Lessons from the Marzuki scandal


February 12, 2019

Lessons from the Marzuki scandal

Opinion  |by   Nathaniel Tan

Published:  |  Modified:

  “Don’t assume people are idiots. There are probably some merchants in Petaling Street who can produce a Rolex watch lookalike that 95 percent of people couldn’t tell was a fake. The remaining five percent are likely to have emailed a “Nigerian prince” at some point in their lives”.–Nathaniel Tan

COMMENT | Perhaps this Lunar New Year, we can start a communications workshop series, to assess and make recommendations with regards to political communication.

In keeping with the spirit of the times, I should state up front that I don’t have a degree in communications, but sometimes an outside perspective on the brutal truth might be helpful.

So, let’s come back to Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Marzuki Yahya’s current imbroglio regarding his degree.

How we deal with a scandal (semi-fashionable terms for this may include “crisis management”, “damage control” or “firefighting”) goes a long way in determining how much damage said scandal will cause, to whom, and for how long.

These three factors are important in the world of public perception – the degree of damage, how many parties it spreads to, and how long the problem is in the public eye.

A savvy communications team should understand how to navigate the scandal.

In this case, the communications team would not be limited to Marzuki’s communication team (or lack thereof), but also that of his bosses, as they are the ones who may well bear the brunt of things turning ugly.

We will assess the responses to this scandal in a mostly chronological manner (saving Marzuki himself for last), and give letter grades to each comment, followed by (where applicable) what the commentator should have done or said instead.

Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.

It is important to note that these grades are in no way an assessment of the commentator as a whole – only an assessment of the particular comment.

At the very end, I will also present some of my research regarding the legitimacy of Cambridge International University.

First shots

Exhibit A is Bersatu supreme council member Tariq Ismail Mustaffa, grandson to the late Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

“From his humility and hard work, I would hire the one from the fake Cambridge. The real Cambridge, I would throw them into the river because they think they own the world and the world has to continuously chase them.

“People should look for dedication and teamwork.

“Having a dubious degree or not having graduated can be a stigma, but as long as people don’t rape or steal, it is fine,” he added.

The first grade of the day is an unmitigated F.

Don’t: Make spurious, unintelligible comparisons between apples and oranges. As pointed out with enjoyable sharpness, if being a rapist or thief is the bar to becoming a deputy minister, then we should all be applying for the job.

Don’t: Throw people into the river. This is illegal and very rude.

Do: take heed of the old saying – if you have nothing good to say, do not say anything at all.

In the same Malaysiakini article, we have comments from Bersatu Deputy President Mukhriz Mahathir: “I’m sure he was not picked to be a deputy minister on the supposed merit of his brandishing a Cambridge University degree.”

I will give this a C.

Tariq Ismail Mustaffa

“Don’t feel like you always need to defend someone, just because he is a friend or ally. Loyalty is all good and well, but if someone has done something wrong, blindly defending that person can bring down not only yourself but your organisation as well.–Nathaniel  Tan

Do: Stick to the facts, or take an angle that is not illogical or offends sensibilities. Mukhriz’s comment here in and of itself is fair, in this regard.

Next is a comment by another Bersatu supreme council member, Rais Hussin:

“We had this nonsense before in the previous BN government and if it is true Marzuki has misrepresented himself academically, he should apologise and move on.

“I would not defend anyone who lacks integrity if indeed he has misrepresented himself.”

I must be transparent and state that Rais is the boss of my company so readers are free to read the following as apple-polishing if they like.

There are a few valid points here: Admitting this is the same as what BN did, advising Marzuki to apologise if in the wrong, and maintaining a commitment to integrity.

Perhaps most importantly, there is an acknowledgement that an apology would allow everyone to move on.

Tiny window of opportunity

Next is Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad: “We have not really found out what happened.”

I would give this C.

Don’t: Avoid the truth for too long.

Do: At the very least, avoid saying things that may make things worse, or commit oneself too early one way or another. Here, Mahathir did alright.

The same can be said for Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian:

Osman Sapian

“Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian reportedly ignored media questions today regarding allegations that he had lied about having an accounting degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

“The New Straits Times (NST) reported today that Osman merely smiled when asked by reporters about the matter after a Chinese New Year function in Kulai today.”

Same grade, same do’s and don’t’s as Mahathir. One big difference for Osman however: He is facing a small window of opportunity to learn from Marzuki’s mistakes, avoid them, and do the right thing instead.

Osman should just own up to whatever he has or hasn’t done or faked, apologise contritely, and take the full brunt of responsibility. As I mentioned previously, Chua Soi Lek is a good example of how doing this may be the only way to survive with a semblance of political credibility.

If he takes Marzuki’s path instead, then like Marzuki, he may be in danger of losing his job.

Ministerial responses

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu: “Some people say I have a degree in culinary arts. I never said that. Truth is, I never completed my studies at ITM (Mara Institute of Technology). They kicked me out.

“Maybe it’s because I am good at cooking, so people think it’s something I learnt in college,” Mohamad was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.”

Mohamad Sabu

Grade: B+

Do: State the truth simply and straightforwardly. The B+ instead of a B is for the touch of humour.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik:

“Personally I feel we need to have integrity and not be ashamed. Follow the footsteps of Ghafar Baba. He was just a regular teacher with no academic degree,” he told reporters after the Penang PKR Chinese New Year celebration in Georgetown today.’

Grade: A-

Do: Avoid being overly critical of your allies, but advise the correct course of action.

The man himself

And now, for the pièce de résistance, a chronology of Marzuki’s own responses. There are four news articles I will quote from:

Feb 5: “I regard this as a political game. I don’t feel like commenting much about this. Let’s leave it to the police. The important thing is for me to discharge my duty well without any problem. It is important that we give preference to our duty, responsibility and country.

InsyaAllah (God willing), I will produce the proof, but not report to him. I will prove it, no problem,”’

Feb 6: “Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya has decried a flurry of edits made to his academic credentials on his Wikipedia page.

“Anyone can edit. Someone has evil intentions. I don’t even know what happened,” he told Malaysiakini.”

Feb 6: “I think they (my critics) misunderstood (my credentials). I (studied) at the Cambridge International University in the US.

“I was doing logistics (before joining politics). So I just took that certificate for my knowledge to expand my business.

“As CEO of the company, I want to expand my knowledge and my business,” he told Malaysiakini.”

Marzuki Yahya

Feb 8: “Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya has defended his degree from the US-based Cambridge International University (CIU), pointing out that it took him three years to complete the distance-learning business administration programme.

“The Bersatu Secretary-General also furnished PDF copies of his degree and university transcript. The CIU, which has no relation to the UK’s University of Cambridge, has been alleged to be a degree mill.

“In a statement this evening, Marzuki revealed that he started the course at CIU in 2002, and completed it in 2005.

“The Deputy Minister said that at the time, university accreditation was not something widely discussed and there was no list of bogus universities either.

“Therefore, when I learned about the course offered by CIU which was related to the business I was in, I enrolled without placing importance on accreditation for the course offered,” he explained.”

Grade: F/Z.

Defence of the indefensible

There are no do’s here. Only don’t’s. We don’t want to make this a seven-part article, so let’s only go through the highlight lessons.

First and foremost: Don’t assume people are idiots. There are probably some merchants in Petaling Street who can produce a Rolex watch lookalike that 95 percent of people couldn’t tell was a fake.

 

Ninety-five percent of people who glance at the Cambridge International University (CIU) website will know that it is a fake. The remaining five percent are likely to have emailed a “Nigerian prince” at some point in their lives.

This is the original predicate on which all other actions should be based.

Marzuki erred in this regard, and every other mistake and political point lost – for Marzuki, Bersatu and Harapan – flows from the stupid assumption that people might believe that CIU was the real deal.

Secondly: Stop reacting in panic mode. Reading Marzuki’s tone, it is easy to detect an agitated state of mind that we associate with guilt and panic.

The third lesson is as simple as it is important: don’t dig yourself further into your grave.

A look at CIU’s ‘campus’

If Marzuki had not produced his “transcript”, I may not have bothered to write this article. It was the facepalm to end all facepalms.

There is no shadow of a doubt that this transcript was a fake, as it matched the CIU “draft transcript” a hundred percent, right down to the decimal points.

If it were real, Marzuki took ten of the same subjects as one “Abraham Kensington” (whose transcript is available online as well) and scored exactly the same grades – right down to the decimal points.

It’s not easy for me to agree with MCA politicians, but Wee Ka Siong said it right – you have better odds of hitting the lottery. If anyone would like any further nail in the coffin, observe the address given in the transcript: Suite #1702, 14781 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas.

Firstly, this is a suite, giving the impression that it is a one office institution.

Secondly, have a look at what Google Maps Street View shows for that address.

That my friends is a low-rent strip mall in some Houston suburb, not a university campus – maybe putting “CIU” between the West Memorial Barber Shop and Saeed’s Mediterranean Grill.

Ultimately, the scandal hinges on whether or not CIU is a legitimate institution, regardless of its accreditation. Given all of the above, you would need the “faith” of a hardcore Donald Trump supporter to believe that it was.

Indeed, Trump was the master of distraction. We can learn from his experience how scandals like this can distract from bigger things such as the RM90 million scandal between PAS and UMNO.

Marzuki can apologise with sincere contriteness, take responsibility, and hope that he can keep his job, as well as minimise fallout to Bersatu and Harapan – ideally making this story fall out of the news within days.

Or he can persist with his incredulous claims that his degree is genuine, risk losing his job and drag down Bersatu and Harapan with him in a scandal that has no end in sight.


NATHANIEL TAN is director of media and communications at Emir Research a think tank focused on data-driven policy research.

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

 

Mucky moves over maggots


January 5, 2019

Mucky moves over maggots

 

COMMENT | The last time I used a no-frills airline was three years ago. I flew on EasyJet flying from London’s Gatwick to Zurich for 25 pounds sterling. The last trip to KLIA2 was two years ago to pick up my daughter who was returning from Auckland.

In early May, I took a decision (like many other Malaysians) not to opt for the no-frills airline operating in Malaysia. I didn’t buy the story of the “pressure” and neither was I convinced that livery could have been designed, manufactured and stuck on an Airbus in a matter of days. We’ll leave that for another day.

But if I had stepped into the terminal of KLIA2 (what people call a “shopping complex” in an airport) and noticed maggots coming out of a rubbish bin, I would whip out my mobile phone and take images of them. I would then pen a commentary with a link to the video.

If I had put it on social media, I would have merely been a citizen carrying out my civil duties and perhaps doing “national service” to point out shortcomings in the system. Since I pay a princely sum to Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) for passenger service charges, I would expect a certain level of standards, especially when it comes to hygiene and food safety.

That was precisely what AirAsia Head of communications Mohd Aziz Laikar Ali did. Instead of being appreciated for his services, he was initially summoned by the police to have his statement today for “hurting” the image of MAHB.

(Aziz has since clarified that his “meeting” with the police to have his statement taken is not taking place but this is not the real issue. The about-turn obviously came due to public displeasure and negative vibes that both organisations created.)

The crux of the issue is that Aziz had posted a video showing a rubbish bin covered with maggots at the airport while questioning a “fancy” statement issued by MAHB last week about its commendable performance in airport management for the month of October this year. Why did the police call him in the first place? Why did MAHB file a police report? What necessitated it?

For MAHB and the police, you have done damage to yourselves and are now trying to repair or contain that damage. This is an exercise in futility and the outcomes remain inconsequential. In short, both shot themselves in their respective feet and are suffering the consequences.

As one who stood up and vehemently opposed the Anti-Fake News Bill early this year, I had warned about authorities misusing the legislation. Had it not been revoked, there could have been dire circumstances. Even so, this is no fake news unless Aziz had captured the images elsewhere and purported it as at one of the gates. That’s just too farfetched even to imagine.

Like-minded citizens are the least interested in a war of words or dispute between Air Asia and MAHB but to use the police to silence a citizen (wherever he or she is employed) smacks of conceit, thoughtlessness, and arrogance and above all sheer stupidity.

Needless witch-hunt

Didn’t the bigwigs at MAHB consider the backlash they would face for such an odious and hateful move against a legitimate grouse of an airport user? Or were they under the impression that their shortcomings would be suppressed by bullying the ordinary man?

To suggest that Aziz had maliciously circulated the pictures should be summarily dismissed as sheer nonsense. Would they have done the same to the scores of disgruntled passengers who write to the media or use other platforms to air their grouses?

And the police, what the heck are you doing? Why are you wasting valuable time, effort and money pursuing this case when you should be catching criminals and keeping our streets safe? If you are so bothered about protecting the image of MAHB, shouldn’t you be protecting the image of this country as a multi-racial and tolerant society?

Every day, scores of racist and defamatory statements are posted on social media. Last night, someone stood up and spoke at a rally in Klang. He provoked the crowd and threatened to attack a police station. Yet, the Police stood as silent as the grave, arms folded and allowed the speaker to pour scorn (without any basis) on individuals and organisations. (We have since been told that the case is being investigated.)

It is these kinds of action and inaction that prompt people to have a negative view of the Police Force. The people would be happier if the same effort is put into maintaining some semblance of law and order in the drop-off and pick-up points at the airport.

So much has been written and said about luxury cars with special number plates being allowed to park in areas where parking is strictly prohibited. The policemen with their summons books walk past appearing oblivious to the vehicles which are causing all the problems.

The MAHB and Police have both damaged their own reputations by indulging in this witch-hunt. People are pouring scorn on the Police for being used to settle a private and commercial dispute. Enough is enough. Get your priorities right.

By the way, should I prepare for a call from the authorities for speaking out? I am not discounting the possibility of MAHB lodging a police report for “hurting” their image. Also not discounted is the police calling me in to have my statement recorded.


R. NADESWARAN has written extensively on the bully-culture in some of our government departments, statutory bodies and agencies. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

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

Ethics in Governance: The dethroning of our value system


Ethics in Governance: The dethroning of our value system

by Firoz Abdul Hamid

Image result for Richard P. Feynman

“So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.” 

Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for Physics in 1965

faffTrust. Integrity. Honour. Lexicons or Values? The month of November 2018 witnessed many boardroom dramas. Revelations of Facebook in the New York Times spoke of an unbecoming culture of ‘Delay, Deny and Deflect’ allegedly practised by the most senior people in one of the largest corporations ruling this world today: People who we idolise, our children want to emulate, those who frequent talk shows and international business forums. These are people we trust as exemplars for our companies, yet in a public listed company that necessitates high levels of governance, we hear reports of culture that promotes the contrary.

Image result for saw Carlos Ghosn

And then we saw Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman and CEO of Renault who allegedly used company funds for personal purposes. Another case of a public listed company that missed its mark on governance, it would seem. We had German police raiding Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt as part of an investigation into whether the lender helped criminals launder money through offshore tax havens when it was not long back HSBC was fined for money laundering offences in Mexico.

These cases and companies are by no stretch of the imagination small feat adventures. These companies are and have been emulative models of case studies for management schools, its leaders receive invites to Davos and we in the ‘developing world’ are made to believe that they are who we should model our market success on.

 

Now – zooming into my own country, Malaysia. It is heart breaking to read day in day out, of late, how the house of cards is crumbling in its own weight in some of our companies with long legacies and national agendas, like Felda Corporation where its entire former board has been sued for losses and bad investment decisions. As if this was not heart wrenching enough this week, we then read Malaysia’s 64 billion ringgit ($21 billion) Muslim pilgrimage saving fund, Tabung Haji (TH), is said to be short of  four billion ringgit of deposits. The story which broke in the Singapore Sunday Times alleges that TH faked its 2016 accounts to justify its dividends. This in the same month we were told the movie-bound 1MDB Auditor General Report was tampered with. Having had several books written after it, made into documentaries and now waiting for its casts to be selected so they can film an all-Hollywood movie with all its trappings for more Malaysians to go watch how we were lied to and how our hard earned monies misused – these escapades are no longer amusing.

Added to this, we are witnessing politicians being hauled up for alleged corruption, the existing government (Pakatan Harapan) being questioned for their said promises in their election manifesto and their intent in honouring the promises. Yes in a glass half full scenario one can argue, we are witnessing transparency and rule of law taking its course. But the bigger question really is – how did we get here 61 years since our independence. Shouldn’t the systems, processes and institutions be solid enough to avert such malfeasances? Shouldn’t we have a civil service and/or leaders of government-linked companies who know that political campaigning is just wrong – yet we had very highly educated leaders, not least highly respected ones who ignored this basic ethics.

So my questions are: How did these people get to these positions? Who selected the company boards and its management teams for these companies? What were the criteria of these selection processes and what are their performance measures – or is it arbitrarily done by a few (in the corridors of power) peoples’ likes/dislikes as was suggested in a recent article in The Star?

Shouldn’t the criteria of selection be made public, for after all they are being paid by the public? Shouldn’t they (i.e. those who selected these leaders – CEOs and boards) too be hauled up for accountability when those they selected or appointed fail the country and its people?

Shouldn’t the criteria of selection be made public, for after all they are being paid by the public? Shouldn’t they (i.e. those who selected these leaders – CEOs and boards) too be hauled up for accountability when those they selected or appointed fail the country and its people?

We have CEOs in this country leading companies on behalf of the government who themselves are struggling with words like vision, mission and governance. They simply cannot understand the concept of business judgement and sustainability. Yet these candidates make the cut. I have sadly come face to face with one too many.

We have CEOs in this country leading companies on behalf of the government who themselves are struggling with words like vision, mission and governance. They simply cannot understand the concept of business judgement and sustainability. Yet these candidates make the cut. I have sadly come face to face with one too many.

Image result for mahathir

When I interviewed the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, in July 2018, he spoke of his total frustration and exasperation in the breakdown of governance in our public sector and government-linked companies. He stressed on the rule of law being the way forward. This sentiment I am certain is shared by many in the country – from housewives to fishermen, from the jobless graduate to a janitor, from an underpaid and overworked teacher to a well-paid executive in a leather office.

Yet my gut keeps nagging the one question – the ones leading these companies and departments in government are no fools. They ARE well educated, they are sent to programmes (after programmes) and courses by their companies and the regulators regularly here and abroad (all paid for I might add) – yet we find these missteps, these blunders and these blood boiling news of blatant failure in public trust.

Who exactly is in charge one can’t help but wonder? Who is checking and monitoring these boards and CEOs and their management teams? In a 2014 debate at the Oxford Union, Christopher Hedges, a journalist and writer, argued that often we really do not know who is covering up for who. The committees know they are being lied to. The whole system is designed to cover up each other and this right to the door of parliamentary committees or its equivalent.

 

A friend of mine in his recent fit of frustration of this barrage of government-linked companies news argued that maybe they (the public sector and government-linked companies) have no sense of accountability because they know these funds are government-guaranteed. At the most they would be suspended or demoted within the public sector (unless clear proof of corruption). He also said that the infamous ‘passing of the buck’ rotates from the board to the CEO, to the audits (internal and external), back to the umpteen committees we have in an organisation as a feel-good factor, never mind our love for taskforces as soon as we hit a wall of problems yet no one is really in charge. No clear accountabilities. No clear indication where the buck stops.

Image result for Arnold J. Toynbee,

The well-known historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who famously wrote the nine-volume book A Study of History said that civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fibre and the cultural elite turns parasitic, exploiting the masses and creating an internal and external proletariat.

He emphasized the importance of spiritual dimension in shaping civilisations. Toynbee studied the rise and fall of 21 civilisations and amongst others concluded civilisations fail when pride and hubris kicks in. Standard. We all know this. But he also speaks of the importance of the creative minority. This is the group of people who are able to challenge the status quo. Able to unfix and fix problems. Most of the time we have people who create a problem and then have no clue how to fix them. We also have those who give solutions to a problem but have no clue how it should then work.

The creative minority, Toynbee argue are those able to decipher what ails the society, and produce solutions that works in  order that society/civilisation moves to its next echelon of dignity – or growth as we call it today. These people are beyond your standard technocrats. They understand human dimension, sociology, culture and, in essence, they build the very fundamentals and the fabric of a strong society. When a society loses this creative minority, and when hubris and arrogance kicks in, the all famous ‘yes man’ syndrome will be its default setting. That’s when you start witnessing the house of cards fall right before your eyes.

The Roman Empire rose because of its greatness in structure and discipline. Its ultimate demise happened when lawlessness crept in, similar to the Ottomans. Hubris ruled and a sense of conceit and arrogance became honourable to embrace. The entire Abrahamic depiction of Pharaoh (the master) and Moses (the slave) plays out in every aspect of society even now in the 21st century. Today we can safely say the story of Pharaoh and Moses is well and truly alive in many parts of our own society, waiting to be destroyed by the parting of the Red Sea. In his recent essay, Terence Fernandez, a Malaysian journalist,  for instance wrote of the culture of sabotage in the public service and how it is affecting the new government operating and this after walking into a post-election (GE14) with such hope for change.

The entire governance system in Malaysian institutions needs to see a deep overhaul and the leadership at the very top has to own this problem and set it right. For if we do not, no amount of measures, programmes, talks, committees, task forces or retreats will save the day. It is a fundamental change of value system and culture necessary -one that takes time — one that isn’t always popular with politicians who by and large work towards the next election, and certainly not a top priority for three-to-five-years contract chief executives whose key performance measure is bottom line.

Malaysia needs to expand and grow its creative minority. We need many more who are able to stand up in the crowd and say: this is wrong and, no, this will not work. We need people who speak truth to power in our public sector and government-linked companies. We really are in desperate need of more people with moral courage in our boardrooms and the corridors of power, people who are able to rationally articulate wrong when it simply is wrong. This does not require an Ivy League degree. It does not require scores of titles. It requires a culture that incentivises moral courage. For this to happen throughout the entire value system, its incentives and remuneration system and culture must change. This has to be led by the CEO of the country (our Prime Minister), not a task force.

In the wake of the brutal Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi’s, murder in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, US President Donald Trump was faced with making a call on his stand on the case and he said (and I paraphrase) – the front and center is American interest and that is jobs and money. When interests are aligned to parameters that change with the next stock market cycle and speculative traits, a company really is doomed to fail. A country on its way to destruction. A civilisation on its journey to ruins.

If we do not exert values, by that, good values, on our core interests to growth, for fear of losing our jobs, titles and status, we are literally opening the doors for our children to bear the burden of our own self-interests. To put it simply if not bluntly, if we do not stand apart with moral courage and are willing to take the bullet for speaking the truth today in highlighting wrongs in our companies and institutions, what we are essentially doing is diverting that bullet for our kids and grandchildren to take, for our sins.

That really is the simple truth. This is why Feynman’s quote above is so poignant for our times.

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

 

 

 

 

Malaysia’s Disgraceful UnCivil Service


November 18, 2018

Malaysia’s Disgraceful UnCivil Service

by David Anandarajoo

http://www.malaysiakini.cm

INTERVIEW | Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently alleged that the “previous government had developed an attitude” for the civil service, which included “working for a particular party and leader, and not to work for the development of the country and not instilling high democratic principles.”

Former senior civil servant, Abdul Halim Shah Abdul Murad, who retired from the Public Services Commission in 2005 and sat on the disciplinary board of the Public Services Department, said that politicians and politicking by previous administrations have contributed to the drastic fall in the civil service’s reputation and efficiency.

“When politics became more institutionalised, that spelt the doom for the civil service, because civil servants served not in the public interest but were forced to be the errand boys of politicians,” said Halim, who has served in various capacities within the civil service in 37 years, including as director-general of the Legal Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department.

According to the 73-year-old, part of the problem the current administration is facing is the continuous election of the same political parties over the last half-century.

Halim said it was “inevitable” that the civil service would “descend to its lowest ebb…when politicians more or less remained permanent and the civil servants became more dispensable in all the ministries and departments”.

“The fault does not lie with the civil service, but more with the so-called democratic system, whereby we allowed the same coalition to rule the country for more than half a century,” he added.

Image result for irwan serigar--a model malaysian civil servant

Mr. Irwan Serigar–Corrupt and Overpaid

Halim said that the “duress” experienced under previous administrations had contributed to the civil service’s rapid decline, with employees becoming “yes men” rather than able technocrats who could read the needs of a developing nation.

“If they have to serve under duress, then there is not much can be expected of them no matter how good they are as officers.”

Image result for malaysian civil servant and son jailed

Former Secretary General of the Rural and Regional Development Ministry Datuk Mohd Arif Abdul Rahman (second from right), and his son Ahmad Zukhairi (left, blue shirt) were brought to the Sessions Court on corruption charges on Nov 14, 2018.Credit : BERNAMA

Choose the right people

Politics aside, Halim also lamented that the quality of recruits to the civil service has deteriorated to such an extent that there was a gradual dilution of the body’s services and efficiency, which has now come to be known as the PTD or Perkhidmatan Tadbir dan Diplomatik.

“At the very outset, we must select the right people to do the right job right. In the early years of Merdeka, the intake of people into the PTD was very much dependent on the output only from Universiti Malaya in Singapore which then moved to Kuala Lumpur.

“Only the best could have graduated from this institution and thus there was not much of a problem in selection. The pool was small and the number of civil servants recruited was very limited.”

Halim added that the key was quality. He said that the colonial service under the British had already laid the foundation of a sound administration with its established rules and regulations.

He added that there were “just a handful” of early civil recruits, otherwise known as cadets, with training being done on the job.

“They learned the ropes of government service from their mentors whose reputation was second to none in this part of the world.

“When I first set upon a compendium of colonial MCS (Malayan Civil Service) officers, which contained information about their educational backgrounds, most were educated in public schools in England and then graduated from Cambridge University and Oxford University,” he said.

Halim noted that another determinant, which cannot be overemphasised, is the ethos of the civil service prevalent today.

“By this, I mean the values espoused by the civil servants must be in consonance with noble virtues such as being God-fearing, morally upright, honest and of integrity.

“These sound virtues must be exhibited in their moral conduct and discipline, in their everyday lives and not become just mere exhortations.”

Halim added that public trust was civil servants’ raison d’être, and that they must uphold “the principle of neutrality of service, regardless of the political circumstances existing and prevailing around them.”

Improve recruitment methods

Halim feels that current methods of recruitment are already outmoded. “Technically, many things have changed, such as computerisation in short-listing of candidates, conducting evaluation and assessments in written form and through group activities, but they still fall short, because we have not done an evaluation on how valid and effective these techniques are.

Our interviews are also not standardised and unprofessional. I propose a thorough re-examination into the present methods be made and changes for the better be instituted,” he said.

Halim added that the suitability of candidates for recruitment must not only be based on paper qualifications, but other measurements that determine their aptitude or attitude, including their problem-solving abilities.

Image result for integrity quotes

“I am a firm believer that discipline must be imbibed by every fresh recruit into the civil service, because it is the cornerstone of character development of the individual,” he said.

As an example, Halim said that the Federation Military College (now Royal Military College) had instilled in him “the habits of punctuality and good grooming”.

He said that apart from developing competencies such as problem-solving, communication and tech-savviness, he proposes that civil servants must be a reservist throughout their first three years upon being recruited.

This means compulsory military training while still in service, where they have to undergo drills and annual camps as part of a comprehensive package in their appointment offer. Halim also said he noticed that the civil service seems to have deteriorated in terms of promoting deserving officers for promotions.

Image result for ahmad sarji abdul hamid and dr. mahathir mohamad

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his henchman, Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid turned The Malaysian  Civil Service into the Putrajaya Branch of UMNO. Top Civil servants were seen at UMNO General Assembly. Worse still, during the Najib Razak era, Dr . Ali Hamsa,  then Chief Secretary to the Government was pictured taking instructions from the disgraced Rosmah Msnsor

Political interference should not be tolerated, and whenever a key position is involved, the criteria of political acceptability should not even be allowed to intrude.”