Time to get back to work

By Terence Fernandez, The Sun

“BUAT KERJA”. Bunting featuring these words are prominently hung on the pillars of the imposing Palace of Justice in Putrajaya and can been seen in smaller formats in many government agencies. Literally meaning “Do your job”, it is a reminder to civil servants of their obligations to nation building as well as to those of us in the private sector to do an honest day’s job for an honest day’s pay.

Now, since the first quarter of 2008, “Buat Kerja” has not been a widely adopted mantra as every decision made by either the federal government or the four states ruled by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has been subject to political debate, which at times stifles progress.

From the control of water assets to the appointment of civil servants, even the 1Malaysia slogan, have all taken a political slant, dragging the people and even the palace into the fray. Honestly, people are fed up. If politicians feel they are scoring points by arguing over seemingly trivial matters, they are wrong. The people do not take kindly to politicians who prolong an issue when that time and energy can be spent on more useful things like drawing more foreign investment, eradicating poverty and improving municipal services.

I hope that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, who is spearheading efforts to amend the State Constitution to return power to appoint the state’s top civil servants to the sultan and the mentri besar following the state secretary appointment debacle, will be just as passionate in gazetting the National Housing Policy at state level so that only the truly deserving are given low-cost homes.

While one sympathises with Abdul Khalid for apparently not having a say in the appointment of state secretary, a chronology of events distributed by the palace yesterday indicated that he had six days from Dec 21 to object to the appointment of Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi. However, he made attempts to present his preferred list only on Dec 27. If he was dead set against Mohd Khusrin, he should have made more serious and speedy attempts to make his feelings known.

Another question which journalists were hoping to ask Abdul Khalid (who did not speak to reporters) at Mohd Khusrin’s oath of allegiance to the sultan ceremony yesterday was did outgoing State Secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud inform him of the preferred list of the Public Services Department (PSD).

According to documents revealed by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, Ramli was informed via a letter in Nov 23 of the PSD’s three choices in order of preference (with Mohd Khusrin’s name at the top).

Mohd Sidek’s statement showed that the federal authorities, out of courtesy, did consult the state government. Did Ramli withhold this letter from Abdul Khalid?

No one is accusing Ramli of any misconduct but shouldn’t Abdul Khalid have known that Ramli’s term was about to expire and if the PSD had made any recommendations?

If Ramli had kept silent over the letter, then what were his intentions or was it a mere lapse of memory on his part? And why didn’t Mohd Sidek break his silence before the palace was dragged into the controversy? If he had given this chronology of events when the storm first started brewing, it could have saved a lot of grief and not put the palace under the microscope.

The chief secretary to the government is guilty of not following his own orders to his officers to respond to media queries and was uncharacteristically silent to emails and text messages urging him to clear the air.

At the end of the day, the whole mess with Mohd Khusrin’s appointment could have been resolved easily if all the parties had just talked to each other.

Perhaps there were political considerations by our government servants in abstaining from coming to the discussion table. Maybe “how can I talk to a PR mentri besar” was one of the considerations? If so it is a sad state of affairs and exposes the immaturity of senior civil servants.

In any case, Abdul Khalid should focus on running the state with his new state secretary. If the letter of the law was followed in that appointment – and all factors point to this being the case – he should just eat humble pie and be the bigger person and let Mohd Khusrin do his job.

If it is true that Mohd Khusrin is a political stooge or “spy” or what other labels you have, this would reveal itself in time. More importantly if Mohd Khusrin drags his feet or refuses to implement decisions of the executive council, Abdul Khalid can under the general orders request his transfer or replacement. All it takes is a letter to the chief secretary.

With a solid majority in the state assembly, Messrs Abdul Khalid & Co should not fear one public servant could bring down the state government. If they think one man can do so much damage it is indicative of the weakness of Abdul Khalid’s administration.

Just because as director of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) Mohd Khusrin had made decisions detrimental to PR’s interests it does not make him a useless state secretary.

Long story short, it’s time for everyone to leave their egos at home and just “buat kerja!”