Building a place called trust– Time to Talk Less and Do More


March 20, 2019

https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/03/471024/building-place-called-trust

 

 

THERE is a little known place in the Scottish Hebridean islands in the United Kingdom called the Isle of Skye. It is said to have rugged and mountainous landscapes graced with deep lochs. No highrises, no discarded waste. The scarcely scattered white-washed cottages in this place show one how nature has ruled over human creation.

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But beyond the physical attributes, there is something more to this isle than its landscape. It embodies the epitome of TRUST. One magazine wrote that on the corners where paths cross, there are ‘product boxes’ where people leave their homemade jams and free-range eggs. Passers-by come, take what they need and leave their payment. Doors in homes are left unlocked. One can leave cars there with the windows open, and the only thing that will enter is the rain.

This is called integrity. This is called good governance. This is what I envision for our country. This is what I pray that one day every nook and cranny of Malaysia will become and that we do not take what does not belong to us, and we guard and protect with all we have, what is given to us to honour.

The example of Isle of Skye is the basis upon which we approached the National Anti-Corruption Plan. It isn’t just a plan, as cynics and critics would say, plucked from the air. The goal of the Plan is to create a corruption-free society governed by the principles of integrity, accountability and transparency.

The focus of the Plan is clear — and that is to ensure every agency and ministry in the public sector institutionalizes good governance in every part of their work. Why focus on the public sector, one may ask? The answer is simple. If public governance is not strengthened first, we cannot move to ask others to put their houses in order.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the Plan on Jan 29. It essentially identifies six key corruption-prone risk areas; political governance, public sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement, and corporate governance.

Again, the process of ascertaining these was done through public surveys, interviews and research. We engaged many components of society — public and private sectors, civil society and the media. The Plan is an amalgamation of information we received from this work and on completion, we had independent anti-corruption specialists review our work.

I think it is important that we also understand why we had listed out the nature and points of corruption. A content analysis of about 20,000 reports received by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission from 2013 to 2018 found that more than 80 per cent were concerned with four causes; administrative failures (36.43 per cent), conflict of interest (33.12 per cent), weak internal control and non-compliance (18.97 per cent), and lack of transparency (6.45 per cent).

When we look at the areas prone to corruption from the same data we had, we found that the procurement sector recorded the highest number of complaints (42.8 per cent).

That’s why a special section in the Plan focuses on public procurement.

Beyond the Plan, our greatest challenge remains, as the government and people of Malaysia, our understanding of the roles of our government, private sector and public. I constantly argue that we have a somewhat warped view of this and frankly we are not alone here in Malaysia. To some, it is almost like watching the movie Matrix.

A lot of things in movies like Matrix are used as metaphors for our fixed views of ‘reality’. Rarely do we observe the world for what it is. It is much simpler to build a perceived order, load our preconceptions and baggage onto them to the point it simply becomes conducive and comfortable for us.

When we become fixated on a certain world view, and when that world view is simply wrong we open ourselves to the ramifications that come with living a lie, and that is exactly what we are going through today — the bite of reality of having condoned a culture of corruption for decades.

I often use the examples of nations such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and Myanmar which all have comparatively high CPI (Corruption Perception Index), coming in at 180, 160 and 132, respectively, to further demonstrate my point. Such positions within the CPI have ultimately left these countries in shambles economically, socially as well as politically.

Meanwhile, Malaysia ranks 61 within the index.  Admittedly, we are a far cry from achieving the corrupt-free status enjoyed by nations, such as Denmark, New Zealand and Finland, which rank 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the index.

Attitudes and mindsets cannot be measured by Key Performance Indicators. They are intangibles.

The real engine to any delivery is mindset. Mindsets are defined by the culture we ultimately inculcate in this system. It is defined by the Isle of Skyes that we each develop in the little areas we are in charge of in our daily lives at work.

This culture has to be instilled, has to be imbued and built in every part of our society.

That is how we build a place called TRUST.

Datuk Dr. Anis Yusal Yusoff is the deputy director-general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity & Anti-Corruption, Prime Minister’s Department

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Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?


March 15, 2019

Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

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Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad

 

MANILA : In one of his most famous lines, Shakespeare wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”.

Many of today’s most powerful persons belong to one of these three categories. Some were born with exceptional capabilities and magnetic charisma, carrying in their bosom a burning vision for their communities.

They have an unmatched talent for inspiring countless souls, steering whole nations toward the terminus of history.

One could think of Cyrus the Great of Persia and Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who built the biggest and most cosmopolitan empires of their times, as belonging to this category of men.

Others achieve greatness through sheer hard work, untrammelled ambition and unimaginable sacrifice and self-mastery.

One could think of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as belonging to this category.

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For free marketers, Dame Margaret Thatcher also fits this description.

Then there are those who are catapulted to the vortex of history through sheer circumstances. Throughout their lives, they were never known as exceptional characters or particularly ambitious persons.

And yet, when the moment came, they did their best to rise to the occasion.

One could think of Catherine the Great of Russia and Cory Aquino of the Philippines as belonging to this category: two brave women who filled up the political vacuum left by their prematurely demised husbands.

Catherine oversaw the transformation of Czarist Russia into a haven for the European intelligentsia, while Cory oversaw a messy transition out of the black hole of a literally bankrupt dictatorship.

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When I met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) last week, I wondered to which category he belongs. Not that he is a perfect leader; nor have I turned a blind eye to his more authoritarian past.

In fact, I was a Mahathir-skeptic in the past, partly because I was critical of, inter alia, his “Asian values” argument: I reject the suggestion that civil liberties and human rights are only for Caucasian people.

I believe in the universality of human dignity and, similar to former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the perfect compatibility between democracy and development.

But “greatness” should be understood in terms of Greek tragedy: We are not speaking of perfect beings, or the “best president in the solar system”, but instead restless mortals who dedicate their lives to pursuing a cause bigger than themselves, no matter the sacrifices it entails.

In my view, Dr. Mahathir is great in all three categories.

He was born with unfathomable energy for political engagement from early youth.

Hailing from a humble background, he worked his way up to the pinnacle of power by sheer hard work and ruthless ambition.

But the Dr. Mahathir that I admire is the one who had greatness “thrust upon” him. At the astonishing age of 92, he decided to rejoin the maelstrom of politics.

As D.r Mahathir told me during our conversation, he decided to shun “retirement” in order to “do something”: to save Malaysia from the downward spiral of unrestrained corruption and increasing subservience to a foreign power, namely China.

What I admire even more about him is his personal discipline, making sure that he never skips any major event despite the vicissitudes of advanced age. Not to mention his reputation as a loving husband and father.

Above all, however, Dr Mahathir is the epitome of a great leader, one who bravely stands up to both a hegemonic Western power and an overbearing Eastern rival.

During his visit to Beijing last year, Dr Mahathir bluntly warned of a “new colonialism”, underscoring the need for vigilance vis-à-vis welcoming large-scale but low-quality investments from China.

At the same time, he has also warned against the belligerence and warmongering of US President Donald Trump, who, according to Dr Mahathir, “resort(s) to unconventional reactions to problems”.

Now, that’s a truly “independent” foreign policy.

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Fidel Ramos

Of all Filipino leaders, I think only one came close to being our own version of Dr Mahathir: Fidel Ramos.

Sadly, he only had a few years to fix the mess of the lost decade of the ’80s, just to see a populist successor throw all the most precious gains of his hardworking administration out of the window.

We never lost the chance to under-appreciate truly good leaders. –

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

MP Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat


February 16,2018

Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008  Pakatan Rakyat

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad  the MP for Setiawangsa.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464186?fbclid=IwAR25cGcttcKWep_VuYlXm9uT0Vhj3nuWoO3kgVCarZFwiZ2X8e8PkOTaVB0

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MP SPEAKS | This week, seven former UMNO MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.

It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging UMNO-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of UMNO and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from UMNO the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

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Negara ini bukan  Tun Dr.Mahathir punya. Ini adalah Malaysia–Negara kita semua. 2008 GE Tagline–UBAH SEBELUM PARAH

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

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Dr.Syed Hussin Ali-The Intelletual behind PKR

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE-14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because they believed that Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope. What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

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As I have said many times before, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank UMNO and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust our defend our Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While UMNO and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa.

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

Can planet Earth survive Asia’s economic drive?

The Sustainable State is Hong Kong-based environmentalist and author Chandran Nair’s second book, following  Consumptionomics, published in 2011. Both call for urgent recognition of the looming ecological disaster for humanity. The book launch in Hong Kong’s trendy Lan Kwai Fong district on Nov. 13 was billed as a conversation between Nair, and Zoher Abdool Karim, the recently retired TIME Asia editor. Nair’s manifesto dominated. A bemused Zoher was the smiling prop. The audience could have gained more from meaningful interlocution.

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Chandran Nair has been the town crier on environmental disaster for 20 years. He faults industrialization, capitalism, free enterprise and liberal economics, for destroying the ecosystems of rivers, forests, air and water on so vast a scale, that life itself is the price paid by the poorest across the developing world. Malnutrition, starvation, and lack of access to potable water, plagues many societies at subsistence level.

Resource curse

The developed world prospered from early industrialization to capture vast resources via conquest and colonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America, he writes. The poorest societies hold the richest deposits of minerals, fossil fuels and land for plantations of rubber, palm oil, tea and coffee. Pesticides and insecticides from Monsanto and others destroy their soils and ruin their water systems. They have also been too frequently run by kleptocrats.

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What he calls the “externalities” of capitalist trade – environmental degradation, pollution, social dislocation, disease and malnutrition, impact the poorest disproportionately. Therein lies the supreme irony. Nair wants these externalities of economic activity priced and charged directly to corporations. He also wants individual accountability for wasteful consumption computed for carbon footprints and taxed to discourage waste.

Responsible development and consumer habits need to be enforced, if we are to survive our collective unwisdom. How the corporations and individuals would agree to these principles, and the respective methods to calculate the amounts to pay, are undefined. Nair does not expect the culprits to volunteer. By the legal trick of defining corporations as ‘persons,’ companies can argue rights protecting individual citizens, under national Constitutions.

Migration to cities in Europe progressed over an extended period, without too much social disruption. Rural migration to cities in the developing economies is too rapid, within a compressed time-frame. Slum populations struggle without sanitation, proper housing, access to fresh water, electricity, or schooling for children, in too many cities across the developing world. This hollowing-out of rural populations is wasteful.

Rethink development

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A whole new raft of public policies needs to evolve for ecological balance. Development plans to retain rural manpower and incentivize agricultural food security, are absent. Urban dwellers have to pay higher prices for natural produce, instead of buying packaged food in supermarkets. Efficient public transport systems have to be built to prevent city traffic gridlock. Electric vehicles have to replace fossil fuel engines.

Nair’s nightmare is the adoption by developing countries of the Western model for economic growth. India and China will constitute 30 percent of the global 10 billion by 2050. Add Africa, Latin America, and the rest of developing Asia to that, and the consequences of feckless industrialization, along with wasteful urban consumption, are too obvious. Nair advocates a radical overhaul of the development mindset.

Prescriptions from the developed world peddled by the World Bank and the IMF, in Nair’s mind, exceed Planet Earth’s healing capacity. Natural resource depletion and poisoning of the earth, water and air, must be stopped now. Hurricanes and typhoons destroying habitats and flooding societies, are increasing in frequency and ferocity. The consequences are all too real for climate change deniers.

The weight of floating plastic in the oceans will soon exceed that of the global fish stock. This poison has entered our food chain, killing us slowly while choking sea life. Human overpopulation, food cultivation and de-forestation, wipes out wildlife at the rate of 30,000 species per year, according to Harvard biologist E O Wilson. Now our collective irresponsibility will kill the oceans too.

Prioritize social equity

If replicating the Western growth model is madness, what are the alternatives? Nair moves into contentious territory on this. He calls for strong government and a revised development agenda. Rather than Hollywood-movie lifestyles, he suggests inclusive policies for all citizens to ensure clean water, electricity, sanitation, universal education and gainful employment as minimal benchmarks. Modest prosperity benefits all.

Social equity, well-being and protection of nature cannot be achieved without political legitimacy and effective rulership. Governance has been hijacked by Big Biz and sponsor politicians. Lobby groups target lawmakers. PR companies spin fakery for corporations and politicians. The mass media is co-opted through advertising and ownership. All at the expense of gullible citizens, led to believe they have some say every five years.

Strong state works

Nair contrasts the dysfunctions of India with the success of China. He skates on thin ice where individual rights and freedoms can be ignored, for the collective good. He says only a “strong” state has the mass mobilization capacity to marshal people, resources and investment, for sustainable development. To Nair, Hong Kong is a weak state unable to address basic public housing. He jests that a boss imposed by Beijing can fix that.

The European Union is a strong authority able to mandate socially responsible policy across its constituent members. Britain and the US are weak states floundering for effective governance, polarized by divisive populist politics. Nair is less interested in ideologies of the Left or Right, than in the State as effective authority for the common good. He wants the institutions of good governance strengthened at every level.

Oddly, Nair dismisses world governance as the solution. The United Nations, overly compromised by funding dependency and too timid to upset powerful voting blocs, is not his answer. Where then will the needed global course-correction come from? The issues Nair raises are urgent. Are we doomed to self-destruct by default anyway? If he has an answer, Nair has not articulated it in his books, or his public campaigns. Perhaps there might be a third book for that.

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

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Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons


August 16, 2018

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons

by Dr Amar-Singh HSS

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian Civil Service

These Civil Servants pledge to feather their own nest

We need to get rid of the culture of censuring those in the civil service who speak up when they see wrong being done.

I found the courage to write this after the recent strong words from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to the civil service. He encouraged those in the civil service not to blindly follow instructions, and to speak up if there are wrongdoings, saying he will support those who have been “tortured”.

There has been a long-standing culture of victimisation in the civil service. Many of us join the civil service to serve the public. Some of us have better financial prospects elsewhere but choose the civil service because it offers us an unparalleled opportunity to serve the people of our nation.

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Top Goons of the Malaysian Civil Service with the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Unfortunately, as Mahathir points out, the civil service is now populated with those who are self-serving, to put it mildly. Over the years, I have seen people take advantage of their position to enrich themselves or abuse their power, so much so that the prevalent culture becomes “keep your head down and follow instructions”, even if things are wrong.

Those of us who attempt to speak up when we see wrong, or make the necessary corrections in the system, are often censured, at times with measures detrimental to our career. We are constantly reminded that we belong to “the government service”.

Allow me to share an example from my own life. I recently retired after being in the civil service for more than 35 years. In April last year, I received a show-cause letter saying I had brought shame or detriment (memalukan dan memburukkan) to my ministry and the civil service. I was also informed verbally that action was being considered at the highest echelons of the organisation to sack me without pension.

You may ask what I did to bring such wrath upon myself. What prompted this response was a tweet I had made, stating that we are “civil servants, not government servants”. I went on to say that it is “the taxes of the people that pay our wages”.

You may say that what I tweeted was factual and “mild”, but remember that this was in April 2017, before the election, when fear was prevalent and many were being censured. My tweet was forwarded by “cybertroopers” to the highest level of the organisation, and I was issued a show-cause letter.

It was a traumatic learning experience for me. I found that despite many years of work and bringing change/pride to health services (I received a number of international awards), no one was prepared to openly stand up for me. I tried meeting the senior civil service management, but was unsuccessful.

In the end, the previous health minister Dr S Subramaniam was kind enough to act on my behalf when I approached him. Even then, I still received a warning letter saying I had been found to have brought shame/detriment to the organisation, and was warned about future action.

Why do I bring this up? If the civil service is to have any hope, we need to get rid of the petty victimisation of staff and offer safe opportunities for them to speak up when they see wrong being done. The Regulations for Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) [Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan Tatatertib) 1993] have an overreaching “Peraturan 19 (1)” about civil servants speaking up. It was put in place to protect government policy, but is also used to silence those who speak up. It can be and is used arbitrarily, as was the case with me.

I hope the institutional reforms committee can look at this section and consider with the government an amendment to focus on government policy, not on personal statements. If there is no safe platform to express the wrongs that are conducted in the civil service, a mechanism outside the system, then many will not dare to support the necessary change for reform in our civil service. Even now as I speak up about the way I was treated (and it is frightening when you go through it), I have some fear that action can be taken against me after retirement.

If you wonder why sometimes there is low morale in the civil service, remember how I was treated for making a simple, true statement. Remember the lack of support within the system for staff who speak up.

It is time to bring back a civil service that we can be proud of. This requires a radical change in how we appoint leaders in the service and how much we encourage constructive dissent (voiced disagreement and discussion on policies and decisions). There is a lot of dead wood and many self-serving individuals that need to be removed, but there are still many who want to serve our beloved nation.

I hope the civil service can be found committed to ensuring the best services for our public and nation and not that of individuals.

Dr Amar-Singh HSS is a senior consultant paediatrician.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.