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Updating Dr M on who runs the country

CPI Writings


Is it true that Umno has allowed the situation of Malay dominance to be so badly eroded that the community is facing a bleak and hopeless future?

The Ketuanan party is being overly modest if it refuses to take any credit for the Malays’ measurable success. In which case, we should all be content to attribute the advancement of Malays and Malaysia merely to takdir and the grace of Allah, and quite willing to discount human agency and Umno diligence.

But let’s see.

Bring back the civil service staff list

Until the early 1970s, the Malaysian government used to produce a federal civil service staff list annually that contained the details of key personnel heading the various ministries and departments of the federal authorities and agencies, and their positions in the service.

In most if not all states, there was also a similar staff list of officers serving in key management and administrative positions at the state and local levels.

This staff list served a number of purposes. It enabled the public and the people running the government at the highest level to keep track of which officer was in command of which agency as well as to get an overview of the total structure of government and its key personnel. It also enabled officials in service to keep in touch with their fellow officers, and to track each other’s career movement over time.

The staff list was a published document available at a small price to anyone. Although it was a practice that came to the country as a result of British colonial administration, it can be considered to be a good practice as it helped put names and details on an otherwise faceless, anonymous and often unaccountable bureaucracy, especially at its higher reaches.

That practice of a published and publicly accessible consolidated staff list was abandoned possibly because of the growth in the civil service and the increase in the number of senior positions which would make the publication a bulky one.

There may have been other reasons – possibly political. Perhaps the civil service leaders of that time and era such as Ramon Navaratnam can help explain the real reason.

With e-everything now …

Whatever the reason for discontinuing with the practice, the age of the Internet now provides the Malaysian government an opportunity to respond to calls for transparency and accountability of the civil service by producing an electronic list of its key personnel.

This e-list can be done cheaply, quickly and painlessly through an integration of the existing staff lists of all government agencies and ministries, and even extending to the GLCs and GLICs.

Such a measure is especially important to undertake because there has recently been concerns raised by the vocal former prime minister that Malays are being marginalized, and that the Chinese (and now, foreign immigrants) are taking over the country.

These concerns, echoed by Perkasa, and some of the mainstream Malay media, have confused many Malaysians, especially Malays, on what is the true situation today.

Besides responding to the communal hysteria being whipped up by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his supporters, the electronic senior staff list is useful in the pursuit of greater transparency and accountability in the civil service – a sector that is paid for by all taxpayers.

Moreover, disclosure of who are the key personnel in the local, state and federal levels of the civil service will provide us with a factual basis for gauging the truth or otherwise of the public statements on the so-called Malay loss of power – an allegation that is gaining momentum as the next general elections draws nearer.

It is Dr Mahathir who gives the ballpark figure that “30 percent??? power is what Malays will be reduced to holding if they are disunited.

He injects more venom into the throbbing vein of Malay insecurity with his acid-laced claim that they will lose out on the good jobs. Adopting a physician’s bedside manner, he says in the most syrupy of tones: “Tak apa lah. Buruk sangatkah menjadi buruh kasar dan pemandu kereta???? (Never mind lah. Is it all that bad to be a hard labourer and driver?)

Dr Mahathir’s chip on the shoulder the size of a Pontiac Catalina was already visible in the late 1950s when, with apparent deliberation, he chose to hire a Chinese man to drive him around Alor Setar in his gas-guzzling car.

Fifty years down the road, the country must once more exorcise his May 13 phantoms lest he derails Malaysia and sends us crashing again.

So let’s look at some empirical data of who is in control.

People really running the country

Public perception is that Malays dominate the police and armed forces. This idea is indeed correct and the police and military high command is indeed truly thoroughly controlled by Malays. See the two lists of office holders we’re reproducing as sourced from the Mindef, Home Ministry and Polis DiRaja websites.

In a later article, we will be taking a look at another popular perception that public universities are dominated by Malays. Meanwhile, what is the perception of the outside world as to which race is the face of 1Malaysia?

From the list below compiled by CPI, we can see that the ambassadors in plum postings like London, Paris and Berlin are Malays, and most notably Jamaludin Jarjis in Washington DC. Two Chinese were posted to Cuba and Kazakstan respectively, and Indians dispatched to Lebanon and Nepal. Nobody wants the Zimbabwe job.

A quick glance at the 103 names including high commissioners, consuls and one or two temporary heads of missions as sourced from the Wisma Putra website reveals a scant sprinkling of Chinese and Indian officials in an otherwise 85 percent Malay-dominated list.

Even the Malaysian ambassador in Beijing and the consuls-general in Shanghai and Kunming are Malay. Needless to say, almost if not all the overseas support staff in the diplomatic corps are Malay too.

On closer examination, among the non-Muslim names – Blanche Olbery, the Malaysian high commissioner in Papua New Guinea is the wife of a former deputy minister M. Kayveas, whereas the high commissioner in Pretoria, Kennedy Jawan (a Sarawak Iban) seems to be working harder than his Muslim-bumiputera counterparts as he is also concurrently overseeing five other African countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique and Swaziland.

A lot more work needs to be done in analysing the staff list and other key data related to the ethnic, regional and gender composition of the civil service; and the implications for 1Malaysia.

Hopefully the many hundreds of academicians and researchers in the field of public administration and political science can be persuaded to undertake this important work. It requires only simple empirical research on the civil service to answer the burning question of who runs the country.

Where have the ‘nons’ gone?

Slightly more complex research will be required to explain why there are so few non-Malays at the top rungs of the civil service, and likely even the middle rungs.

Is it because non-Malay civil servants are so incapable or that they are genetically engineered only to be successful in the private sector?

Is it because they lack the spirit of self-sacrifice and idealism to serve the country? Is it because of the way in which the intake operates?

Is there a ‘kulit-fication’ ceiling that holds non-Malays back in the way that a glass ceiling has traditionally held back women in the higher management ranks in many countries?

Is subservience to Malay dominance the price that more generations of non-Malay youth have to pay should they wish to join the service?

It should not be too difficult for the cabinet to make accessible a tiny portion of the huge pot of R&D funds contained in the 10th Malaysia Plan to help finance the research to answer the questions posed above.

CPI’s potential contribution

In the meantime, as part of our potential national service contribution to the country, CPI will be happy to establish and maintain this list of senior federal and state staff if the various agencies and ministries can provide access to their data bank. (Presently even some ministry web pages require authorized access to view).

We will also be happy to advise on the qualitative and quantitative methodologies and different sampling techniques available for Malaysian researchers wishing to undertake work on the other burning question: Why are there so few non-Malays in senior positions in the civil service?

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