Reform of the civil service: The NUCC is its last hope

– Koon Yew Yin
The Malaysian Insider
November 29, 2013

To say that the newly established National Unity Consultative Council has been greeted with a big yawn by the public is too kind. Feedback so far especially over the uncensored internet has ranged from scepticism – “a political wayang” to the dismissive – “a waste of taxpayers’ money and time” and “expect NUCC to go the way of the 1Malaysia slogan”.

One reader has already predicted that “it will soon be known as the ‘No Use Consultative Council (NUCC)’”.

Part of the reason for the criticism is that among the group appointed to forge a new direction in national unity are some well-known apple polishers who have risen to where they are because of their prowess in flattering the Barisan Nasional.

On the bright side, those appointed could have been much worse – think of what outcome we will have if the Government had appointed Riduan Tee or Awang Selamat.

Another problem is the restricted terms of reference set up for the Council which can discuss only four subject areas – laws, the federal constitution, values and programmes. Why this limitation if not to prevent discussion of sensitive areas is the obvious conclusion to reach.

Include civil service reform in NUCC agenda

For me, if the Council really wants to be taken seriously, it should include the civil service as one of the areas of examination covering all the four topics. There is no doubt that one of the pivotal players in national unity – perhaps the most pivotal – is the civil service. Unlike the politicians of whom there are only a few tens of thousands, the civil service employs over 1.5 million staff. We have one of the highest if not the highest number of civil servants per capita in the world! Their actions and decisions extend into every area of life and affect all Malaysians – from the time when the child is in the womb until after he or she dies.

Let me put a question to the NUCC. Is it not clear that the drastic decline in national unity has coincided with an increasingly Malay dominated civil service with the non-Malay bumiputera component, increasingly marginalised and reduced to single digit numbers in terms of their participation in key national ministries and agencies?

It will be revealing if the Government can reveal the racial composition of the civil service today. According to one estimate the proportion of Malays in the civil service had grown from 60% in 1970 to 77% for the year 2005. Today nearly 10 years later what is the proportion of non-Malays in the civil service?

Is it 20%? Is it 15%; or perhaps even less? I am happy to see that the Malays have made big strides in participation in the private sector since 1969. But what about the participation of the non-Malays in the public sector which was promised to by the New Economic Policy?

If the Government had upheld the provision of the NEP calling for restructuring of the civil service to increase non-Malay participation, I am sure that the thousands of racially and religiously sensitive or controversial incidents happening almost on a daily basis nation-wide will be dramatically reduced.

A multi-racial and multi-religious civil service is the cornerstone of a united and social cohesive Malaysia. It is also the cornerstone of social and economic development as it ensures a representative system based more on merit.

Suggestions for NUCC

I would like to propose the following steps to be taken by the NUCC when it meets.

1. Request for data on the civil service racial composition and for the number to be broken down by government department – police; land and district offices; Ministry of Education; public universities; local councils; etc. This should be a time series for the past 20 years so they can see the actual situation in each major sector of the civil service.

2. Undertake a thorough and full evaluation of the implications of the trend towards a mono-ethnic civil service and examine whether this trend is desirable in the interest of national unity and social cohesion as well as national socio-economic development.

3. Make use of policy studies on the civil service and their proposals as a basis for a strategy of reform and to make the civil service more multi-racial. The most relevant one is the paper, Towards a Representative and World Class Civil Service. This was part of the studies in the Centre for Public Policy Studies report, Proposals for the Ninth Malaysia Plan, ASLI, Kuala Lumpur, February 2006. It provides a methodology for recruitment of non-Malays and rebalancing towards a multi-racial civil service which protects existing Malay rights. Members of the NUCC should review the methodology which provides a compromise for a more racially representative civil service that can be accepted by all communities.

Civil Service as the key cog of development

Malaysia’s poor performance is largely due to the inefficient civil service. For any organization, business or government to do well, they must have good people to manage. The government must employ more non Malays and practice meritocracy in the selection and promotion of the employees.

Malaysians know that we started off in the 1960s well ahead of South Korea, Taiwan and on the same level as Singapore. Today, these countries are in a completely different league of development. The answer to the riddle of why they have moved ahead so quickly is partially due to their civil service. Focused, efficient, based on merit and most of all, united, they have been the engines of growth accounting for the remarkable progress made in their societies.

In contrast, the Malaysian civil service has followed a different trajectory. Unfocussed, inefficient, with merit a secondary factor in recruitment, not representative and hence a dis-unifying factor – it is no surprise that the civil service is a critical blockage to unity and development.

I am confident that the majority of the NUCC members will agree that the present racial composition of the civil service is adversely affecting national unity, social cohesion and economic competitiveness.

I hope the NUCC can rise to the challenge to push for the reform of the country’s civil service which can enable all communities to be represented in reasonable numbers and help Malaysia to rise above race and religion. – November 29, 2013.

  1. #1 by cutedevilnabil on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 1:12 pm

    what a masterpiece of a well researched article’s……..Amin to almost 99% of what’s written by the author’s ,simply amazing with such an insightful observation on how’s thingy happening in Malangsia’s…….this author must have been a ”somebody”’ in Malaysia’s today with vast experience on social ,society ,ethnicity issues,a political know how one’s ,if not ,how then a ”nobody” could be so clarion ,expressive on issues not bosom to him ?

  2. #2 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 1:36 pm

    KKY, thank you for your social concern.

    I enjoy your analyses and comments. Wish the government has ears….not just big-mouths and little brains. Otherwise, how do you explain billions spent on consultants when you have 1.5 million of civil servants, hundreds (if not thousands ) of whom have Ph.Ds, I think.

    • #3 by cemerlang on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 4:22 pm

      Unrecognised. Fake. How much do you think it will work ? Laugh it off lah

  3. #4 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 1:37 pm

    Oops, sorry, Mr. KYY – slip of my fingers on the keyboard.

    • #5 by cemerlang on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 4:24 pm

      Should borrow those with genuine, recognised qualifications. Seriously. Not enough. Forgotten the EQ, SQ thingy. Not just IO.

  4. #6 by Bigjoe on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 8:54 pm

    The best way to figure out what is wrong is simply to benchmark the qualification and skills of the civil service with the civil service of say Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea.

    We know that the Selangor and Penang govt elected reps qualifications and skills are LEAPS above UMNO/BN and we can see for ourselves the result of superior skills and qualification.

    Benchmark those of our civil service with other countries and the cause of the biggest and most important problems would be apparent..

  5. #7 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 29 November 2013 - 10:18 pm

    Itu belum rencana perkhidmatan awam = kuat maka. Kajian kes jabatan pengairan dan saliran daerah… Rozi, kau ambik ya $ hari tu…

  6. #8 by yhsiew on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 3:17 am

    ///Malaysia’s poor performance is largely due to the inefficient civil service.///

    Could the inefficiency be attributed to Malay graduates, who were unemployable in the private sector due to inability to communicate in English, were absorbed by the civil sector?

  7. #9 by boh-liao on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 9:23 am

    4 some1 who is a keen gomen watcher 4 years, d author obviously knew d raison d’être of NUCC (or any council, committee, body set up by UmnoB/BN)
    2 provide effective service 2 nation? Service 4 nation? OMG, don’t make us larf n roll off d chair, LOL
    Just wait n C, kaki like hee hee hor hor, tea pot, los d handbag, isa d i smell n like duit, blue-yellow VCD snake, etc may b rewarded as NUCC members 2 dish out their outstanding service-2-nation experiences 2 rakyat

  8. #10 by boh-liao on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 11:17 am

    Can rakyat trust NUCC?
    How abt a minister? Can trust 1 aaah?
    Best n latest example, d FT minister
    He blamed his officers/civil servants n stated dat d opposition had taken advantage of d situation (he conveniently forgot dat d “opposition” won almost all KL’s constituencies n should de facto rule KL/FT)
    He wanted 2 b d hero & conveniently forgot what he said not too long ago[email protected]u-adnan
    Pathological liar?

  9. #11 by boh-liao on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 11:19 am

    Can rakyat trust NUCC?
    How abt a minister? Can trust 1 aaah?
    Best n latest example, d FT minister
    He blamed his officers/civil servants n stated dat d opposition had taken advantage of d situation (he conveniently forgot dat d “opposition” won almost all KL’s constituencies n should de facto rule KL/FT)
    He wanted 2 b d hero & conveniently forgot what he said not too long ago

  10. #12 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 3:50 pm

    The fault lies with umno.

    Umno politicises everything. Including the civil service. Well actually monsterO’mamak started that.

    The civil service is aware of its own weakness. That is a sure thing. At the same time we are also sure that they would not (perhaps dare not and even cannot) admit it for otherwise they would be politically incorrect, from umno’s perspective that is.

    • #13 by cemerlang on Monday, 2 December 2013 - 1:21 pm

      The civil service is political because its’ bosses are all politicians. Whoever the politicians are. Whichever party it is. The civil service is the hand and leg of the head which is the politician. If the head is fit, the hand and leg will follow in tandem. If the head is sick, the hand and the leg will not respond to the nerve impulse as they should.

  11. #14 by rjbeee on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 5:44 pm

    Reform civil perkasa says that is employment for Bumis cannot
    reform semua corrupted what not

  12. #15 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 30 November 2013 - 11:23 pm

    The Leadership of the past 30 plus years has not been concerned with any quality in any sector; the main concern has been how to siphon the cash created by Petronas and so long the black gold flows they will continue to practice the same pathway. Of course by the time, crude stops flowing they would have packed their bags to stay in Argentina and the majority of the Malays would be left to find work in Asean region just like the Banglas are doing today. The handful who have the courage to take up the challenge will have a good start’ others? well the Thais and Indonesians may require many labourers and maids!

  13. #16 by tak tahan on Sunday, 1 December 2013 - 12:57 am

    Why not when they don’t learn or want to change..serve them right,do they not ? A change with bangla side will serve them good la when they truly feel what to be 2 resident..truly can be ‘rojak bolehland’ as we are well known as semua pun boleh Bolehland..newly endless possibility stupid Land…with no end possibility to be rojak endless half past six of rojak nation land.hahahahahaha

  14. #17 by bangkoklane on Sunday, 1 December 2013 - 7:54 am

    Can parliament ask for raw data of nation-wide census from the statistics department for detailed analyses to answer the above questions on race issues?

  15. #18 by boh-liao on Sunday, 1 December 2013 - 11:08 am

    CIVIL SERVICE – ever wonder it’s role n service?

    Not 2 rakyat (just go 2 many gomen depts/offices n C how many of them little napoleans there bother 2 serve rakyat; some of them even decide their own holidays, like d eves of some religious holidays; though eves not public holidays, some civil servants can happily decide 2 close shops, no service)

    But 2 UmnoB/BN (being eternally grateful 2 UmnoB 4 giving them d IRON rice bowl, salaries + allownaces + bonuses + apa apa pun boleh)

    Number of civil servants keeps swelling 2 ensure fixed deposit VOTES 2 UmnoB/BN during GEs

    NUCC is just a wayang, NATO, just another body 2 reward cronies of UmnoB/BN

  16. #19 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 1 December 2013 - 12:05 pm

    In fact with today’s IT all such data are available; that is how Singapore has done and in the process, it WILL CUT down corruption as everyone will have access to such data. So one should not be surprised that the so-called National Single Window just could not take off; because everyone in the Gomen realize that such a system will not permit them to hide what they wanted to hide. The same concept took off in the midst 90s, with Rafidah ‘championing’ it; maybe just for the news! Up to date, nothing had moved, while the LITTLE DOT has
    been able to reap both internal efficiency and productivity from their system when also selling them worldwide further enhancing their connectivity in the transport and logistics industry! Now they are shifting all their wharves to a man-made island named TUAS thereby releasing some 2,500 acres or hectares of land for commercial use. With a single move, they practically kill more than the proverbial phrase of 2 birds. With land price hovering at s$50 million an acre, say being a fully developed location, they can use 2000 acres for commercial purpose: Value? s$100 billion! So they can spend s$60 billion on TUAS and still have a surplus of s$40 billion. One certainly need not be a rocket scientist to find such objective and certainly our great leaders could have envisioned similar scenario but then they would have to forgo the kickbacks! In fact, the whole island has expended by some 100 sq km if compare its size say 30 years ago!

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