MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, August 4, 2022

In Malaysia it’s all about merit, or is it?


A few weeks ago, our minister in the prime minister’s department told parliament that the government does not impose any quota for the intake of civil servants based on ethnicity or race.

Naturally, this would mean that our 1.2 million-large civil service should perhaps closely resemble the composition of the population of Malaysia. It would be a little like this; 67% Malay and Sarawak and Sabah Bumiputeras, 25% Malaysian Chinese, 7% Malaysian Indians and 1% “others”.

But this is far from the current reality. The Malaysia civil service comprises 90% Bumiputeras. This is the official statistic presented by the minister to our parliament.

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The minister goes on to inform parliament that recruitment by the Public Services Commission for the civil service is based solely on merit and competency. Apparently, the commission does this to ensure that only the best and the brightest candidates are chosen as civil servants.

He confirmed that there is no quota, based on race and ethnicity, for the intake or promotion of civil servants. So ostensibly, all Malaysians are given equal opportunity, on the basis of open and fair competition.

However, a few days later, one retired high ranking civil servant asked the government to provide proof that they actually hire on merit. And another suggested that the government should announce a policy that provides equal opportunity in all branches of the civil service, irrespective of race and religion.

Simultaneously, a former Malay-Bumiputera member of parliament claimed that the reason for the Malay-centricity in the civil service is the politics of patronage practised by the government.

He argued that when Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim were the prime minister and deputy prime minister, they “scared off” non-Muslims from joining the civil service.

The President of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public Service (Cuepacs) also chimed in. His argument was that our civil service lacked non-Bumiputeras because it offered a lower salary, compared to working in the private sector or doing business.

While digesting these arguments, let’s look at another interesting fact.

The proportion of civil servants to the national population in Singapore is 1: 71.4 citizens; in Indonesia, it’s 1:110 citizens; and in South Korea the ratio is 1:50 citizens.

But in Malaysia, we have one civil servant for every 27 citizens.

Although our minister, speaking in parliament no less, claims that civil servants are appointed on merit and competency, and only the best quality candidates are chosen, yet, don’t you see the inefficiencies in the service?

Don’t you get the little ‘Napoleon’ treatment administered to you; the feeling of being an ‘inconvenience’ to civil servants when you go to a government department to seek some assistance; and generally being shunted from one room to another, or worse, from one building to another when you need aid from these 1.2 million Malaysians, whose sole job is to serve you, the citizens?

So, this cadre of civil servants are our best candidates? Really? It leaves a lot to be desired, wouldn’t you agree?

Speaking of merit, recently it was reported that the Klang member of parliament highlighted that high-performing secondary school leavers of Indian descent faced double standards in our education system. He claimed that over 200 students were not given a placement in the government’s matriculation programme.

The MP argued that many of these students were rejected from the programme outright, or were asked to appeal. And all this, despite them scoring between nine and 11 As in the SPM examination.

His pressing question was, what is the policy towards Indian and even Chinese students? And rightfully, he asked why high-performing students were not given a chance in government matriculation programmes.

Reports indicate that matriculation students pay only RM500 for registration, and the rest of the education costs are covered by the government. Upon graduating, matriculation students would be given opportunities to pursue studies in various foreign universities, including those in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Perhaps the reason for limiting Malaysian Indians and Malaysian Chinese, is that the government does not think they will come back to serve the country by joining our ‘competent and merit driven’ civil service.

Instead, these kids may likely opt for opportunities in the private sector and in business ventures.

So, the government seems to have simply decided that it is not worth nurturing deserving and bright Malaysian Indians and Malaysia Chinese, who come from less well to do sections of the community and are in need of a leg-up.

Come on, let’s be honest.

There is an appalling lack of empathy at the moment. And deeply entrenched distrust reigns, especially in our communal relationships. We Malaysians have to acknowledge that our cultural heritage and environment have influenced our thinking patterns and the way we behave.

This is attested by the state of the civil service.

If 90% of jobs in the civil service are filled by one race, it can only mean that the patronage system to appoint them is skewed towards that one majority community.

Isn’t it high time we stop debating each other, in an adversarial manner, on our beliefs and who came first and who came last? Instead, shouldn’t we find ways, sooner rather than later, to lift each other up, regardless of race, religion or creed?

Why don’t we start by not trying to hoodwink each other and actually do what is right for our nation, disregarding race and political plotting? - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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