A talent for disservice and dishonesty

Mariam Mokhtar

Modified 3 May 2010, 10:32 am

If bureaucrats and politicians were company employees, they'd all be sacked and if the government and civil service represented a company, then it'd probably limp its way into bankruptcy.

civil servants government workers People once entered the political world or became civil servants to do good and serve the public. Now, many see these vocations as good earners. They lose the sense of service and fail to understand what they've done wrong or why they are occupying their respective positions. They also forget that we pay their wages.

Our politicians and bureaucrats just cannot get the message. Even in government, efficient public service is important. These issues affect public image, (political) survival, satisfied citizens, greater job satisfaction of its civil servants, re-election and loyalty.

Consider the Inspector-General of Police's ill-tempered threat to withdraw his men from the streets. Or, the Home Minister's complaint that the public lacked compassion when policemen were shot. Both failed to realise the police role is to protect the public.

We are prepared to accept the deaths of members of the security forces in the line of duty. We are not willing to accept the indiscriminate deaths of any members of the public who are killed by policemen. After a succession of police shoot-outs, including deaths in police custody, it is hard to identify the real criminals.

Furthermore we are not totally convinced that the crime rate has dropped. A reduction can come about because we fail to report crimes. As a friend mentioned recently, "Why bother? The police take forever to respond or if I make a report, I am treated like the thief."

Naturally, dissent at the top is embarrassing. The Prime Minister's slogan - 1Malaysia - was supposed to amalgamate us. But along came Najib's deputy, who had to put his foot in it and proclaim that he was ‘Malay first, Malaysian second'. So much for national integration. His Deputy places little faith in the slogan but we are expected to toe the line. They might as well have said, "Don't do as I do, but do as I tell you."

It's not surprising that we are exasperated. The people who manage our country will not tolerate criticism and protests. They threaten fines, imprisonment and other punishments, but when they are guilty of the same, they are the ‘untouchables'.

Career politicians

Unlike a company which values selection and training, we are lumbered with career politicians. Most have never worked in the private sector for an appreciable length of time. They have not learnt about responsibility or worked their way up the career ladder. They are not experts in any useful field. They are just experts in office politics.

Therefore I believe that only those with extensive knowledge of the outside world with skills, experience and maturity, to enrich us, should ever enter politics.

Incredibly, our politicians can be prone to gaffes and be ridiculed. A few years ago, one advisor suggested chastity belts to reduce cases of rape and incest. He retracted his statement and claimed he was joking, after people said he belonged to the dark ages.

And last week, one Senator proposed castration for the men who fathered abandoned babies. Ironically, his statement came after the cabinet banned sex education in schools.

azlan So when will MPs accept that sex education is not about the joys of sex? Sex education is also about responsibility and that actions have consequences. It deals with contraception, diseases and the importance of relationships. Have MPs noticed that increased religious education and intensified khalwat raids have not reduced the numbers of abandoned babies?

All companies encourage creativity but in this government's case, being creative means perverse methods like chastity belts or castration. Being creative should be about practical workable solutions.

But creativity can also be taken out of context as has happened in Terengganu. The state adopted a "1Toilet" policy to be in line with the ‘1Malaysia' concept, so that teachers and students could have a feeling of "oneness".

An official claimed that, "Teachers and school principals would share toilets with their students, in a move to liberalise education. Students would then have a sense of belonging and be inspired to excel further in education."

If only it wasn't such a serious matter (our children's education). So, are the people of Terengganu ‘flushed' with pride?

MPs are not proactive

Unlike company entrepreneurs, our MPs are not proactive. Only after three women were whipped for having extramarital sex, was an international conference on whipping hastily arranged to discuss all issues relating to whipping. This is a classic case of acting after the event, and failing to empower women in the community.

And like a badly run family company, MPs continually flout the laws. Recently the MP from Kinabatangan was found guilty of illegal polygamy but only paid the minimal fine. Both he and his trophy wife treated the syariah courts with scorn.

Men easily slip through the loopholes in the weak laws for divorce and polygamous marriages. Husbands who abandon their wives are rarely punished. Abandoned babies are not just from single women but also from abandoned wives who despair when there is an extra mouth to feed.

If senior politicians can break the laws, a bad precedent is set. The discrepancy was observed during a recent road-block to catch people breaking the seat-belt ruling. Unbuckled occupants of government vehicles and police cars were not issued with summonses. Despite protests that the road rules were not strictly enforced, a senior officer on duty simply muttered, "No comment".

corruption charges It is painful to read of corruption cases involving well-connected personalities and multi-millions. They make little headway, if at all. But it is not all doom and gloom. In Johor Baru last February, a Pakistani caught driving without a licence tried to bribe a policeman. He was fined RM10,000 and jailed.

We are accustomed to reading about endemic corruption and the law being broken but without the perpetrators being brought to justice. Therefore, in this incident, the policeman, the Deputy Public Prosecutor and the Judge seem the only models of clear thinking in our corrupt society.

It is apparent that many politicians know nothing about real life and only stumble into it when on the campaign trail. How can they expect to be sympathetic and empathetic towards our needs? They lack on the job training and adopt a mentality of compliance, command and control. What we experience is the failure of our politicians to engage.

Most companies treat their customers like kings for we can go elsewhere, if displeased. But when it comes to our government, we are treated like serfs, not kings. We don't have a choice, at least for now.

If we continue to elect undesirables to lead us, then we deserve those whom we put in power. Why do we continue to clamour for the truth, or for justice, even if the politicians refuse to oblige us? In the end we are to blame for ticking the wrong box on the election paper.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real–speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.