An Existential Threat To Malaysia
A leading news portal recently reported an obviously true but innately troubling statement by a former top government official. A former chief secretary of the government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, currently the chairman of the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission has been quoted on December 27th as stating that bosses like to be popular. For that reason they are unlikely to discipline their subordinates. In his own words ‘ Most of us, especially in high positions, really liked to be liked.’
Sidek must be commended for making such a brutally honest admission on the workplace and bureaucratic culture in Malaysia. He has made a rather candid but crude, courageous and controversial statement about a reality that prevails in workplaces.
The odd person who attempts to comment on or to correct inappropriate conduct invariably becomes unpopular, disliked, and is often considered unsuitable, uncultured, and even unbearable A person who maintains a code of silence on the worst excesses being perpetrated gets along, gets promoted, and is also often well regarded.
Generally, officers in the system are expected to be obedient and obliging to their superiors. Needless to say, some subordinates go the unnecessary extra length to be more loyal to their superiors than to the country, offering obeisances, and making offerings of gifts, flattery, and fawning on them.
This game when played well can render a somewhat mediocre or substandard individual in the system highly indispensable to a superior officer. Additionally, if the subordinate maintains silence on all inappropriate conduct he becomes a personal asset to the boss, much more more than to the country. Such subordinates actually subvert a system but unless if something outrageous like 1MDB happens the system can contain it.
The prolonged consequence of this kind of a work culture is the loss of efficiency, work duplication, wastage, leakages, a breakdown of operational norms and declining standards of services, products and the poor delivery of essential goods. The public service would in due course have declined to a state where it would be unable to provide impartial, efficient, timely, and productive service to the public. Corruption would inevitably be there. It would be condoned to keep the workplace harmony and this again would increase the operational and development cost for the government.
Malaysia today is experiencing and witnessing a decline in the standard of administrative, educational, health, social welfare, infrastructure, and other goods, services, and facilities. It did not happen overnight but took a long time to settle at this low point. Our current news is about frequent water supply interruptions, potholes on roads, the illegal entry and the presence of millions of foreigners, contraband goods, seizures of drugs, illegal lotteries, corruption in both low and the highest places, violation of basic SOPs, and a failure to keep the country competitive. Then there are the unreported matters about the stranglehold of a few monopolies and widely suspected elite corruption.
These adverse attributes are an inevitable result of a failure to enforce discipline, punish those who deserve to be punished, and the culture of tolerance, even indulgence, of inappropriate and illegal conduct.
Tan Sri Sidek has touched on a formidable fundamental flaw in the character of the senior-most officials. It requires the participation of every Malaysian to rescue our country from this festering imbroglio.
It is wrong to enforce mandatory silence, compliance, and polite acquiescence when things are not functioning as they should. Whistleblowers should not be treated as snitching or squealing. They should be celebrated for their courage to speak up.
The current action against a sitting Court of Appeal judge shows up a system that cannot cope with its own inbuilt inadequacies. What are we so fearful of?
Our own shadow?
Is it too much to change our ways?
Together, we must patriotically build a better, harmonious, responsible, and united Malaysia.
January 1, 2021