Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fight political corruption instead of hitting at civil servants

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was right, although not 100 per cent, when he described a handful of civil servants who throw their weight around, impede progress and find pleasure in giving members of the public the turnaround - as "little Napoleans."

I said handful because the vast majority of civil servants are loyal, honest and dedicated "public officers". Yes, there are rotten apples but they are in the minority, in fact too small compared to the number of civil servants.

There are heads of department and officials who delayed giving approvals or who sat on files but the PM failed to mention that most of them are fed-up with "political pressures" and resort to such tactic in protest.

Being a former civil servant, Abdullah was quick to say that he was not painting all civil servants with the same brush, but there were a few who behaved that way. Yes only a few and we must be fair to the vast majority.

After having served the government for some 33 years in various capacities, I am aware of the never ending political pressures faced by civil servants involved in implementing, approving or selecting of tender awards for development projects, approval of permits and licences, awarding of scholarships and educational loans, etc etc. They would receive introductionary notes, letters of support, and recommendations from ministers, chief ministers, political secretaries, leaders of political parties in support of their "people" or "political supporters". Some tender documents are even submitted via the minister's office.

It is high time for the PM to put a stop to this political abuse. Let the civil servants discharge their duties as entrusted to them.

Nowdays there are too many people who, no sooner than they get into positions of trust, start at once to think of amassing wealth, forgetting completely their oath of allegiance and their duties to the people (the voters) and the country. Sooner or later they will find themselves in trouble. And in respect of some young political leaders poison-pen letters are being circulated giving details, rightly or wrongly, true or fictional, about their misdeeds and the wealth they amass.

Yes, politics is a game of life, no less providential and God-sent than other fine professional careers, as once stated by our beloved Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, the founding father of modern Malaysia.

Very much depends on how one plays politics, and where one plays it. Different situations in different countries with peoples of different temperament require different tactics. In Malaysia, as in most of the so-called democracies of the world, political corruption are more powerful and dangerous than the Napoleans, the Rasputins and the Shylocks.

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