Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux

September 9, 2018

Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux

By  S Thayaparan
Image result for Putrajaya

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”

― Laurence J Peter, educator and author

COMMENT | While the White House is in a state of fear regarding the anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times about the dysfunction in the Trump administration and the so-called “resistance” attempting to stymie the US President’s more egregious agendas, the opposite thing is happening in this country.

While I am not someone who makes excuses for the Harapan administration when it comes to their reform agenda, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is correct when he says that there are officials in Putrajaya who are purposely stalling the administrative policies of the new regime. There are a couple of points worth considering.

The first is the lack of experience of some of the ministers appointed. Much has been said about the “Call me bro” youth and sports minister, the education minister who wants more responsibility – or is that prestige? – but has no real reform agenda when it comes to one of the more important portfolios of this country, the defence minister who likes to cook, and of course, the finance minister who can’t seem to get enough of exposing the scandals of the past administration and nodding to whatever the Prime Minister says.


Fulfilling campaign promises is one thing but more damaging is a lack of vision of many of these ministers. Besides Gobind Singh Deo who seems to actually have a vision of what his Communications and Multimedia Ministry can accomplish and Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who you may disagree with some of the things he has done – at least, they are doing things when it comes to their ministries and not attempting to define their ministries by their polemics against the former regime.

While this is an important point, it should not detract from what I consider the bigger point – and what the prime minister rightly points out – the sub rosa moves by bureaucrats to hamper the progress of Harapan regime. I have been doing my own snooping around, calling contacts serving and retired, and there is a definitely a conspiracy of sorts to destabilise the Harapan government from within.

One example I put much stock in is when serving and retired state security personnel tell me that there is a movement within the Defence Ministry to “contain” the popular Mohamad Sabu (photo). This means different things to people but the general idea is that reform within the security services comes with the price of exposing the corruption, collusion and God knows what else, which ironically could prove to be a threat to national security.

Image result for mat sabu as pilot

He is no Robert Gates or Leon Penetta. I wouldn’t trust him with  the defense of my hen house. But if you want some light entertainment, you can attend his ceramah-Din Merican

Can you imagine what would happen if forces domestic and foreign, ever discover how compromised our state security apparatus is? So we get all these “investigations” which go nowhere and an inexperienced minister who is grappling not only with his administrative duties but also his political ones, believing that things are running smoothly.

In reality, the petty fiefdoms in the state security apparatus are making moves to conceal buried secrets that could not only bring them ruination but everyone in the food chain.

Infighting within

Furthermore, some minions actually resent that there is a new government. This resentment, depending on the cabal, is based on racism or religious bigotry. Years of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) horse manure has created a culture that views any “interloping” by non-Malay political operatives other than from BN as trespassing on the provinces of the ‘ketuanan’ types.

No doubt, the propaganda of a New Malaysia rattles their precious sensibilities and these people are ever ready to demonstrate that the bureaucracy can strike back. One recently retired government official told me that these people not only resort to stalling but also hiding relevant documents, misdirecting new and inexperienced aides and attempting to portray everything done by the new Harapan regime as a “witch hunt”.

This, of course, does not take into account what I call the deep Islamic state and their operatives, who are considering working with the committed Islamists within Pakatan Harapan and carrying out their obligations for their handlers within UMNO. Whispering into the ears of easily-rattled Harapan political operatives of the precarious nature of the Harapan alliance when it comes to the Malay vote, they advance an Islamic agenda which is at odds with the supposed “secular” agenda of the new Harapan regime.

However, if you think that this is all UMNO’s fault, you are naive. The infighting within Harapan contributes immensely to the hampering of the reform agenda. My comrade, Malaysiakini columnist Hishamuddin Rais (photo) may have ruffled some feathers when it comes to his writings, but he is more often correct than wrong when it comes to the machinations of the political elites.

Image result for Hishamuddin Rais


There are elements within the bureaucracy who have decided to take sides and the infighting within Harapan plays out in how policy is carried out in Putrajaya. Various fiefdoms have erupted like boils within various ministries where busy factotums carry out the agendas of the Harapan political elite and this sometimes includes frustrating rival factions.

As one frustrated political operative lamented that she has to watch her back when it comes to the bureaucracy because not only has she to worry about the flotsam and jetsam of the former UMNO regime, which includes agents of MCA and MIC, but she has to be wary of not stepping on the toes of her political higher-ups who are wrestling for dominance in various ministries.

A still serving low-level bureaucrat in Putrajaya candidly told me that he is impressed that Harapan has been able to accomplish some of the reforms they promised because with all the crap thrown their way by their infighting and elements from the previous regime, it is remarkable that they are able to function.

Another source said, if only Mahathir was younger and had the support of a committed base, he would whip the government into shape. He has preoccupations which are political in nature which are hampering what he needs to do with the government, this near-retiring source claims.

This, of course, is all part of the political culture in Malaysia which is UMNO-based and something that people in Harapan, who are actually interested in reform, have to contend with. Coupled with their inexperience, they find it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy which is at war for itself and with itself.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

8 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux

  1. Putrajaya has to learn from the Selangor experience in dealing with a recalcitrant civil service. One of the priority is to pare down the size of the civil service through wastage and retirements and reshuffling of positions.
    Tun M’s Malay Delimma needs a revisit as creating a Malay Entreprenier class not only does not elevate the economic status of the poor and downtrodden Malays, but also bring down the other races. We need to create a national trustee for the people , by the oeople and of the people.

  2. Pingback: Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux — Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger – „Ingerii sunt spirite inaripate, prietene cu spiritul tau inaripat.“

  3. Another point of view (not upskirt!) by a level heade Chinapek presser:

    Btw, having watched DG/KSU/CEO in action in the civil service in the recent past, i don’t see very much change in the attitudes of CARMA, that belies the average Gomen Flunk. In fact, the whole of the Service was marching on the spot – since all the BoDs were rendered inoperative – many of which lacked quorum after the so-called political appointees were booted out. In fact there were some concerns that even operating expenditure and emoluments would not have been paid. But i think i’d rather not say too much, to allow the gangstas some breathing space.

    Many of the PH ministers ‘Fail’ moments and foot in mouth disease is due not only to inexperience, but also to their wrong headed sense of entitlement and sheer arrogance. Blaming the past, will nor guarantee the future..

    Some of the better policies were actually culled from the previous ministerial agenda. Like for instance – the Transport Minister, Anthony the Bloke just plagiarized with minimum modifications, some of the MoTs’ agenda. Not many new ideas here and he’s having a headache trying to solve the SPAD imbroglio which is turning up to be a huge ulcer on his bum..

    What about that clown Kula or Black Shoe IIUM Prez Mazlee? Or even Tokong Majora, who’s desperately trying to cobble up an “Austerity Bad-jet” just because he wants to whack UMNOb kau-kau (Thickly) and show Octo, his worth as a Tiger-Pussy..

    • Fyi, the smart ass served above and beyond the call of duty this benighted country as a Non for more than 3 decades. Imagine that! What more do you want? No one wants to toady up as a lackey to inexperienced, arrogant but clueless politicos.

      We were among the highest ranking in service, including out-ranking a majority of those in G-25. And no, we were not corrupt nor did we amass untold wealth. We can’t even afford a Continental car. But we had been to all continents except Antarctica, in service for the nation.

      We never asked for anything more than our deserved perks and neither were we rewarded with GLC post-retirement perks. Nons, you see.. We have the wherewithal to serve in PLCs, post-retirement. But i guess the highlight of the career (such as it was..) were a couple of lunches and tea with the Agung. And there was no mention of politics there..

    • Many a revolution had discarded its Principles and Leaders after the successful toppling of the old regimes, witness Terier Square in Egypt because the Heroes pat themselves on the back and step aside. There are even notable people who didn’t want to exercise their right to vote. We have a quantum leap change, and like all revolutions, is left with the debris and a broken system. Let us put our strength together to built a better nation instead of acting like a foreigner and do nit picking.
      One very glaring are that need to be changed drastically is the gravy train for bumiputras which for the better part of 48 years have not solved the problem rural and urban poverty among Malaysians. Are we going to do more of the same?

  4. ‘Are we going to do more of the same?’

    Most definitely. In fact, PH as a ‘hole’ – will bend over backwards to appease the ‘Sons of Soil’ – especially when 70% or more did not vote for them.

    Octo and geng will hem and haw about the ‘privileges, rent seeking and entitlement’ hubris of the ‘Natives’ – but rest assured, nothing will change. Quota remain. MARA remains exclusive. Only new characters will become enablers to replace the worn out shoes.

    If you want a real revolution – then kick out Octo and this cronified, ossified political philosophy ASAP. Otherwise this remains OctoLand 2.0. All the Tiger Pussies can do is to savage the previous Governance, cuz they lack the will and imagination to do otherwise. Remember Tokong Majora’s refrain? Octo says this, and says that.., I shall abide.

    Vengeance politics as practiced by Tokongists is lame, stupid, time wasting and unproductive. Govern not Politicize. But do that only after studying and understanding the Process, instead of Yodeling like Majora. Humility and grace doesn’t hurt anyone.

    So yes, for the time being, i don’t really see the utility of being Malaysian first. So i’ll follow what Muhyi said about being Malay first – I’m a Chinapek Malaysian. Shoot me.

    • Octo still doesn’t realise that continuing the gravy train runs isn’t going to get the B40 runniing to Pribumi. the gomen has to use the GLCs to form TRUSTS to run co-operatives to benefit and uplift the poor and downtroden people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.