Case of too many cooks

  • Letters
  • Monday, 18 Jul 2016

THE proposal by the National Security Council to impose visas on Middle Eastern visitors coming to Malaysia has been rejected by the Cabinet. The NSC secretary was blamed for this fiasco for not only making a public statement on the matter but also for failing to consult the relevant ministries and department.

As a long retired civil servant, my concern here is not the issue of whether we should impose the visa or not, or if the secretary should take the rap for it. As a civil servant, he should know he would be the most prone to become the sacrificial sheep when the chips are down.

What I am most disappointed with is the lack of coordination and consultation in the government machinery’s decision-making process. Furthermore, this is not the only incident of flip-flop decisions we have seen of late. There was the issue of importing 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh, and then we also saw cases where the decision was made but the implementation was ignored, like the public bus company whose licence was withdrawn but it continued operating. It’s as if the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Remember also the illegal clearing of jungles at Cameron Highland? It happened, and happened again. What does it all show? The existence of little Napoleons, which breeds corruption.

And what we, the Malaysian public, do is just go on lamenting about it as we become more desensitised to corruption. All this also goes to show that despite the fat public service – 1.6 million civil servants to serve 28 million people – inefficiency has become the rule rather than the exception. It seems the bigger our bureaucracy the more it breeds inefficiency in the system.

We also have 36 ministers and an equal number of assistant ministers. We were told that India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has fewer than 40 cabinet ministers in the central government. Rightly or wrongly, Malaysia is over governed

In the 60s and 70s, we had designated institutions and committees to deal with important national matters. For instance, on economic matters, we had the National Development Planning Committee (NDPC) comprising top senior officials (secretary-general level) from the key ministries and departments. It was chaired by the Chief Secretary with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) serving as the secretariat. This Committee reported to the Economic Committee of the Cabinet and finally to Cabinet. The same arrangement existed for other major issues like national security and defence.

No doubt the environment, challenges and scale of things have changed since then but the fact remains that we had a system and structure and substructure of the decision-making process in place with the necessary checks and balance at each phase of this process. And, to be honest, we did not see power being vested in one man or group of men. Everyone followed the rules. If we didn’t like them, we replaced them but never in midstream.

If we talked of power, it was there but it was being shared. There was an element of sharing. One might have a bigger share than the others but it certainly was not monopolised.

This was how the system worked, and it bred transparency, accountability and integrity among the civil service.

Having served the first three prime ministers and observing subsequent prime ministers after my retirement, I feel it is different now.

Whether the difference will make our country better than before, only time will tell. Let us all pray for the peace and prosperity of our country and our future generation.


Petaling Jaya

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