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Three reasons why I am flabbergasted by Abdullah’s speech – absolutely no signs that Malaysia is poised on the eve of a great government initiative to launch a new public service delivery system on June 14


Media Statement (2)     
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Tuesday) : I am flabbergasted by the speech of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the monthly assembly of staff of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya yesterday. There are three reasons. 

Firstly, Abdullah is the first Prime Minister in the 50-year history of the nation to have given the official sanction to “moonlighting” in the Malaysian civil service, formally placing Malaysia in the footsteps of the Indonesian civil service well-known for “moonlighting” and corruption because of the low pay of the Indonesian government servants. 

Although the Star headlined “PM: Don’t moonlight – Civil servants advised to budget and spend money wisely”, other media  headlines are more accurate, such as: “Cut down on ‘extra jobs’ advises PM” (Sun), “PM: Outside jobs must not affect official duties (New Straits Times), “Buat kerja luar jangan jejas productivity: PM” (Berita Harian) and “Gaji naik: Kurangkan kerja sampingan” (Utusan Malaysia)

This is because Abdullah never told civil servants to stop “moonlighting” but “to reduce such activities as they could adversely affect productivity”.

As Bernama reported, Abdullah said the government, aware of the problems facing civil servants in the lower ranks, had ensured that they got a higher percentage of salary increment compared to employees in other categories. 

He said: "I'm aware that some employees in the lower ranks, especially those with many children, have to work at night selling nasi lemak, banana fritters or do odd jobs for additional income.

"I respect them for their diligence and the love they have for their family in fullfilling their responsibiities. I also understand that the wives too have to work to help make ends meet."  

Bernama reported that Abdullah however advised them not to do the part-time jobs until late night.

Abdullah has created history of sorts, as his speech is tantamount to an announcement to the world that the Malaysian civil service has fallen from the previous high standards five decades ago when it was regarded as of world-class standards. 

This is most surprising as it has come just after RM8 billion civil service pay increases, which had been praised sky-high by the Cuepacs President Omar Osman who said: 

 “The 35 per cent for the lowest income group is the best ever in our history. The 100 per cent increase in cost of living allowance is exceptional. It was everything that we expected.” (New Straits Times 22.5.07)

In fact, the Cuepacs President said  that the civil service “would not be the same again as civil servants had been motivated by way of better wages” and he promised to go on a roadshow to tell civil servants to drop negative habits which had affected their service to the people as “there is no room for the ‘old style’ of work”. 

He said civil servants would be told to give up part-time jobs to focus 100 per cent on their jobs, adding: “We don’t want them to hold second jobs any more as they will be taking home a much larger pay packet.” 

The Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohamed Sidek Hassan also publicly held the Cuepacs President to his promise to go on a roadshow to tell the one million civil servants to stop “moonlighting” and focus on their responsibility in the civil service. (NST 23.5.07) 

Why did the Prime Minister disregard and veto both the Cuepacs President and the Chief Secretary, both of whom are of the view that the recent RM8 billion civil service salary increases had been structured in such a way that  “moonlighting” by civil servants is no more justifiable? 

If Abdullah is now giving his stamp of approval to “moonlighting” in the civil service, what are the guidelines for such “moonlighting”  and what mechanism has been devised to ensure that public interests of efficiency, courtesy, productivity and  integrity are not undermined? 

Has the Cabinet officially taken a policy decision to give the stamp of approval for “moonlighting” by civil servants, and if so, when?   

The second reason I am flabbergasted is the burden of the Prime Minister’s speech two weeks after the RM8 billion civil salary pay rise.

What was top on his mind was the headline used by Bernama for its report: “PM Raps Govt Employees Who Cannot Sing National Song”.

Abdullah appeared very peeved and annoyed that after a RM8 billion pay rise, some government employees were still not able to sing the "Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang" national song.

At a time when hardly a day passes without a report of another multi-million ringgit government building defect or public construction mishap (today’s press reports the collapse of the ceiling boards of RM27 million Johor Syariah Court Complex which opened its doors early this year), Malaysians would have expected more weighty matters on the Prime Minister’s mind than the "Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang"  song.

This brings me to the third reason for being flabbergasted by Abdullah’s speech yesterday – the absolute lack of signs that Malaysia is poised on the eve of a great government initiative to launch a new public service delivery system on June 14.

Last week Abdullah had announced that a new government delivery system would be launched on June 14, promising great things for the people. Is this promise of a new public service delivery system going to be a letdown, turning out to be “empty thunder without rain”?

I hope that after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, the main features of the new public service delivery system to be launched on June 14 would be delineated for the information of MPs as well as the civil society; and if there is not going to be any launching of a new public service delivery system, a public correction should be made immediately so as not to mislead Malaysians another time.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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