Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, 29th April 2009:
When Najib dare not even mention the word “meritocracy” – quintessence of reform - , what meaningful civil service revamp could he achieve?
The PR worked overtime. News headlines like “Modenisasi sector awam”(Utusan Malaysia), “Civil Service Revamp” (Star), “Civil service to recruit ‘best brains’” (New Straits Times), “PM proposes civil service reforms”(The Sun) dazzled Malaysians.
But whoever takes the trouble to read the contents of the first address of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the civil service yesterday will find the quintessence of meaningful civil service reform missing.
When Najib dare not even mention the word “meritocracy”, what meaningful civil service revamp could he achieve?
There is one critical difference between Malaysia and other countries which value the importance of the civil service – in those countries, the best and the most talented of each generation join the civil service while in Malaysia the best and the most talented avoid the civil service!
Najib talked about hiring “the best of the best in talent and expertise for the sake of the people” to revamp the civil service. Why should the “best of the best in talent and expertise” be attracted into the civil service when “meritocracy” continues to be a dirty word?
Even with the opening up of key positions in the administrative and diplomatic service to outsiders, they will be smothered, stunted and stultified by mediocrity if there is no political will to introduce a new culture of meritocracy in the public service!
This was why previous attempts to hunt and attract talented Malaysians who had emigrated overseas to return to Malaysia to serve the country had been such a dismal failure.
In his speech, Najib said that under his 1Malaysia concept, there should not be any quarters in this country that consider themselves second-class citizens nor feel sidelined or left behind in the process of progress.
This is an admission of the great flaw and failure of past government nation-building efforts – alienating more and more Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, making them feel that they are second or third class, even underclass, in Malaysia, whether the Chinese, the Indians as seen in the Makkal Sakti phenomenon, the mass of ordinary Malays who are marginalized by the Umnoutra (disguised as NEP) policy, the Orang Asli, and in Sabah and Sarawak, Kadazan-Dusun-Murut and Ibans communities who increasingly feel that they are strangers in their own country.
In declaring that under his 1Malaysia concept, no one will be marginalized and no quarter would regard themselves as second-class citizens, Najib has made an important admission that this had been the result or effect of past nation-building policies.
Yet, in the next breath, Najib said that his “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” slogan is “a continuity to the slogans” of former prime ministers Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.
If Najib’s slogans are no different from the “Amanah, Berseh, Cekap” slogan of Mahathir and "Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang " of Abdullah, which have left a nation with its people marginalised and divided, how then is Najib’s “1Malaysia” slogan going to be any different from those of the two previous Prime Ministers?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor