Bad start Mr Chief Secretary

— Lim Teck Ghee
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 29, 2012

JUNE 29 — In his first public interview since assuming the position of Chief Secretary to the Government, Dr Ali Hamsa said all the politically correct and bland things that one expects from someone eager to show Malaysians that he is up to the challenge of a big job.

From being a cheer leader attempting to rouse the morale of his troops (according to him, the performance of the civil service has been “excellent”) to sounding patriotic and humble (“We need to continuously raise the bar to be among the best…”; “we can’t treat what we do as a job as what we do must benefit all Malaysians”), the orchestrated and carefully calibrated interview with the New Straits Times was clearly meant to impress and get Malaysians on his side.

Unfortunately, it failed to address the two most important failings of the civil service.

Lying in bed with the corrupt

The endemic and systemic corruption that Malaysia is suffering could not have taken place without the collusion of the country’s civil servants. Closing one eye or acting as facilitators to businessmen and political leaders is standard operating procedure for more than a few in the upper reaches of the bureaucracy.

Everyone knows that doing business in the country has to pass through a thicket of civil servants. This includes big-ticket multi-million dollar projects often given out under the pretext of so-called “national interest” where the opportunities for massive corruption and kickbacks are especially prevalent.

Besides grand corruption, there is also low-level and petty corruption by enforcement and other officers preying on ordinary citizens including the poor or marginalised.

Whether it is getting a licence to operate a restaurant or securing a multi-million dollar contact for the ongoing “Cowgate” scandal, the public is fully aware that knowing the right “jalan” can hasten the path to approval or delay or doom a business proposition. It appears that the businessmen and political leaders engaged in activities that have brought windfall and undeserved gains know who the “right” civil servants are.

The fact is that few high-level corruption cases ever see the light of day. Government officials living beyond their means and official income are not hauled up to answer for their unexplained wealth. This inertia has encouraged a culture of corruption to be deeply embedded within the bureaucracy.

Ethical and clean civil servants have suffered in silence fearing that their opposition to hanky-panky would result in setback to their career advancement prospects. It must be disappointing to them that the Chief Secretary did not say a single word in his interview about reforms to clean the civil service of corrupt and unethical practices, especially at the highest levels of the civil service.

Lying in bed with BN

Another major failing of the civil service is that it has been successfully co-opted by Barisan Nasional to act as the tool of the ruling party. Far from being a politically neutral actor, the civil service has failed to observe strict administrative impartiality.

Especially in developments related to the political life of the country, key bodies such as the judiciary, the Attorney-General’s Office, the police, the Election Commission, and the official media have helped to strengthen Barisan’s political grip. They have also been instruments used to undermine democratic rights and freedoms.

Instead of untying the umbilical cord between the Barisan and the civil service, the Chief Secretary gave a pointed hint that he is likely to reinforce it.

In response to a leading question whether “some civil servants are being influenced by promises made by the opposition”, his reply was that “they should know better. Don’t be taken in by empty promises.”

Although he qualified this reply by stating that “[a]s civil servants we must be loyal to the King and serve the government of the day”, the intent of his reply was clear.

A string of lacklustre Chief Secretaries
Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa may prove to be the latest in a series of lacklustre and mediocre Chief Secretaries in the country.

Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. Because of their poor leadership, the civil service has seen few reforms. Today we have a fat and bloated 1.4-million-strong body that has been victim as well as accessory and beneficiary to the abuses and misrule of the country.

The new Chief Secretary has the opportunity to begin the difficult process of cleansing the civil service and making it efficient and trustworthy. For this to happen, he must focus on removing the two principal obstacles which stand in the way of a rejuvenated and clean civil service.

Can he do it or is he like many others before him having his eye on his post-retirement benefits?

  1. #1 by monsterball on Friday, 29 June 2012 - 4:55 pm

    The new Mr.Chief Secretary learn very quickly how to survive telling half truths.

  2. #2 by omeqiu on Friday, 29 June 2012 - 5:21 pm

    He was picked for this post because of his specific subservient quality. “Mediocrity breeds mediocrity” is absolutely correct. Your present position is due to this culture in our government. Eat your heart out!

  3. #3 by monsterball on Friday, 29 June 2012 - 8:42 pm

    I noticed Malaysiakini blog is closed for the whole day.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Friday, 29 June 2012 - 11:15 pm

    They are doing stock take.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 12:18 am

    What bad start? He hasn’t even started. Expect to accuse civil service under his charge (even before he officially starts his work next month ) that they’re lying in bed with BN and the corrupt??

  6. #6 by monsterball on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 3:26 am

    How do you know?
    You have friends working there….. telling you?

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 8:06 am

    Most criticism about Ali Hamsa has been about his mis-duty as a civil servant to separate politics from the civil service. What I see is much worst.

    Ali Hamsa actions just point that institutionally, we have not left Mahathirism bad old ways behind since Mahathir resigned in 2003. In fact he proves it gotten a lot worst crossing even more lines. Najib has done the same, making changes that are cosmetically better BUT in reality much worst fundamentally.

    So fundamentally, structurally in this country, NOTHING has changed since 2003 – it may look a bit better with a lot of spending but fundamentally we are still the same and on a path of fundamental decline – we are still riddled with corruption and abuse, our schools are still falling behind, investments is still on a long term downward trend.

    Ali Hamsa just reminded us of that and everytime Mahathir opens his mouth which he is now doing it incresingly more frequent than the PM, it tell us, we have not even really begin the work of change necessary for the sake of this nation and our children’s future..

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 10:51 am

    Public Officers (Conduct & Discipline) Regulations 1993 require 1.4 million civil servants to be loyal to king country government. To be loyal to “government” is essential : otherwise how to deliver govt’s programmes? However the Westminster constitutional theory is that “government” of the day is supposedly distinguishable from incumbent ruling political coalition, the BN of the day. This is more an aspiration than reality! But how many of 1.4 million can make this rarefied distinction? (Interestingly, LGE recently tries to mitigate this by a slight skew/twist in substituting the word “government” by “constitution” to which loyalty should be owed). When Ali Hamsa exhorted those under his charge not to believe in empty promises of opposition he was saying his heartfelt partisan sentiment of the issue. Don’t forget he was from PM’s Dept, got his position thanks to PM’s confidence and you expect him not to be politically loyal to PM& BN? When a party like UMNO has ruled since independence for more than ½ century and civil servants have never known any change of government, there is no distinction between BN and the Govt! Then what about BTN’s indoctrination? It’s the feudal culture that triumphs over British Westminster’s norms grafted here – ie that in exchange for unquestioned loyalty to leader one gets his unstinting protection & patronage, never mind right or wrong whether it be a controversy like Nik Ali Mat Yunus’s spat with Penang’s LGE or investigation into TBH’s “suicide”.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 11:09 am

    Is it reasonable to think that Singapore public servants who can effect efficiently public delivery also distinguish civil service allegiance to govt from that of the PAP like British civil servant counterparts? Public delivery for public interest is not necessarily dependent on civil servants being able to make this subtle distinction. Its the norms/ethos that the ruling party espouses and by example abides by. The ruling party down south uses Meritocracy and discipline (no corruption) = public delivery to stay in power whilst here, Ethnocracy and feudal patronage exchange of “you loyal to me I protect you, I help you you help me’ kind, to do so. Neither subscribes to British’s distinction between government of the day and ruling party of the day because in both cases for all the years they mean one and same thing as no one has experienced a change of govt.

  10. #10 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 11:36 am

    Every level of the civil service is filled with corruption. Who does not know? That is so typical of umno. Well since the civil service regard themselves as umno so ask umno for an answer. They may want some money from you before they give you the expected “NOT TRUE” reply. See what I mean? They have no problem taking money from you and at the same time preach the world about anti-corruption. Tu umno. No. Hope. ABU je.

  11. #11 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 11:57 am

    No election date yet. Meanwhile umno has gone on a (never seen before) super-protracted orgy session of giving money to voters – to buy their nambekai of course. It looks like the orgy session is being scheduled for an indefinite period – putting it kindly. And you know what umno? That is like masturbating continuously for 10 hrs and sensation has all gone completely numb and then turned sore.

  12. #12 by cskok8 on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 12:15 pm

    “Do not listen to the lies/empty promises of the opposition” is a line almost copyrighted by BN politicians. How many times have you heard the same line from them? So this new chief secretary has shown himself to be a BN politician in spirit if not in body.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 1:14 pm

    UMNO b MP Mohd. Aziz spoke so many things to arouse anger and hatreds and the MCA MIC Gerakan guys are like dogs with tails curled in….dare not fight for Malaysians.
    Najib encouraged it and Najib spoke against it to project what a good PM he is.
    Malaysians will not know what they are missing if voters do not support him.
    Diverting attentions from corruptions and murders…..that is the purpose.

  14. #14 by monsterball on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 1:22 pm

    It’s UMNO b kind of publicity stunts but saying ‘hang her” …”banish him” are no joking matters.
    MCA…. MIC and Gerakan politicians are cowards with big mouths to talk politics.
    This is the stuff for Chua Soi Lek to win Malaysians votes……but he kept quiet.

  15. #15 by monsterball on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 1:28 pm

    Stock check my foot….sheriff singh.
    Malaysiakini confirmed it was a cyber attack.
    sheriff singh ….please stop talking nonsense for the sake to see your name appear.

  16. #16 by Loh on Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 2:10 pm

    Civil servants such as the police and officials of MACC should be loyal to the government in enforcing law without regard to the status and political affiliation of the persons concerned. But we know that MACC spent inordinate amount of time to investigate a case of RM 2,000 and TBH paid for his life, while PKFZ which is a million time more money involved were left with stones intact. That is partiality on the part of the civil servants, and they are seen as a subordinate body of UMNO working for BN reelection all the time. For the KSN to declare that they should be loyal to the incumbent and not to believe in the promises made by Pakatan Rakyat, the KSN Ali Hamsa was taking a political stand. Civil servants do not take order from Pakatan Rakyat in the states that it has yet to take power, telling them not to believe in the promises involves in telling civil servants how to vote. That statement alone politicizes the civil service. Ali Hamsa can polish Najib’s shoes in private for all we care, but he is showing that he failed in his duty by his utterance.

  17. #17 by Jong on Sunday, 1 July 2012 - 9:17 am

    Hahaha!! Nothing so new, just BN’s insecurity and this, another faithful umno dog appointed for a reason!

  18. #18 by rockdaboat on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 - 1:07 am

    He is picked for the job because he has all the “GOOD” qualities of a Chief Secretary, by BN’s definition of course!

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