Mariam Mokhtar, COMMENT | Tommy Thomas’ critics give his book good publicity (Malaysiakini)…


Mariam Mokhtar

Published 5 Feb 2021, 9:02 am

COMMENT | The thing that can easily rile many Malays, especially civil servants, is their egos. It’s huge. They don’t take kindly to criticism. Some may claim that by extension, any criticism is also an attack on their race and religion.

I haven’t yet purchased a copy of Tommy Thomas’ book, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, but now, like most other people, I will buy a copy before it is banned or is out of circulation.

The comments by the felon, Najib Abdul Razak, his brother, Nazir, former director-general of the Judicial and Legal Training Institute (Ilkap) Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria, former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali, and current AG Idrus Harun about Thomas’ book, have aroused my curiosity.

They are upset with Thomas’ personal opinions and have either filed lawsuits or lodged police reports. Nazir needs to read Britain’s declassified reports on May 13, and civil servants should grow up and stop surrounding themselves with sycophants.

The Malays have lost their competitive edge. They collect praise, like former police chief Khalid Abu Bakar used to collect tweets and social media likes.

For many Malays, especially those serving in the government and the civil service, ego comes first. His race and religion share equal second place. His wife may be at number 10. His mother, probably number 7.

The ranking is probably different for Malay women. Vanity about their husband’s pay-packet ranks highly, especially among the Mak Datins (Malay tai-tais). The pressure to look youthful is probably number 3 on their list.

Having been brought up to consider himself as a member of the master race, his views and outlook on life, including his self-worth are biased.

The Malay civil servant exhibits even more extreme feudal tendencies than an ordinary person. In the community, he serves those who are above him in the social ranking. The bowing and scraping are more intense if he has to address a datuk or royalty.

In his workplace, he shows deference to his superiors. The higher the rank, the more that person is worshipped like a deity. As a senior civil servant, he knows that his juniors look up to him and he is aware that, given half a chance, a few would stick their knives into his back. ‘Maruah’ matters and this explains why some are upset with Thomas’ book.

The junior civil servant has a job for life. He clocks in, clocks out, does the minimal amount of work required and prostrates himself before the people who matter. In time, he will work his way up the greasy civil service pole, in a dog-eat-dog world. Just observe how little Napoleons treat members of the public who are poor and illiterate at government counters. It’s not nice.

Rice bowl

I recently wrote about a person who had clearly been promoted well beyond his capability, but some former civil servants disagreed.

My argument was that there were other capable people who were not ‘yes’ men, who were better qualified and whose experience in various fields would be advantageous. Meritocracy should be the main criterion, and people who are willing to question their superiors, would make better candidates.

The retort I received was that the man who had been promoted was a relative of so-and-so and how dare I question the appointment, especially as the candidate played golf with the head honcho.

So, is that it? According to this former civil servant, golf is the deciding factor. Is this how ministers are appointed? What if potential candidates for important positions pretend to miss the ball, or fluff putts, and allow the head honcho to win and make him thinks he is the best golfer in Putrajaya?

If some former civil servants prioritise golf, then you know why this country is in a mess today. You then wonder about the calibre of the current civil servants.

Perhaps, in another 10 years, when Malaysia finally hits rock bottom, the current crop of civil servants who enter retirement will emerge to demand action and reform, and call themselves the G50 group.

When asked why they did not speak up before, the former civil servants will say, “At the time, I suffered from PNS.”

For those who are unaware, PNS is Periuk Nasi Syndrome.

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