Guan Eng-SDO spat a test of civil service impartiality

Malaysian Insider
By Yoges Palaniappan
July 26, 2010

GEORGE TOWN, July 26 – Lim Guan Eng and state development officer (SDO) Nik Ali Nik Yunus’s running feud highlights widespread misunderstanding over the different roles of the civil service and political parties, political analysts said today.

Universiti Malaya Law Faculty associate professor Azmi Sharom and political analyst Wong Chin Huat backed the Penang chief minister’s criticism against Nik Ali, despite the stout defence of the federal employee put up by Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

They were of the opinion that the civil service needed to understand the distinction between political parties and government.

Azmi and Wong were commenting on the ongoing clash between Lim (pic) and Nik Ali which had escalated following a recent outburst by the federal civil servant, who said Lim had lowered his own status of a chief minister by criticising a SDO.

The chief secretary and Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians had taken Nik Ali’s side and took Lim to task for castigating the SDO.

The DAP, had in return, called Nik Ali an “Umno tool” employed by the federal government to oust the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government.

UM’s Azmi pointed out that the duty of the civil service was to serve the government.

“The civil service should not have any loyalty to the party,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

However, he observed that the civil service lacked the culture of distinguishing party and government.

“We now have four new state governments, and perhaps the civil service does not understand the choice of the people,” he said.

“Barisan [Nasional] ministers talk as if [the] civil service must be loyal to them; the executive does not seem to understand the system and politicise the issue for their own political mileage” he said.

Political analyst Wong said “the civil service must serve the government of the day”.

“It’s called administration neutrality,” he said, adding that ultimately the public were the bosses of the civil service.

Wong also agreed with Lim’s open criticism against Nik Ali. He said that it was Lim’s duty to let people know the truth and that he has done his part.

“Look at Nik Ali’s response. He would have been sacked a long time back if he had been in the private sector,” he added.
Wong said that if Nik Ali was going to stay on as SDO, BN “can forget about winning Penang in the coming general election”.

“If I am [Prime Minister Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak], I would do damage control immediately,” he said.

“You can talk about bureaucratic reforms but when someone (from the civil service) shouts at an elected government, the reform is gone,” he added.

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a political analyst with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said the clash between Lim and Nik Ali was just “tension between federal and state government”.

“Delays in getting federal funding are common. Guan Eng has run out tricks to get to the federal government,” he said.

“He cannot accuse politicians. But accusing a civil servant is seen as nothing,” he added.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 9:34 am

    NA, like most civil servants, has been brain washed kuat kuat 2 b loyal 2 UmnoB/BN
    Cannot distinguish between loyalty/service 2 a political party and 2 d gomen of d day

    Likewise, loyalty 2 d nation n loyalty 2 UmnoB/BN n UmnoB/BN-led gomen
    Any true nationalist loyal 2 Malaysia but does not support UmnoB/BN-led gomen is always considered a threat 2 d nation by UmnoB/BN n kena ISA or continuously persecuted, harassed, tortured, or even killed

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 9:37 am

    A test? That ship has sailed long time ago. Go through all the comments online and its clear that the online crowd ASSUME the civil service is not only bias but proactively discriminate system wide.

    Its not a Test but a Warning that the wrongs that have been and is cannot go on.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 9:53 am

    The professor and political analyst observe that our civil service lack the culture of distinguishing party and government. Analyst Wong says “the civil service must serve the government of the day”.

    But isn’t this what Chief Secretary is doing???

    Which is “the government of the day”?

    UM’s Azmi says, “We now have four new state governments, and perhaps the civil service does not understand the choice of the people.” He means Penang state government albeit formed by DAP/PR is also a government albeit a state government that the civil service should serve and be subordinate to just like it serves the Federal Govt or other state govts controlled by BN.

    But that’s on the premise that there is no contest and fight between Federal Government and State government – but here there’s a big fight going on, with Federal govt being very miserly in allocating federal funds to the Opposition controlled states reduced to having to raise money by excavating and selling sand from land under its jurisdiction!

    Coming back to this argument – that “the civil service must serve the government of the day” – which is ‘the government of the day’ and where should the civil service loyalty go, where, as in our instance, the Federal Government fight the State government incessantly? Where should loyalty be placed when one is facing two governments fighting?

    Its the party (Federal) that pays his salary and give him the pension isn’t it? He’s wondering if he should ever bite the hand that feeds him! But being neutral and not taking side – when side is demanded or expected to be taken by one party (Federal) tantamount in his worldview the biting of hand that feeds him! He does not understand what these analysts and academics talking about!

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 9:56 am

    Can the Malaysian civil service really be impartial?

    When Tun Dr. M. was in power, he made it clear that civil servants who vote for the Opposition should be sacked. In plain language civil servants who do not side with the government will be sacked. As a result of such “directive” from the country’s leadership, it is not difficult to understand why civil servants attend UMNO political meetings and use foul language against the Opposition.

  5. #5 by son of perpaduan on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:00 am

    Bro LGE, be cool…matters will be solve, I’m seeing the PM tomorrow.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:32 am

    Only superficially Guan Eng-SDO spat represents “a test of civil service impartiality”.

    When one talks about a civil service being loyal to government of the day it only makes sense where the constitutional system demarcating respective spheres of influence and governance work in unison and harmony for the country’s good.

    It does not work when the Federal Govt is fighting and strangulating PR controlled state govt by way of a proxy fight-to-the-end between BN and PR. As what Big Joe said in #10 of earlier thread “Civility in US, vitriol in Penang” this cannot work when the system broke down!

    Consider that BN and those who support it are all fighting for a way of life, vested interests and money making opportunities for the elites and politically connected derived from patronage distributions underpinned by racial justification – compare with what the PR says, that they should be an end to patronage system breeding corruption and the racial architecture of politics. These ideologies are diametrically opposed, so the fight must go on and the victory of one must (theoretically) mean the demise of the other’s culture.

    In such a fight (a proxy one between State & Federal govt representing 2 diametrically opposed ideologies) surely the Guan Eng-SDO spat represents at another level “a test of power” underpinned by the race factor – what commenter DAP man said in #12 of earlier thread “Civility in US, vitriol in Penang”.

    It is a test of power based on race and the political ideology of race, which for the lack of a better word, I just, for convenience, refer to as “race factor”.

    It is the race factor that garnishes political power for those who believe in what TDM said once before that politicians who played the race card fared better in their political fortunes. Vice versa, it is political power that can enforce, empower, perpetuate and entrench the race factor – with both power and race, mutually reinforcing, ensuring the good times (for those in control) never end within the system!

    LGE represents the rare non – empowered race helming a state government and evinces a challenge to the race and power equation unprecedented and different from a predecessor Chief Minister who although is also of a non – empowered race, is however subservient to and respectful of the traditional race and power equation within BN political firmament.

    This is what the spat is about – the race/power equation being perceived challenged – and why everyone along the power pyramid, whether instinctively or deliberatively, rally to the civil servant’s cause -in protection of the sytem and political milieu protective of their vested interests, with the principle of civil service impartiality or neutrality thrown to the waste paper basket!

  7. #7 by Godfather on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:34 am

    One of the more shameful incidents arising from this episode is the porn star from the MCA commenting that he would do things differently if he were in LGE’s shoes. Yeah, right. Grovel in front of a junior officer like Nik Ali, call him “Tuan” and assure him that he will be taken care of through some state contracts.

    That’s the way MCA has been doing business for the past 30 years, and the porn star doesn’t know how to do anything different. He will not have the chance to try anything different, such is the anger on the ground at this Little Napoleon from UMNO.

  8. #8 by Godfather on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:35 am

    Nik Ali will be recommended for a datukship by his UMNO masters soon. For a job well done.

  9. #9 by steven chan on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:42 am

    Ya the pornstar is good in sucking all the UMNOputras balls.He should get the grammy award.

  10. #10 by k1980 on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 10:49 am

    Not only datukship for Nikali, but also a pay increase and promotion to superscale A+, plus a all-expenses paid holiday for his family to disneyland together with the selangor toyol.

  11. #11 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 11:08 am

    I think civil servants should stick to their job to serve the government by the people and for the people. Though the federal government is under BN and 4 states in the federation are under PR but both are elected by the people. Hence civil servants should serve obediently both system of government. Moreover civil servants are paid by the people’s taxes through the government and should not take side in their duty. I think it’s their moral duty to perform with great passion as expected of the obedient servant of the people.

  12. #12 by monsterball on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 11:17 am

    Useless Gerakan and MCA presidents…..real shameful low class worms that submit to be second class citizens and carry Najib’s balls with no principles in life.
    In the past….Malaysian Chinese can understand they need to play along to get things done for the Malaysian Chinese….and race distinctions cannot be avid with the powerful minorities…UMNO B dictatorial….race and religion rules and conditions.
    After 12th GE….vast majority Malaysians know they have a choice to change the government…and particularly for MCA…they find ideas and ways to fool Malaysians too.
    Port Klang Free Zone RM12.4 billion ripped off is a fine example. Najib said corruptions must be stamped out. Ong Tee Keat vowed he will exposed the crooks.
    Waiting and waiting … big crooks exposed and all “assistants” of crook found not guilty …let off….and must be so to avoid pressure applied to spill the beans out.
    Nik Ali is nobody in Penang…even though appointed by Federal Govt….as Najib or UMNO B are not governing Penang.
    You can expect more and more UMNO B worms will find faults with Lim Guan Eng….hoping CORRUPTIONS is not an important issue.
    Side tracking….leading Malaysians away from the main issues….controlling medians are done only by powerful crooked leaders that will not admit anything wrong with their past and present actions.
    I guess those who plan to vote change of government are weird racists and not the UMNO B hypocrites.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 11:37 am

    For once Penang is governed with no strings attached to any corruptions.
    Najib should be happy Lim Guan Eng is contributing to his “1 Malaysia” with a Malaysians trully be ONE..proudly support a Malaysian Malaysia.
    Najib said he wants corruptions to stop.
    Anyway…we all know who Najib is…and therefore he is happy some one try to upset LGE in Penang now.
    Who cares about false titles given freely by UMNO B …making the real noble reasons for deserving Malaysians with their thieves and robbers…to further upset any good ideas into their crooked agendas.
    “Let there be Light” so said Allah and there was light as commanded and there will be lights millions of Malaysian hearts… to see clearly…after 13th GE.
    Najib dare not be elected PM ans stay as appointed as long as he can.
    He knows his days are numbered.

  14. #14 by loveandgratitude on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 12:00 pm

    I reiterate that LGE is doing the RIGHT thing by EXPOSING this Nik Ali.

    PR state govts in other state should do likewise. Enough is enough.

    This little napoleons are backup by the CS so they are not afraid to disrupt the functioning of the PR state govts.

    So the only weapon the PR state govts can use is to EXPOSE these pests and let the Rakyat be the Judge.

  15. #15 by JJx on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 12:10 pm

    Civil servants are permanent staff. Politicians come and go. Guan Eng should not have whack Nik Ali in the open. If he really want to whack, he should have got one of his machais like Jeff Ooi to do it instead. As CM, Guan Eng by taking on a civil servant, he has actually ‘downgraded’ himself, plus there are 1 over million civil servants in Msia and PR should not be seen by them as ghost hunting or else votes from the civil servants may go to UMNO-BN.

  16. #16 by dagen on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 12:28 pm

    Wa lau eh. Si beh cheem. All these issues are too deep for me. Bottom line. Just get rid of umno – the root of all problems. And the mamak too. He caused quite a havoc to the country.

  17. #17 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 12:32 pm

    “Civil servants are permanent staff”.
    Only if they perform their duties properly.
    We should also change the rules so that civil servants serve a 5-year contract period before we give them a permanent position.

  18. #18 by Winston on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 12:45 pm

    What’s happening in Penang as elsewhere, is undoubtedly due to the machinations of UMNO/BN.
    It is happening in all PR governed states.
    It would be extremely naive to attribute such things to anything else!
    If causing trouble to topple the PR ruled states is their game, you can trust me that we, the electorate, will give them a bigger tsunami than what the Filipinos gave to the Arroyo government!
    It will submerge them in such deep water that they’ll never, ever hope to surface, ever again!

  19. #19 by RoseBella on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 1:05 pm

    it is sad to see that most of the senior civil servant is seem to misunderstand the concept…. OR being pro BN is a must to be appointed to senior post… I dont know

  20. #20 by cintanegara on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 1:19 pm

    LKS is using every single inch of his blog to defend his son to the fullest extent possible. This issue is being sensationalized by LKS thru his blog, portraying that his son is a victim while others are guilty.. Frustrating, because when LGE can’t solve big problems, he should at least take care about smaller ones Obviously, LGE is not qualified to be a CM of a state This is a self-proclaimed meritocracy is all about. Sometimes i wonder why people seldom criticize individual like Dr Tan Seng Giew? ?

  21. #21 by JJx on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 1:56 pm

    “We should also change the rules so that civil servants serve a 5-year contract period before we give them a permanent position.” – HJ Angus

    To change the rules all of the sudden is wrong. We cannot change permanent employment into a contract one.

    The name of the game is there are 1 million over civil servants and their votes will be crucial come the next GE. There are many ways to skin a cat, Guan Eng as the CM by taking on Nik Ali is not right. Irrespective of the outcome, Guan Eng stands to lose much more.

  22. #22 by monsterball on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 4:27 pm

    hahahahahaha “big problems ” comes out from that idiotic cintanegara ‘s mouth.
    Yes….idiot….Koh Tsu Khoon did left big big problems. How smart you are to know.
    And your blood brothers in UMNO B want that to stay that way.
    Problem with you…half your brain.. not working.
    That is matter how much you are F-ed….you feel no pain or shame.
    Sensation of feelings gone ..poor fella.

  23. #23 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 - 4:56 pm

    “We cannot change permanent employment into a contract one.”
    I agree. What I was suggesting is that NEW civil servants be required to serve a contract before they are absorbed into the civil service. In fact, the government employs many people on contract as it gives a lot of flexibility.

  24. #24 by k1980 on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 9:12 am

    umno needs to second nikali to the Cleveland Botanical Garden to build leaning arches there

  25. #25 by dagen on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 9:29 am

    I wonder. You see, for decades chinese in malaysia have no problem openly expressing their support for the opposition, in particular DAP. What about malays, in particular the malays in civil service? Are they afraid to show their support openly for the opposition like keadilan or pas? I suspect they could have some serious reservation for fear of backlash. Mamak turned the entire civil service into an extension (or limb) of barisan (more like umno given the majority civil servants are malays). So anyone who goes against the government, if discovered, could have his position frozen or he could be transferred to timbaktu.

    For years the civil servants have given umno a clear run home. Umno of course would like to continue with this position. That stupid BTN course was designed for this purpose, I am sure. Umno also use the label “traitors” to put pressure on the malays. And in appropriate situations even expressions like “anti-islam” “anti-sultan” are thrown in. Now mamak has created another ie “chinese domination.”

    We need to break this trend. We need to tell malays that it is ok to support and vote the opposition. That they have a choice which is based on principles and freedom and not on fear and pressure. Even cintanegara agrees that I am right here. And kassim too.

  26. #26 by JJx on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 9:48 am

    “We need to tell malays that it is ok to support and vote the opposition. That they have a choice which is based on principles and freedom and not on fear and pressure.” – dagen

    I agree with you 100%. Like it or not, if we want to have a new government, it is the malay votes that we need to win over.

    Having said that, I feel DAP also need to be consistent in their vision/policies. The party cannot on one hand talk about Msian Malaysia and yet use mandarin in most of their meetings/ceramahs. How are the malays or others gonna be attracted to DAP when the party use mandarin?? DAP says it recognises Bahasa as our national language thus it must use Bahasa at all it meetings and ceramahs.

  27. #27 by Loh on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 11:11 am

    The normally sensible Gerakan Penang state assemblyman Ting Hock Nam was a bit less so when he said that had Nik Ali’s position been held by a Malay, LGE would not have gone public on his malfeasance. Ting attributed this to the fact that Nik is a Malay, and LGE wanted to raise the matter as a racial issue.

    Ting’s comment was on a hypothetical issue. Let’s discuss the hypothesis. It would certainly be true that if the Penang SDO position was held by a Chinese civil servant LGE, the CM, would not have made public any dispute. This is not because both are Chinese but because the Chinese SDO would at most be inefficient; he would not be defiance of the directive of the state government. The difference between the attitude of Chinese and Malays officer is not due to racial characteristic, but due to the fact that Malay civil servants perceive themselves as serving UMNO and the race and religion over the interest of the nation or the state. This is supported by the comments by Sidek, the chief secretary, who showed that he made the civil service an extension of UMNO.

    Until the government services are not monopolized by Malays, and until the PM serves the nation’s interest the civil services cannot be professionally run.

    LGE would never be able to get Nik Ali to change his mindset at sabotaging the state government. With Sidek’s support, as he has shown publicly, civil servants were bold to defy state government; they might even be encouraged to do so judging by Najib’s comment on the matter.

    How has Ting Hock Nam come to his conclusion?

  28. #28 by Peter on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 3:52 pm

    If you have dickhead like this NIK running the civil service, what do one expect. This is one typical “little napoleon” that has been running an important position in civil service. Just look at the arches he built in the Botanical Garden in Penang. The next minute they have to be demolished because they are tilting. Just like that 150 grand was blown up in smoke. Imagine, what 150 grand can help the very poor!!.
    And mind you, we have many, many “little napoleon” like this bum all over the civil services in Bolehland all the 52+ years. Most acted and behave as if they own the whole country. They seem to know all what is good for the rakyat. Instead of doing their job as civil servants, they portray themselves as UMNO politicians. Arrogant, egoistic to the core and downright stupid mentally.
    No wonder our FDI is falling.

  29. #29 by lopez on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 7:23 pm

    you scratch my back and i scratch yours, if you pay me first and it must be sufficiently enough.

    all govt and GLC jobs need to have bumiputra status and these days must be ISO compliant, so when you need a job and not yet a bumi company huh.?..
    Never mind lah .you bid how much to give me first lah, then i get all budgetary info and you built it up , okay.

    So contracting is really big business .

  30. #30 by jus legitimum on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 10:21 pm

    The pathetic situation now that Malaysia is locked in with falling FDI,nation divided along race and religion,politically biased,incompetent,racially lopsided and bloated civil service,unresolved scandals like PKFZ and others.These are the result and consequence of more than five decades old of political manipulation caused by the Barang Naik gomen led by the devil dumno bums.

  31. #31 by monsterball on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 - 11:56 pm

    I agree with JJx…..but Malaysian Chinese voters have been programed to be FOR or AGAINST…all these 55 years….and it is MCA who keep on talking Mandarin to prove they are pro Chinese at heart.
    DAP needs to play to the tune that the Malaysians Chinese are educated in Chinese schools.
    To ensure all stick to Bahasa and English before Mandarin and Tamil are spoken…all schools should be one type…the Malaysian Schools.
    It is up to UMNO B to banned speeches in other languages besides Bahasa and English….but they dare not do that…because these racists must allow MIC and MCA to talk in their mother tongues.
    How else..can they achieve to divide and rule?
    Like I said…it needs years to change the mind sets….even if we have a change in government
    Priority is getting rid of corruptions …true freedom and to unite all as Malaysians…and that will take years too.
    UMNO B have done their evil deeds far too long.

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