It was an enthusiastic crowd that greeted Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) this morning as he returned to the Prime Minister’s Office he had left 15 years ago.
The applause among the Prime Minister’s Department staff was rather warm as Dr Mahathir went on stage to give his monthly address. The crowd, as one civil servant told StarTV, was bigger than usual.
In his typical style, Dr Mahathir spoke off-the-cuff in simple language and got straight to the point.
For Chief Secretary to the government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, who stood next to Dr Mahathir, it must have been deja vu, because the speech was similar with what the Prime Minister had said during a meeting with all ministry secretaries-general last week.
In the first minute into his speech, Dr Mahathir spoke about how Malaysia’s civil service - which was once highly regarded in the world - has lost its reputation.
As he told senior civil servants last week, Dr Mahathir did not mince his words when he said he was very disappointed with the civil service.
The Prime Minister views the civil service as having been compromised during the previous administration and was disappointed that civil servants had become compliant and passive.
But as he expressed his disappointment, the Prime Minister was quick to rally the civil service.
He pointed out that the new government will work with them and use their knowledge and expertise to “heal” Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir spoke at length on the separation of powers which was crucial to check and balance the system.
Failure to do so, the Prime Minister warned, would lead to undesired things.
“If there is no separation of powers, with one taking control over others, there will be no (efforts) to criticise or reprimand things that are against the country’s laws,” he added.
He promised that changes are coming, but said he could not give details yet because information was still being gathered.
He assured that changes to be carried out will not involve any increase in spending, setting up of new institutions or hiring of new people.
He stressed that he was serious in fighting what he termed as undesirable actions of those in the civil service which were hurting the country.
While civil servants are already cooperating with the new Pakatan Harapan federal government, Dr Mahathir warned that those found guilty of not carrying out their duties will be dealt with according to the law.
Dr Mahathir knows that, as Prime Minister, he needs the undivided support of the whole civil service.
He asked that they support him as long as what he does is not against the country’s policies and laws.
Dr Mahathir still has faith in them to fly the Malaysian flag high again.
It is like a return of his Bersih, Cekap, Amanah (Clean, Efficient, Trustworthy) slogan, which was introduced in 1982, soon after he first became Prime Minister in 1981.
The new government under Dr Mahathir is pressing for transparency and openness.
Hopefully that means revamping the civil service's work ethics, culture and values.
The pledge to return the civil service to its glory days will remain an empty pledge if the Pakatan government itself does not listen to the civil service should they themselves commit any wrongs.
This is the chance for the new administration to redeem Malaysia’s image and the civil service itself.
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