Saturday 3 December 2016

SYED BAKAR ALI : The Malaysian Civil Service - Their Darkest Hour


My late father was a Civil Servant - something he was always very proud of being. He spent the largest part of his adult life as a Civil Servant. My father retired as the Pengarah INTAN, Pulau Pinang in the early 1980s. INTAN is the Institut Tadbiran Awam Negara or National Institute of Public Administration. INTAN was set up sometime in the early 70s and my father was in the very first batch of lecturers to join INTAN. Prior to INTAN my father began his administrative career in the Police Field Force based in Ulu Kinta, Ipoh. For sometime, we were actually 'anak Polis'. 

The function of INTAN was to teach Civil Servants about the rules and regulations of working in the Civil Service. They were and still are the guardians of the bureaucracy. I recall seeing the General Orders sitting on my father's study table at home. The General Orders is (or was) a very thick, brass-screw bound book which had all the rules or 'general orders' of the Malaysian Civil Service. It was the bible of the Malaysian Civil Service. It was written in English and I used to read it (very little though). It looked something like these, but much, much thicker.

At that time the Malaysian Civil Service was a disciplined and professional organisation. Being a member of the Malaysian Civil Service had an impact on the behaviour and professionalism of Civil Servants even outside the office. I recall writing letters home from the United States which my father would number and place in one of his files. Thats what he told me. It still makes me smile.

In Malaysia in the late 1970s our Post Office (part of the Civil Service then) became super duper efficient. If you mailed a letter in Penang in the morning, it would arrive in Kuala Lumpur the next day.

There were TWO mail deliveries in Penang - one in the morning and another in the evening which also meant that there was same day delivery of mail. If you mailed a letter in the morning to an address in Penang the letter would be delivered in the same afternoon. I tested it myself. The Post Office was super efficient. That was 38 years ago in 1978 !
The main reason was because the Post Master General was an exceptional fellow. He worked hard and did not even stop for prayer breaks. Mainly because he was a Hindu, an Indian. Ha ha ha. Well, Hindu or not, the entire Postal Service was able to be super efficient.
Later, during my working career I also had the opportunity to work with the Civil Servants. This was during the time of Tun Dr Mahathir and it was Putrajaya in the 1990s. The top Civil Servants were top notch and were indeed a very professional class. They were thorough. When the government signed off on something they were quite thorough. And we hardly met any 'con-sultants'. At that time the Malaysian Civil Service wrote its own letters, and in very good English.

Ever since the Malaysia Incorporated concept, Tun Dr Mahathir succesfully changed the thinking of the Civil Service from being just bureaucrats and keepers of the red tape to become facilitators and partners with the people, the rakyat. They were real 'public servants'. They served the public. And that is also why and how the economy grew at crazy rates of 7% to 10% per annum during those years.

I recall meeting some friends from overseas in Penang sometime in the 1990s. They said something I will never forget. They said, 'In your country your government seems to be doing all it can to make peoples' lives easier and better'.

I think that was a fantastic endorsement for the country, the government and the Malaysian Civil Service.

Sadly we cannot say the same anymore. The top rungs of the Malaysian Civil Service seem to be populated by spineless and incompetent types.

Corruption is now unlimited in scope. That cash hoard in excess of RM100 million in Sabah is indicative of the type of collusion at the highest levels on both sides of the South China Sea.

That amount of money had to be okayed in Putrajaya. There is no way that amount of money could be siphoned out without some big signatures in Putrajaya (all done properly and according to procedure of course). What was the voucher or engineers certificate or drawdown notice that enabled that money to be paid out? And how was it delivered in cash to those people? There must have been a bank involved - which first received the government money.

So they are all in cahoots.

Now this 1MDB scandal and its associated cases have really exposed the Malaysian Civil Service for being spineless psychophants. The service of the notice (of sacking) the AG Ghani Patail by the KSN was a really big low in the history of the service.

The KSN was being treated like a peon to save MO1's hide. A peon to deliver a letter that was actually the final part of a hatchet job on Ghani. And the KSN dutifully performed the 'saya yang ikut perintah' role.

Prior to that another top ranking civil servant had "alerted" the Minister about what Ghani Patail was up to. Ghani was just doing his job. It was Civil Servants stabbing other Civil Servants in the back. No more professionalism, no more ethics.

Then there have been huge amounts of misappropriation of funds. The 1MDB, SRC and related scandals are the biggest scandals. Whats that muallaf guy up to in Petronas? His biggest critics are now part of the prepaid crowd. The muallaf guy paid for some air tickets for some of them. People say ALL of Petronas businesses overseas are running at losses, except for Engen in South Africa. And they want to sell off Engen?

However it is the Auditor General's Report which provides the bigger nightmare scenario. It is not just the amounts being stolen but the stupidity and Third World clownish incompetence that is being assumed.

An RM70 million sturgeon project in the jungles of Pahang approved without even a feasability study? Granted it was an "off budget" agency but surely some Civil Servants were involved in the processes. There must certainly be some collusion but does it have to involve such clownish levels of incompetent thinking by those Civil Servants? What has happened?

Finally the story would not be complete without mentioning the Police. With the Police, it is much easier to prove their slip down the slope. We have the benefit of hindsight. We have the benefit of Courts simply throwing out cases brought before them. Of course it is the Public Prosecutor and not the Police who bring cases to Court but it is the Police who begin the ball rolling by arresting people for really inconsequential and foolish reasons.
They arrested and charged a Tan Sri and a woman prosecutor over that 1MDB leak or something. The Police could not even get a remand order from the Court. The Court threw out the Police request. That was serious egg in their face.

A girl releasing balloons was arrested. The Court threw out her case too.

The news reports overseas make the country look really stupid.

'Malaysian police arrest young girl for releasing balloons'.

Or 'Malaysian Police arrest whistleblowers'.

Doesnt that make us look really Third World stupid?

The latest is 'Malaysian Police arrest 60 year old woman over accusations of plotting to overthrow government'. And the Court has released Maria Chin Abdullah as well.

We have absolute certainty of hindsight. 

We have certainty of foolishness. Incompetence.

And that is how the world also looks at us.

These are the Darkest Hours of the Malaysian Civil Service.

If my father were alive, I think he would be shocked beyond belief. This is NOT the Malaysian Civil Service that brought the country up to be a really model nation and an economic tiger in double quick time.

Acting as the peons of the corrupt and the incompetent, the Malaysian Civil Service is now dragging the country into the pits. The pits filled with lying politicians, thieves and other snakes.

Other than Ghani Patail, some of my former associates at the MACC, Dato Akhil Bulat and Hamid Bador of the Special Branch isnt there anyone else among the top rungs of the Civil Service who can break the mould?

Just stand up and be counted. Nothing will happen to you. Make a stand and tell the truth. The nation will forever hold you in gratitude. If not immediately, then sometime tomorow, history will seek you out and record your name.

But most important of all, please help to redeem the good name of the Malaysian Civil Service.

Posted by Syed Akbar Ali

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