Guan Eng-SDO spat a test of civil service impartiality

By Yoges Palaniappan, The Malaysian Insider

GEORGE TOWN, July 26 – Lim Guan Eng and state development officer (SDO) Nik Ali Nik Yunus’s running feud highlights widespread misunderstanding over the different roles of the civil service and political parties, political analysts said today.

Universiti Malaya Law Faculty associate professor Azmi Sharom and political analyst Wong Chin Huat backed the Penang chief minister’s criticism against Nik Ali, despite the stout defence of the federal employee put up by Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

They were of the opinion that the civil service needed to understand the distinction between political parties and government.

Azmi and Wong were commenting on the ongoing clash between Lim and Nik Ali which had escalated following a recent outburst by the federal civil servant, who said Lim had lowered his own status of a chief minister by criticising a SDO.

The chief secretary and Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians had taken Nik Ali’s side and took Lim to task for castigating the SDO.

The DAP, had in return, called Nik Ali an “Umno tool” employed by the federal government to oust the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government.

UM’s Azmi pointed out that the duty of  the civil service was to serve the government.

“The civil service should not have any loyalty to the party,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

However, he observed that the civil service lacked the culture of distinguishing party and government.

“We now have four new state governments, and perhaps the civil service does not understand the choice of the people,” he said.

“Barisan [Nasional] ministers talk as if [the] civil service must be loyal to them;  the executive does not seem to understand the system and politicise the issue for their own political mileage” he said.

Political analyst Wong said “the civil service must serve the government of the day”.

“It’s called administration neutrality,” he said, adding that ultimately the public were the bosses of the civil service.