offices but I was told I couldn’t enter because of my attire.

Almost every day someone visiting a public office shares Philemon’s experience. Over in Tobago, citizens have already started embracing the change.

Dave Raphael said,

“In a little while we’ll have our visitors returning to our islands and if an incident should happen to one of them, I’m not saying you should go half-naked, I’m sure people will use discretion.”

According to Nicola Pierre, once discretion is used, there should be no issues.

” I find it will be good whereas you could run in not too inappropriate, but with the slippers, because you know not everybody could afford certain things and stuff.”

Has the time come to shift away from what Augustine described as the “vestiges of colonialism” here in Trinidad? Communications consultant and blogger Dennise Demming was in support for more reasons than one.

” If we are going to deny citizens access to government institutions because of what they are wearing then we need to re-think, because let us say that person had come from a privileged environment, they would have been dropped off, dressed whatever and would have had everything covered so this is a social justice issue.”

According to her, the authorities must consider redesigning systems so as to make access to public offices and services easier for citizens.

Reporter: Jesse Ramdeo