End Outrageous “Double Dipping” By Top Malaysian Civil Servants and GLC Executives


June 4, 2018

End Outrageous “Double Dipping” By Top Malaysian Civil Servants and GLC Executives

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

The revelation by Transport Minister Anthony Loke that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Chairman Abdullah Ahmad earns about RM85K a month, while a shocker, is not a secret. It is a long-held practice, and he is not alone. Far from it!

This practice proliferated under Najib, one of the many manifestations of his cash-is-king schemes to buy the loyalty of senior public officials. He of course received much more in return through their loyalty and cooperation, as evidenced by the loot hauled from his private residences after he was booted out of office.

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 Chief Secretary to the Malaysian Government, Dr. Ali Hamsa

Prime Minister Mahathir, who earns less than a quarter of what that Mavcom Chairman gets, has ordered Chief Secretary Ali Hamsa to review the remunerations of top public officials as well as heads of GLCs and statutory bodies.

There is no need for such a review. Instead, Mahathir should just ban them from having extra income beyond their salaries. They are being paid to devote their time and effort exclusively to their current positions. Theirs is not a 9-5 job; they have no business assuming added responsibilities except in an ex officio capacity. For that they already have generous allowances to cover the expenses incurred, as with traveling and lodging.

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Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Chairman Abdullah Ahmad–The RM85,000 (per month) Man

Ali Hamsa is also the wrong person to undertake such an important review. Foremost is the issue of conflict of interest. He is as guilty as that Mavcom Chairman. Hamsa should begin by declaring how much extra compensation he was paid in addition to his regular salary as Chief Secretary by virtue of appointing himself to be on the various boards. The recently-disgraced Treasury Secretary Irwan Serigar was on Khazanah’s and Bank Negara’s Boards, as well as others not yet revealed. He must have raked in substantial additional income from director’s fees.

Ali Hamsa, Irwan Serigar, Abdullah Ahmad and countless others are guilty of double dipping into the public purse. The poor rakyat bears the burden of such rampant lucrative practices.

Ali Hamsa is also ill-qualified to undertake such a review. He has spent all his career in the civil service. He knows nothing of the culture or value of talent in the competitive private sector. He has been receiving not giving out paychecks all his life; he has no appreciation of the challenges in having to meet a payroll

Scrutinize the corporate structures of many GLCs and statutory bodies. They have myriads of subsidiaries and associated companies. The reason is simple – management greed; more corporate entities, more board of director’s positions! Ever wonder why those GLCs and statutory bodies lose money.

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The High Flying and Publicity Seeking Former Secretary-General to the Treasury, Irwan Serigar Abdullah, now in cold storage at Intan

If companies like Petronas need outside directors, the Professor of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Malaya would be a far superior choice than a recently retired Chief Secretary to the government. All the latter would do is graft the stultifying civil service culture onto the company.

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Tabung Haji Chairman Abdul Azeez Rahim with a Phd from Preston University who was a used car salesman

Appointing that professor as director would also be a way to augment his otherwise meager academic pay. That might just be the inducement for him to stay on campus instead of joining the private sector, to the loss of his students who would be the country’s future petroleum engineers. The professor would also gain real world experience, again to the benefit of his students. Likewise with Tabung Haji. Why not appoint the local Professor of Economics or Accounting to its board? That would be far superior than having that mamak with a PhD or MBA from Preston University!

 

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 Isa Samad–Former FELDA Chairman and Head of SPAD

 

Another common and lucrative double-dipping scheme occurs when retired civil servants or former public officials are appointed to statutory bodies or GLCs. The number one culprit in the news today is Isa Samad. He is notorious for other reasons. For this discussion, while he is drawing a substantial pay as the head of SPAD (the Malay initials for the federal public transportation agency), he is still getting his pension as a former MP and a Federal Minister, as well as that of a State (Negri Sembilan) Chief Minister, and as a state legislator (ADUN). Beyond that he is also getting one for being the former head of FELDA. These entities may have different names but their paymaster is the same – the rakyat.

Such “double dipping” should be banned. If a retired civil servant or public official is appointed to a GLC or statutory body and he is getting a regular salary, then he should not be allowed to draw on the pension of his previous job. Instead he should be considered as continuing to work for the same paymaster but in a different capacity. Of course if he were to start his own business or be employed by a private company, that would be a different matter. In that case he should be entitled to the government pension of his old job.

If such a policy were to be instituted, then all those soon-to-retire civil servants would remain busy in their jobs instead of preoccupying themselves lobbying for a post-retirement position in a GLC or statutory body.

There would two immediate positive effects of such a policy. One, those civil servants would now be less likely to be seduced by their political masters as is the current culture. They would now be more likely to be independent if not outspoken in disagreeing with their political superiors. That could only be good for the country’s administration.

The other positive effect would be to encourage more Malays (most civil servants are Malays) to enter the private sector either as employees, directors, or to create their own businesses. That would increase the rate of Malay participation in the private sector far more effectively and efficiently than starting expensive and often money-losing GLCs. They would then be more like Rafidah Aziz with Air Asia, or set up their own professional practices as Aziz Abdul Rahman, former Managing Director of Malaysia Airlines, with his own law firm.

In the 1960s Tun Razak lowered the retirement age (it was 55 then) so enterprising young civil servants could retire to start their own businesses. That initiative spawned many Malay-owned businesses. This was also the practice of the Italian government and resulted in the blossoming of entrepreneurial activities spurred by young retired civil servants who had the safety net of their retirement income.

This double dipping by senior civil servants and public officials costs the nation a hefty bundle. With Malaysia’s debt now exceeding a trillion ringgit, the nation can ill afford such outrageous wastage. Time to ban double dipping outright. There is no need for further unnecessary studies.

The Lavish MAVCOM –A Common GLC Problem


June 2, 2018

The Lavish MAVCOM –A Common GLC Problem

by R. Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Taxpayers expect at least a semblance of practicality, pragmatism and realism when their hard-earned money is expended. People are willing to pay RM1 for peace of mind when they travel, but certainly not for fat cats to pay themselves high salaries. –R. Nadeswaran aka Citizen Nades

COMMENT | The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Just after the elections, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes made a serious charge against the commission, questioning its integrity.

Fernandes claimed that the airline was pressured to cancel an additional 120 flights during the 14th General Election period. Mavcom said it viewed the claim seriously and lodged a police report against Fernandes over the allegation.

“The Commission has never issued such a directive to any airline, including AirAsia, to reduce or cancel any flight where regulatory requirements have been met,” it said.

Mavcom also said that it had commenced an investigation into the claim. “We will keep members of the public informed,” said a spokesman in a statement on May 14. A police report was also lodged.

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How does Mavcom justify paying this retired General RM85,000 per month? He must be a management genius. The Directors must be held accountable for this irresponsible decision. Unconscionable .–Din Merican

Today, more than two weeks later, we have not been informed of the outcome of the investigation. Instead, we are told that the salary of Mavcom’s Executive Chairperson General (Rtd) Abdullah Ahmad is a whopping RM85,000 – more than four times the salary of the Prime Minister.

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Entrepreneur Tan Sri Tony Fernandes–A Victim of Politics. It is time we recognise his contributions to the Malaysian Economy and for building AirAsia into an award winning global brand, in stead of demonizing him. I am glad that Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and former MITI Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz have come to his defense.–Din Merican

It is also pertinent to ask when the results of the probe will be made public. It is not rocket science. Fernandes says he has the evidence to prove it. Has Mavcom requested for it – or is it too embarrassed that the cat will now be let out of the bag?

More importantly, is this kind of salary for the Mavcom executive chairperson justified? Who approved the salary? How did the board, in this instance the other commissioners, approve this? How did they conclude on the salary scale?

What is the basis for such a humongous salary? Other commissioners have to answer to the taxpayers on how they arrived at their executive chairperson’s salary. Do they actually need an executive chairperson? Why not ask the CEO to report to the board?

The Board Members are:

  • Secretary-General of the Transport Ministry Saripuddin Hj Kasim;
  • former Director-General of the Economic Planning Unit, Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid;
  • Lawyer and Suhakam Commissioner Mah Weng Kwai;
  • former Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung,
  • former Transport Ministry Secretary-General Long See Wool,
  • retired civil servant Fauziah binti Yaacob,
  • Deputy Chairperson of the Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda) Shaik Hussein Mydin, and
  • Nungsari Ahmad Radhi, Managing Director of Prokhas Sdn Bhd, a Ministry of Finance Inc. company.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to explain how a traveler’s RM1 is spent. According to its latest available Annual Report on its website, from March 1 to Dec 31, 2016, Mavcom incurred staff costs of RM8.7 million.

Big task ahead

It further paid RM570,000 in Directors’ Fees. Mavcom had 11 board meetings during a 10-month period. Calculated loosely, each of the eight directors earned RM5,100 for attending each of the 11 meetings. The accounts also show that RM770,000 was spent on travel and accommodation.

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Minister of Transport Anthony Loke–Fix the MAVCOM nonsense

Mavcom is not the only one that pays its directors lavishly. The Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) pays each of its 18 directors RM2,000 per month and a one-off tuxedo allowance of RM3,000. (The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission pays members of it advisory panel RM300 each for attending monthly meetings.)

HRDF’s funds come from employers who have to contribute one percent of their monthly payroll. The money is supposed to be used for the training of their respective staff but in the past, HRDF was involved in dubious diploma courses from the UK.

It also spent RM25,000 on an advertisement congratulating its then Minister Richard Riot on being conferred a ‘Datuk’ title!

Taxpayers expect at least a semblance of practicality, pragmatism and realism when their hard-earned money is expended. People are willing to pay RM1 for peace of mind when they travel, but certainly not for fat cats to pay themselves high salaries.

Similarly, employers expect their one percent levy to be used for training their own staff and not for directors to benefit at their expense.

There’s a big task ahead for the new ministers to the review unrealistic salaries, allowances and perks to organisations under their purview. Mavcom and HRDF are just two examples.

There are scores of other agencies and a review will help save the government millions of dollars. Let not history repeat itself. It was the negligence of the board that led to colossal losses in the Port Klang Authority and the Port Klang Free Zone scandals.

Also, the government-appointed directors of the National Feedlot Corporation board were oblivious to the fact that monies meant for cattle farming were used to buy luxury condos.

R NADESWARAN has been campaigning for good governance for oer 30 years and expects the new government to emphasise on its cornerstones – transparency and accountability. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

 

The Pakatan Harapan Cabinet


April 9, 2018

The Pakatan Harapan Cabinet

Malaysia will have 2 Deputy Prime Minister if Pakatan Harapan  takes over Putrajaya after GE-14. Malaysians are wondering what will be the fate of Najib Razak and his bunch of Ministers and top civil servants who spent nearly 10 years buttering up their corrupt boss.–Din Merican

Malaysia: GE-14–Follow Joe Pundit and Vote for Change


March 4, 2018

Malaysia: GE-14–Follow Joe Pundit and Vote for Change

by Joe Pundit

https://aliran.com/thinking-allowed-online/general-election-2018-five-reasons-i-will-vote-change/

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Vote for Change. Joe Pundit explains why he has no other option but to give opposition parties a chance.

Malaysians will go to the polls soon.The 2018 general election will be a significant one in the country’s history: for the first time the Opposition will be led by a former prime minister. Like many of my fellow Malaysians, I have pondered over whom to vote for.

 

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Join South Africans and Zimbabweans who have removed Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe (and Grace Mugabe), so why keep Najib Razak (and Rosmah Mansor) and his band of UMNO-BN thieves. Wake Up, Malays.

I have decided that I will vote for change. I will be voting for the coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the following reasons:

1. We need a fairer electoral system

That we need a change is an option-less choice for me. If Malaysia is to evolve into a mature democracy, we need to have a two-party system.

Our present electoral system has to be changed and we should adopt a more democratic system based on proportional representation. There is too much gerrymandering when parliamentary constituencies are created and boundaries redrawn.

Only under a proportionaly representation system will the majority voices of the people be heard. In the 2013 general election, the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, won 51% of the popular vote but could not form the government under the present first-past-the-post system.

Like in respected democracies, many Malaysians would like to see the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee coming from the Opposition and not the ruling party.

2. We need to overcome critical problems confronting the people

Rising cost of living

The escalating cost of living has hit the working and middle classes in Malaysia. Like many Malaysians, I am totally against the goods and services tax (GST) as it is painful towards those less well off. Taxes should always be discriminatory and not non-discriminatory.

Lagging education system and unemployment

The education system needs to be further improved and it should be free of charge for all Malaysians till university. The command of written and spoken English is abysmal among the younger generation. The education system needs to be completely revamped.

The current government is not doing enough to tackle the problem of unemployment. Thousands of graduates are unemployed and many have to resort to driving Uber and Grab for a living.

Lack of affordable housing and security

Prices of houses and apartments in many parts of the country have soared beyond the reach of the middle class and the working class.

The crime rate is still high as seen by the increase in gated communities in the country.

Ethnic polarisation and religious bigotry

Malaysians are also concerned about worsening ethnic polarisation and religious bigotry. The BN does not appear to be doing anything concrete to tackle this phenomenon, which is threatening the very fabric of our society.

Lack of consistent people-oriented measures

The government should assist the people on a daily basis – and not just occasionally through Brim. I believe genuine assistance will be provided to the people under an opposition-led government.

Many Malaysians are of the view that an opposition-led government will implement more people-oriented measures eg a RM100 season ticket providing unlimited travel for commuters.

With an opposition-led government, we have a chance of moving towards a more egalitarian society – and the more we move in this direction the better for the people.

3. We need to wipe out scandals, corruption and wastage

Many serious issues that have surfaced since the 2013 general election such as 1MDB, FELDA Global Ventures and Mara’s purchase of property in Australia have raised critical questions that remain unanswered. No satisfactory explanation has been given by the government and no one at the top has been made accountable for these financial transgressions.

The level of corruption in the country is of deep concern to many Malaysians like me. Malaysia’s ranking fell sharply from 54th to 62nd position in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2017. Many feel that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is not doing enough to combat corruption: it has to be made totally independent, reporting directly to Parliament.

Many Malaysians believe we should have an independent civil service without political interference. There is so much of wastage of public funds: just look at the number of civil servants, officials and others accompanying the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers on each overseas trip.

All tenders for all public projects should be transparent, and the tender committees for all major projects should comprise top civil servants and MPs from both sides of the political divide.

4. We need fairer, more independent media

The mainstream print and electronic media are unfair to the people. Hardly impartial, they serve as propaganda machinery for the ruling coalition. While we may or we may not agree with all of Mahathir and the Opposition’s policies and views, we would like them to be given space to express their views in the mainstream print and electronic media.

 

Malaysians must be given the chance to listen to live debates between the government and the opposition on television and radio ahead of the election. Only after listening to both sides will Malaysians be in a better positioned to make a choice.

By denying us the right to listen to both sides of the story, the government is telling us we unable to think rationally or vote wisely – which is an insult to the intelligence of Malaysians.

5. We need sweeping institutional reforms

The BN has failed to introduce sweeping much-needed reforms in the country.

Malaysians will expect an opposition-led government to implement reforms in all major institutions such as the Electoral Commission, the civil service, the judiciary, and the armed forces so that institutions will remain independent of the government of the day. These institutions should only report to the King and Parliament.

Given the wealth and natural resources in our country, Malaysians deserve a better deal.

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If opposition parties are elected to power and they fail to improve the political and socio-economic environment in the country, then I would be inclined to vote for the BN in the election after next.

Joe Pundit is the pseudonym of a keen political observer based in Kuala Lumpur.

The compromised loyalty of Civil Service and Armed Forces


February 28,2018

The compromised loyalty of Civil Service and Armed Forces

by S.Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

“Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power, or debased by the habit of obedience; but by the exercise of a power which they believe to be illegitimate, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

COMMENT | Malaysiakini columnist Mariam Mokhtar wrote a great piece about the narratives of the state of defending “bangsa” and “agama”. I just want to hone in on this paragraph – “Those in the civil service, the police and the armed forces are mostly Malay. The cabinet members, the GLC bosses and the heads of government departments are mostly Malay. The majority of Malays benefit from educational scholarships, affordable home purchases, business funding, or petrol station operating licences.”

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Social Activist and Political Analyst Mariam Mokhtar

This brings us to Public Service Department director-general Zainal Rahim’s rejoinder to the civil service to remain “loyal” to the government and Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man chastising retired armed forces personnel for “opposing” the government. Both political statements are because loyalty is not derived so much from any qualitative benefits that the government provides, but rather based on race.

While non-Malays have to put up with Malay potentates who live off their taxes but constantly remind them to be grateful, the majority of the Malay polity are constantly reminded that they need the government and hence have to remain loyal to the dominant Malay power structure. A power structure which through social engineering and economic banditry has ensured that the feudalistic system remains intact even if the idea of a constitutional monarchy has been chipped away over the years by the UMNO hegemon, the latest being the National Security Council (NSC) Act.

Let us not kid ourselves. There is a big difference between the propaganda aimed at the non-Malays and for the non-Malays, and the propaganda for the Malay community and against those Malays who are seen as rebelling against Umno rule. Senior Malay civil servants, retired or still serving, can tell you comical stories of how the establishment attempts to ensure compliance. This, of course, goes back to the days of the old maverick.

While high-ranking (thinking) armed forces personnel, who have had the benefit of tutelage under now-retired servicemen, cringe at the moronic displays of vote-getting by the establishment, there are far too many retired armed forces personnel who benefit from the largess of UMNO.

This is why when patriots like Brigadier-General (Rtd) Arshad Raji points out the corruption and inequalities of the system (based on) years of service, the UMNO hegemon is taken aback. Not only has he been on the receiving end of scurrilous attacks on his reputation, he has always been on the receiving end of the right-wing Malay intelligentsia who view the armed forces as the armed wing of a ruling party.

If you were to talk to the average wage earner in the civil service or the armed forces, you would understand that even with all the “benefits” they receive, they are still struggling.

Here is a prime example of how the government spends so much on “defence” but what the armed forces get is “third world facilities” and mockery from international military organisation they serve with – “Former army deputy chief Lt-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid said today the military camps were like ‘Third World facilities’ that have not been maintained and ‘when the men are asked to serve overseas, they are mocked by the international forces’.”

And this was just five years ago. Does anyone really think that things have improved?

Now some folks may wonder that if the wage earners of the state are struggling, what more the average citizen – Malay and non-Malay – who do not have the safety net provided by the state? If you are non-Malay, you pay double when it comes to not having a security blanket.

A shift in voting patterns?

While the opposition rightly worries about the armed forces postal votes and military base votes are suspect – that old Stalin rejoinder of the people counting the votes are more important than the ones casting their votes – the reality is that there are many people, those who have left the armed forces or are in the process of leaving, who understand that there is something very wrong with the way how this country is governed.

Mind you, they are not too concerned about all those fancy principles that opposition political parties like to throw about but what they do understand is that their lives are affected by the way how this country is run and no amount of pandering to race and religion can alleviate their problems.

The same applies to the civil service. One mid-level bureaucrat was pissed off that the MACC was going after small fish when the sharks were allowed to feed from the trough without any action from the state. This, of course, was unfair to the “average” corrupt small fish but was also demoralising to those civil servants who actually wanted to do their job.

Furthermore, when political loyalties are based on the petty fiefdoms aligned to greater power structures, the harassment of individuals deemed unfriendly to the current regime and thus ripe for targeting has agitated whole sections of the civil service waiting to express their disdain at the ballot box or are sympathetic to opposition political personalities wanting dirt on the current government. All this has created a toxic atmosphere in the civil service, with people questioning loyalties and allegiances.

This is not to say that race and religion are not a factor when it comes to the Malay vote, only that the opposition may not have as much to fear when it comes to the civil service and armed forces votes. While the average citizen may still be prey to the gung-ho nationalism of UMNO, those within the bureaucracy, which is an important voting bloc, may just surprise the Umno state.

This is the reason why the UMNO hegemon is busy reminding Malays in the Civil Service and the Armed Rorces that they should be loyal to the government. This is why a whole range of initiatives are mooted to dissuade the civil service from voting for anyone other than UMNO.

However, all these promises amount to a hill of beans because if anything, while the standard of the civil service has improved over the years, the agitation brought by the class dialectic of the opposition, the religious propaganda of PAS and the split in the Malay vote, has made traditional vote banks open to opposition intrusion.

I, for one, would not be surprised if there were a shift in voting patterns in the civil service and retired armed forces personnel.


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

Institutional Failure continues in Malaysia (aka Malusia)


July 31, 2017

Institutional Failure continues in Malaysia (aka Malusia)

by Dr. M.  Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

If Malaysian civil servants and politicians could not agree on solutions to basic problems, imagine the conflicts that would be triggered by disagreements over substantive matters.

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A strange partnership for a change

The conflict that was the consequence of the 1997 economic crisis pitted then Prime Minister Mahathir and his Deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. It ripped apart the nation, or to be more specific, Malays. That fissure is still deep and irreversible; Malays have yet to come to terms with it. Today we have the 1MDB mess. Only the players have changed; the underlying dynamics–unenlightened and unsophisticated Malay leaders–remain the same.

This lack of political wisdom and sophistication among Malay leaders (those in UMNO and PAS, to be specific–remember, UMNO is Malay, and Malay, UMNO–as well as the overwhelmingly Malay civil service) gets worse as we go down or laterally, as with our hereditary and religious leaders. The banality of the latter is exemplified by their current obsession with naming out-of-wedlock babies. You would think they would deliberate instead on how to prevent unwanted births and the care for those innocent babies with the dignity and love that they deserve.

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The Malay Rulers

As for Malay Sultans, consider the roles of Perak’s and Selangor’s during the political crises following the electoral tsunami of the 2008 general elections.

In Perak, the then Sultan proved unable to escape his feudal mentality. He treated the “People’s Representatives” in the state assembly as his handmaidens, to do his bidding. No surprise then that the political crisis there degenerated in short order. Instead of being part of the solution, the Sultan became enmeshed in the problem.

That Perak crisis demonstrated another key point. It is often assumed that if only we have qualified and experienced people in charge, then no matter how battered or inadequate our institutions are, those individuals would rise to the challenge. In Perak, we had a Sultan who by any measure was the most qualified and experienced, having served as the nation’s top judge and later, King. Yet his critical decision following the 2008 election, which demanded the most judicious of judgment, proved unwise and primitive. That is putting it in the mildest and most polite terms.

The protagonists there were Barisan Nasional’s Zamry Kadir, a Temple University PhD, and Pakatan’s Nizar Jamaluddin, an engineer fluent in multiple languages. With the defeat of the incumbent Barisan, Pakatan’s Nizar took over as Chief Minister. It was short lived. Through shady machinations, Barisan persuaded a few Pakatan representatives to switch, triggering a political tussle culminating in a constitutional crisis. All that could have been avoided by calling for a formal assembly vote of no confidence.

Instead, the Sultan decided which party had the Assembly’s confidence. From there it was but a short steep slide to seeing the Pakatan Speaker of the Assembly being manhandled and dragged out, with chairs thrown all round. The sultan’s representative was reduced to cooling his heels in an adjoining room, unable to address the Assembly because of the mayhem.

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Model  UMNO Malay Civil Servants–Of Integrity and Political Correctness–Your Obedient Servants (Kami Yang Menurut Perentah)

Equally pathetic and despicable were the behaviors of the permanent establishment; they too were ensnared in the mess through their partisan performances. Those civil servants should have acted as a conciliatory buffer.

The Judiciary too, failed. The ensuing lawsuit did not merit an expedited hearing and thus meandered through the judicial process. By contrast, the lawsuit triggered by the 2000 American presidential elections over the Florida ballots ended at the Supreme Court for a definitive decision in a matter of days, not months.

The credentials of the key players in the Perak mess were all impressive. In performance however, they were no different from street thugs. Their diplomas looked impressive only when hung on walls.

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“An Ivy League PhD. As can be seen, superior education does not always equal courage or integrity”.–Bakri Musa>

The latest failure of leadership, demonstrated to national and international shame, was that of Zeti Aziz, former Governor of Bank Negara. A few years earlier Global Finance named her as one of the top central bankers. Rather premature as it turned out. During the pivotal 1MDB crisis, she remained silent. She later used the excuse that she did not have the power beyond imposing fines! She bragged that she imposed the highest fine to date. That may well be. However, in view of the size of the loot, which was in the billions, a few millions in fine is but peanuts. She would have done a far greater public service had she spoken out and exposed the corruption.

Contrast her performance to her legendary predecessor Ismail Ali, the Bank’s first native Governor. A Queen’s scholar and Cambridge graduate, it would be unthinkable for any minister to even consider undertaking any financial shenanigans during his time.  Zeti’s qualification is no less impressive, an Ivy League PhD. As can be seen, superior education does not always equal courage or integrity.

A mark of a mature democracy, or any system, is the smooth and predictable transfer of power. Perak was a spectacular failure, an unnerving preview for Malaysia.

The transition in Selangor was no better, with the ugly spectacle of the destruction of official documents and the vandalizing of office equipment by the outgoing UMNO Chief Minister, one local-trained former government dentist, and his staff. That revolting display was made even more obscene when compared to the smooth transition in Penang, also the consequence of the 2008 elections.

The transfer of power there was from the Chinese-based Gerakan, a Barisan affiliate, to the also predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party. It was a model of civility, with the two leaders shaking hands. What a contrast to Selangor with the shift from UMNO to the also predominantly Malay Keadilan! No class, again reflecting the sorry caliber of the Malay political leaders.

This has not always been the case. I remember the 1950s and 60s when opposition leaders, Malays and non-Malays, would attend social functions hosted by then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. There were pictures of PAS leaders in their modern suits and ties at ronggeng (dance)parties at the Residency, and no one would raise a howl. Those PAS leaders did not feel that the revelry on the social occasion contaminated their piety.

Today I yearn to see such displays of decorum and civility among our leaders. I have seen DAP leader Lim Kit Siang at Mahathir’s Hari Raya “Open House,” but I have yet to see Nik Aziz give a sermon in a masjid full of UMNO members, or Abdullah Badawi, a self-proclaimed alim, in a mosque in Kelantan.

As for the civil service, in the 1950s and 60s it still had the aroma of prestige, a leftover from colonial rule. That however was more fantasy than reality. The inadequacies of the civil service then so well documented by Milton Esman are still evident today, only far worse. The civil service is now insular, inbred and most of all, highly corrupt and woefully incompetent. Far from being an essential instrument for the development of Malaysia, it is but an encrusted barnacle impeding the nation’s progress.

Revisiting the earlier Perak debacle, the then Crown Prince Raja Nazrin recently lamented on the quality of advice the Sultan (his father) received from senior officials. Dispensing with whether this was but a crude and shameless attempt at shifting blame, two things are worth noting. One, it took the prince this long to acknowledge those inadequacies, and two, his father (the sultan) obviously restricted his sources of counsel! And this Sultan was the nation’s former chief judge!