The Civil Service – a Malaysian perspective.

By Steadyaku47

The Civil Service assist the business of Government with the ruling party of the day. The Civil Service has in the past recruited its employees based on the principle of selection on merit and on the basis of fair and open competition. With the British the key element of the Civil Service is its political impartiality.

The Civil Service administrative impartiality in Malaysia has been brought into question by UMNO’s distinctive approach to Public Administration. We need to examine what is the nature and impact of political involvement by the political elites on the Civil Service of our country.

When we first got our independence the Politician makes the policy and the Civil Servant execute it. There was no corruption and everything was accountable and transparent. To buy a small item one must have a quotation. The more expensive item has to be tendered out and the development project was carried out by the JKR.

But things slowly began to change, as UMNO wanted a politically committed Civil Service because they perceived that Party allegiance is important to those who were going to implement their policies. UMNO embarked on a strategy to enhance their control over the Civil Servants to ensure bureaucratic compliance with their way of doing things e.g. the award of tenders to preferred contractors and cronies, divide and rule of the people based on race, selective prosecution of the opposition, a Police Force that will do their biddings etc etc.
The appointment of political appointees to “advise and to oversee’ the Civil Service and the appointments of preferred top civil servants by the politicians was done on the mistaken premise that this would energize a normally neutral Civil Service into a “Committed Bureaucracy!” Political influence over appointments in Public office – especially at senior levels – became more pronounced. This in turn resulted in the pervasiveness of patronage by these Civil Servants to the Politicians.
We should give thought to not only how these Senior Civil Servants were appointed but also in the manner of their leaving. Some are transferred laterally, some are put in cold storage and some will have their retirement postponed and their tenure extended on a contract basis at the pleasure of the Barisan Politicians/Ministers. All this is indicative of the politicization of the Civil Servants.
So what now defines the career of a civil servant – merit or political patronage? And what is the impact of these changes? As Barisan Nasional tighten its control over Government and the Civil Service, did it actually make any difference to the implementation of Government Policies or was it done more for the maintenance of the Political elites and the elites within the Civil Service?