Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Public Statements

When I was a public servant for more than three decades, the rules and regulations governing conduct and discipline of government officials especially at the higher echelons was an integral part of one's career and any infringement of the Chapter D of the General Orders would land an officer in jeopardy if a prima facie case is established and disciplinary proceedings is instituted. Although the Cap D of the G.O. went through several name change, but generally speaking all civil servants refer it by its original name.

When I became the Secretary of the Public Service Disciplinary Board for the higher grades officers in the civil service, I rarely came across any civil servant who was charged with an offence pertaining to making public statements which were deemed to be an offence under Cap D. However a public officer need not get prior approval if the public statement issued to the press or aired over the electronic media is related to his departmental functions, role and responsibility.But he should not make any comment as to the merits or demerits of any policy matters in making public statements.

The reason for this code of conduct is to ensure that public servants do not speak out of turn, thus causing embarrassment to his Minister or the Government.

But of late it seemed that such a code of conduct which is only applicable to civil servants should be equally applied to Members of the Administration. The Federal Constitution states that a politician who holds a designated position in the Government such as a Cabinet Minister is regarded as a Member of the Administration . Being elected representatives they are not subject to Cap D and thus they have to exercise self discipline where conduct and discipline is concerned. But when new MP's or Senators are appointed to hold high office, they only take an oath before the Agong or the PM whichever the case may be, and they have to go on a learning curve which sometimes can be quite costly in terms of credibility of the government. Often times they make public statements which contradict even their own Ministry's stand and this can cause unnecessary embarrassment. I think it is high time a provision not unlike Cap D of the G.O. should be also be applied to those who hold office at Cabinet level. A glaring example is the statement made by the Minister of Defence on the tragic incident of a new boy who died due to ragging in the RMC. The Ministry issued a press statement that a Board of Investigation would be set up to look into the tragedy but a few days later the Minister himself announced the expulsion of one Budak boy and four more suspended. Thus it looks as if a verdict is handed down to the culprits even before the Board began its work. This is just one case, and I recalled the incident of the RMN landing ship which caught fire at the Lumut Naval Base when he said that the fire was due to a short circuit even before investigations was conducted. He went to the extent of announcing that the Government was looking to procure another similar ship to replace the vessel which was still in embers.

The standard ruling by the Cabinet Division of the PM's Dept in the past was that no public statements should be issued on matters that falls within the purview of the Cabinet, which literally covered a whole operations of Government. It is no use to come out with another law to solve this problem, if the political will is lacking. Members of the Administration should not become the laughing stock of the global village.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Whither the RMC?

I am proud of the crest which symbolises the institution which shaped my formative years and instilled in me the meaning of discipline, honour, integrity and honesty, all attributes of good upbringing and sound character. Perhaps the so-called paragon of virtues had been cultivated by my father and mother, my early teachers in Malay School Rasah right through KGV Seremban, but the final grooming was done in those four crucial years where the pain, anguish and suffering were the ingredients that separated the men from the boys.

Yesterday I came across the news of the death of one new boy who was ragged by his seniors that ended in his demise. Now it has become a police case and investigations is under way. This is indeed a black chapter in the history of my Alma mater which I left nearly half a century ago. As an OP, the name given to members of the Old Putera Association, we carry with it a certain responsibility and dignity, that we must uphold the values imbued in many ex-Budak boys that we serve to lead, in keeping with our motto. But just like what is happening around us after 50 years of Merdeka, the reputation of my Alma mater has seen better times.

I wanted my son to follow my footsteps by applying to join the RMC after his PMR but fortunately I was dissuaded by another OP who was then in the exco of the RMC Parent-Teachers Association. I did not know the rhyme or reason for his advice but one word remained in my memory bank. He said then the leadership of the institution was falling below our expectations. To me it was a sad state of affairs because I had gone through its portals and was convinced that it was the home of future leaders.

Now the process of decline is being arrested where the OPA was involved in charting its future direction but alas this had to happen. I wish the RMC the best of luck in its efforts to return to excellence. The vital ingredient is pretty obvious, ie. excellent leadership must be seen to be done and not just being talked about.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Taking a short Break

As a matter of fact I have been rather busy with attending to some urgent family matters for the past weeks, but still faithfully not losing track of the Internet, as it has become an integral part of my life.

I learnt yesterday of the sad news of the passing away of my former classmate, Hamzah Abdullah who could not turn up for the Class reunion in May, and my hope of seeing him this Saturday is thus unfulfilled. His son told me that he was hospitalised for a month but requested that the news be kept away from his friends. His health had been on the poor side for so long and he told us that he almost did not make it some two decades ago. But we thought he had recovered as he served as a member of the Film Censorship Board. Al-Fatihah and may his soul be amongst those who are upright and blessed.

To my dear friends who always visit my blog, I am going to take a short break after this, but will be back as soon as possible to pen my remarks on matters which are close to my heart. Salam and Regards.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flip Flop Policy

The term 'Flip Flop' is normally used to denote frequent changes which take place with regard to a position one normally takes, especially in making policy pronouncements and it reflects the fickle mindedness of the authority. Yesterday I read in a Malay daily about the suspension of a previous policy announced by the Minister responsible for human resource whereby companies providing security services have to implement hefty pay rise to all personnel employed in that sector. The main reason cited for the announcement was to improve the quality of people being recruited since the low wages paid to security guards just did not make sense in the light of the current challenges posed to these workers who have to put their lives on the line owing to the nature of their job.

Now the Minister says the companies involved appealed to the Ministry to defer the decision because they might have to wind up if the policy is implemented. What is most perplexing is that, under normal circumstances before an important policy is announced, there should have been consultations between the Ministry and all those involved in the security industry. Especially when a law is to be enforced any changes should have been discussed at length by all government departments and agencies concerned and if the matter requires approval, a Cabinet paper is prepared and circulated for comments before it is tabled to the meeting.

There have been many instances where a policy which have been announced had to be retracted because of the changes taking place which were not anticipated before.This should not have happened if good governance is our prime objective.During the era of the first few Prime Ministers, this is taboo, because such a 'flip flop' position would erode the confidence of the international community on the credibility of the government. We always took pride in the stability of our government, and it is not just the absence of political turmoil, law and order but most important of all is the integrity of all the people, the myriad bodies of authorities found at local, state and federal levels. A fickle government is least trusted by those who want to put their money for investment over a long period.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

PSD Scholarship, An Annual Nightmare.

Almost every year without fail we read in the news, especially the Star newspaper highlighting the issue of high achievers not getting scholarships to further their studies overseas. No matter how much adjustments on the way selection of candidates had been made over the years and the announcements by the PM on merit scholarships, this annual problem always get highlighted in this daily.

In the past the question of PSD's method of awarding the scholarship did not attract much attention because those who could afford to send their children overseas for further education did it with their own money, or they had other bodies giving the scholarships. But ever since the costs of overseas education went up astronomically and the opportunity for sponsorships are getting less, the issue has been turned into a political one.

I recalled the days when I had to contend with demands from the MIC on a 10% quota for the Indian community for places in local universities. Their demands were so vocal that the then Vice-Chancellor of University Malaya had to be called to the PM's office to resolve the matter, but fortunately he could rebut the arguments put forward by the MIC on their demands so well that even the PM could do much to make him budge. So was the autonomy enjoyed then by my alma mater.

When I was Director in charge of scholarships in PSD in 1994, there were a few who tried to intefere in our decision of giving the awards but I managed to keep them at bay unlike today. Once I received a note from the DPM and the Minister in PM Dept's office but I gave the feedback as to why the applications were rejected and there were no further query.

But it is so much different now where the PSD had to be put under duress annually whenever an announcement were to be made on the awards of the coveted overseas scholarships. There has to be a stop to all this and politicians should not be allowed to hold the PSD to ransom and meddle with administrative decisions to the minutae. If this goes on, we might as well legislate an Act where in accordance with the Federal Constitution we should define what scholarships are meant for whom and should not be used as a political trade-offs to earn political mileage.