Decline in moral accountability?

thomas lee

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan has made himself look very foolish by asking whether it is wrong for civil servants to attend functions held by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, as he is the DAP secretary-general.

Sidek is apparently trying to justify the presence and participation of Penang state development officer Nik Ali
Mat Yunus at an Umno press conference, where the officer verbally lambasted Guan Eng and issued prepared press statements to criticize the chief minister.

I am simply amazed that the country’s top civil servant doesn’t even understand the simple basic difference between a government and a political entity, and respect the very important fundamental principle of impartiality and neutrality of the civil service.

Of course, civil servants have every right to accompany the chief minister or any minister to any function required by their duty to do so. When they attend and participate at such official state functions, including a state-initiated media conference, they are merely doing their job as civil servants serving the elected government of the day. They are not involved in partisan political activities, even though the chief minister or any other minister may be a leader of a political party.

When Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng holds a media conference and has the state secretary with him to brief the press on matters of the state, the state secretary is not violating the civil service code by being there. In fact, it is his duty to be there to help the chief minister answer questions from the press.

But if DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng attends a Teoh Beng Hock memorial service held by his party, a civil servant can only be there in his private personal capacity as Beng Hock’s friend. He cannot be there on duty as civil servent accompanying Guan Eng.

In Nik Ali’s case, he is definitely wrong to attend and participate in a press conference called by Umno to run down the chief minister. He has broken the sacrosanct cardinal principle of the impartiality of the civil service, and must face disciplinary action for it.

It is simply beyond comprehension that Sidek as Chief Secretary to the Government should endorse such a crude and uncouth behaviour and unconstitutional action by a senior civil servant.

Sidek has put himself in a very embarrasing position by giving a very silly comparison of himself holding a press conference together with the prime minister, and that of Nik Ali’s participation of the Umno press conference.

“Is it be wrong if I hold a media conference with Datuk Seri Najib Razak? If it is his job as the prime minister and my job as the chief secretary, then it is not wrong I hold a press conference with him,” Sidek said.

Of course, it is not wrong! It is his job as chief secretary to serve the prime minister and accompany him if so required.

But Nik Ali’s case is defintely not the same. As a civil servant, he should be non-partisan and should not be involved in politicking with Umno.

If Sidek does not understand such a simple distinction between what is government and what is politics, he is not fit to be the country’s top civil servant.

And, even assuming that Nik Ali is a victim of harassment by the chief minister, there is a proper official channel for him to file his grievance and complaint — to the Public Service Department head. Why should Nik Ali use, or rather allowed himself to be used, by a political party to launch an attack on the chief minister?

It is certainly ominous, in fact even sinister, that Nik Ali should chose to use a political vehicle to rucn down the chief minister elected by the people of Penang.

And, it surely is baleful that we have a Chief Secretary to the Government who would condone and absolve a senior civil servant from making political attacks against an elected government head.

The fact that Sidek has announced that no action would be taken against Nik Ali for his verbal assault on the chief minister deserves my commiseration to my fellow Malaysians for the decline in moral accoutability in our beloved country.

And, while I am still on this Nik Ali issue, I would like to comment on another ridiculous statement, this time by Penang Gerakan chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan who condemned Guan Eng for the fiasco.

Teng alleged that Guan Eng was out to gain political mileage and strengthen his position to garner more votes and support from the public in the next general election.

It is certainly ludicrous that Teng should make such a preposterous statement, but, seeing that he is from Gerakan, it is not surprising since most of its leaders are incongruously inept and lack the intelligence, let alone intellect, to understand basic issues affecting the people.

Teng and the imbeciles in Gerakan should throw in the towel and retire permanently from Penang since they are of no relevance and pertinence in the state.

They should stop making themselves look inane with their vacuous statements.