My Advice to MACC’s Abu Kassim: Emulate Dato Shafee Yahya

by Din Merican

I have finished reading ‘The Shafee Yahya Story: Estate Boy to ACA Chief”, a biography on the former ACA Chief as authored by his prolific writer  and wife, Datin Kalsom Taib.

It is an inspiring story, not for all the achievements that most biographies attempt to do in glorifying the personality being written about, but because of the sobering yet simple and fundamental message being emphasised throughout. It is sobering because a person, in this case a civil servant, can be victimised and maligned even when he is just doing what is right and honest.

Dato Shafee Yahya: A Model Civil Servant

This fundamental message about being a civil servant is explained in the foreword by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah thus : “ I believe it should not be blind loyalty if the instructions are not right and not in accordance with government policy and general orders. In other words a civil servant must be direct, be truthful and be brave enough to say “no” if asked to do things that are not right”.

Dato’ Shafee Yahya was all that. He was the epitome of the civil servant as described by Tengku Razaleigh – direct, truthful and brave. More than that, his own personal values are peppered throughout this book by reference to legal and moral maxims in the numerous Quranic verses and hadiths. At the end of his career, Shafee Yahya was embroiled in a controversy when he raided the office of the D-G of EPU, Tan Sri Abul Hassan, and found large sums of money in the latter’s drawer. Despite all that, Abul Hassan went on to become the Governor of Bank Negara while Shafee suffered being maligned, by no less than the  then Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, for doing his job and for doing what is right.

The moral strength of Shafee’s personality is illustrated a page 274 of the book when he recounted the scolding he received from  Dr Mahathir  who accused him of trying to fix the D-G EPU at the instigation of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Shafee’s reply was firm: “ I replied that it is totally wrong because it is totally wrong in law to fix anybody. As a Muslim it is a big sin to fix anybody.”

His uncompromising stand on such fundamental values is further amplified when he contemplated resignation three months short of his contractual retirement upon complaining the matter to the Chief Secretary of the Government (Ketua Setiausaha Negara) thus:  “In my whole career with the Government, this was the first time my boss accused me of trying to fix somebody and also my disillusionment with the way the PM was interfering with my duty.”

Shafee Yahya was dragged into the Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s (DSAI) series of cases when his name was specifically mentioned in the charge against Azmin Ali as having abused his powers to close investigation in that matter. To Shafee, he would only state the truth in a court of law. He would tell it as it happened. He would tell the truth as it is regardless that it would put him on a collision course with the most powerful Prime Minister Malaysia ever had. And yet he did not waver, he remained direct, truthful and brave.