Saturday, July 31, 2010

The ugly face of the Little Napoleon

Not too long ago, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak cautioned the nation that “we cannot have Little Napoleons who do not understand innovation”. His implied warning is that these pests would mess things up and stall the country's march to a brave world yonder. But who are these pesky officers who dare to throw the spanner into the wheels of development? The people have read and heard much about them and their haughty ways, but they seldom make it to the headlines. They work behind the desks in a fog of imperial authority which even their political bosses cannot fathom or discern. They are power centres themselves who call the shots.

Then recently, and at last, one of the bugs hits the newsstands: “We have exposed a Little Napoleon.” Who is he? He turned out to be a federal officer who is working in Penang, which is under the control of the opposition. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng tore the veil from him and showed him up to public scrutiny. How does he look? A typical government servant. What ensued was an ugly spat that raises a disturbing question: If a minion can treat a chief minister with contempt, who can protect the ordinary people from the likes of him? The people cannot remove him because he was not elected to represent them. So the little fellow can do as he pleases. In his warped mind, he arrogates power to himself and can dispense or withhold even government funding. Throw the Federal Constitution book at him and he will dump it in the dustbin.

The strange thing about this Napoleon affair is that once it is held up to light, it does not evoke the wrath of the federal government. Najib talked about these annoying underlings in the civil service but when a real one is caught, the prime minister did not promptly take out the screwdriver to adjust this recalcitrant cog in the machine. Instead, he and his like-minded mates threw a loving arm around the culprit and even sang his praises. Why? This is not hard to decipher. It's all about politics – and Little Napoleons are essential to serve a political purpose, especially when a state is ruled by an opposition party.

It is therefore all right to call a chief minister whatever derogatory names you care to plaster him:
biadap (rude), crude, pig-headed, stinking snob, a clod – all these and more as long as he is not one of us or politically correct. It is becoming painfully clear that Little Napoleons are the unelected representatives who are there to cause misery to the common people and more so to the opposition. If they can wreak havoc to the extent of crippling a state government, they are doing a fine service to the ruling party. Ours is an adversarial system of government: the enemies, even if they head a government, must be vilified and run to the ground. The solution is stark and clear: to defeat Little Napoleons, you must defeat them at Little Waterloos – small battles where they will be exposed to public ridicule and hounded out of their foxholes.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nik Ali "Little Napoleon" Mat Yunus meets his Waterloo

I have always enjoyed reading Mariam [Mokhtar]'s articles, and the following is the best so far. This is what she has to say about the on-going spat between Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, and SDO, Nik Ali Mat Yunus.

Umno's most potent political weapon is finally publicly unveiled. It is called the civil servant: it does little work, it cannot be fired.

Admission into Malaysia's civil service is highly desired by the unambitious, the incapable and the indolent. With 1.2 million civil servants (over 4 percent of the population), Umno is assured of political commitment. Thus, civil servants represent the fifth column.

azlanFor decades, elected leaders promised to remove incompetent and insolent civil servants. These bureaucrats, our paid servants, make our lives miserable. How many leaders kept their promises? Did good governance arise from these meaningless pledges? Leaders deserve to be treated with scepticism and scorn for failing to deliver.

But the tide may be turning.

In the recent spat between Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the state development officer Nik Ali Mat Yunus it appears that Nik Ali is about to meet his Waterloo.

NONENik Ali (left) is responsible to his chief minister for his actions and conduct, although he is a federal appointee. As a civil servant, he serves the government of the day, of whatever complexion.

Nik Ali's disregard for the strict code of conduct, his failure to demonstrate the core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality, does not inspire confidence. He caused the breakdown in communication.

When we became independent, we inherited several British institutions: a good judiciary, civil service, family planning unit, police force and parliament. Years of mis-rule eroded their high standards and abolished the system of checks and balances.

Nik Ali should reread the history of the British civil service and in particular, William Harcourt's comments over two centuries ago: “The minister exists to tell the civil servant what the public will not stand”.

Reclaiming our rights

Nik Ali took umbrage and criticised Lim for his 'interference' in addressing corruption and waste of public funds. When Lim chided his civil servant, he also bore on his shoulders all our frustrations. He became our 'symbol' for clawing back our rights.

We, too, have been at the mercy of errant civil servants. We stood patiently in long queues, held our tongues, ignored the delays while they had 'extended breakfasts'. We waited to be served while they discussed the 'bursa saham'. We were made to feel small because of their lack of tact.

We suffered when they said, “masih tak ada keputusan” (no decision yet) because we refused their offers of “senang 'aje nak expedite”. Dare we complain? At the risk of our papers being 'lost'? These civil servants thought nothing of abusing our intellect, our time and our goodwill.

NONEChief secretary to the government Mohd Sidek Hassan (right), Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Penang Umno head Azhar Ibrahim have rallied round Nik Ali. Their support for a rude civil servant, for the wrong reasons, exposes their hypocrisy, malice and sanctimony. They make good political theatre.

Didn't Najib and Sidek both condemn 'Little Napoleons' in the past? Can't they recall the 'People First' policy?

In 2006, then-PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced, “There is no need to show how powerful you are by delaying things. There are people who held back files and there are people who held back decisions. We don't want to have 'Little Napoleons' in the civil service showing power by delaying things, for example, just to teach that person a lesson.”

When DPM Muhyiddin said, “Nik Ali is an exemplary officer and there is no case of insubordination here,” he makes a laughingstock of himself. His failure to reproach encourages the type of gutter politics beloved of Bung Mokhtar Radin and Tajuddin Rahman.

No doubt Azhar's admonishment of Lim's style of governance as “immature and inexperienced” reveals that Umno prefers puppets on strings. Moreover, Umno is sore it cannot add corruptibility and stubbornness to Lim's list of alleged failings.

NONEAs for Ibrahim Ali (left), wading into this fracas, he acts the class bully spoiling for a fight. He should be less of a 'kay poh chee' (busybody) but instead busy himself and resolve the issues of the latest study by the Universiti Putra Malaysia's Social Sciences Institute.

The survey found that pornographic websites were accessed mostly by young urban Malays who were also inclined to lepak(idle) (15 percent), smoke (13.7 percent) as well as swear at people and play truant (11.5 percent).

Lim is right to be cross at being called biadap (rude), “That's why I cannot tolerate people who waste (public) money like Nik. No chief minister dares to upbraid a civil servant. I have been told that I was a 'terror' for doing so.”

Lim deserves an apology but would be naïve to expect Nik Ali or his political masters - the federal government - to admit the error of their ways.

Will they alter the civil service to reflect the country's racial composition? Will they accept that each race, with its own particular strength, can make a useful contribution? Will they adopt a more lean institution? Will they stop spending our money frivolously?

Saboteurs not uncommon

What happened in Penang is not uncommon. During Pakatan Rakyat's brief tenure in Perak, similar saboteurs were at work to undermine Pakatan. Civil servants complained of oppression by constant interference from the federal government.

civil servants government workersThis government has repeatedly ignored the electorate. It intimidates those who expose wrongdoings and corruption in our civil service, judiciary and other institutions. It silences those who write about what is right and just.

Unlike the BN stooges, decent Malaysians do not judge by the artificial criterion of popular appeal.

In 1994, Lim defended an underaged Malay girl who was allegedly raped by then Malacca Chief Minister Rahim Thamby Chik. Both Lim and the girl were imprisoned; the alleged rapist escaped all charges. Did any senior civil servant or BN politician protest at this outrage? No. They closed ranks.

Today, Lim is spearheading a charge towards a cleaner, more transparent and open style of governance. He is not 'all talk and no action'.

What happened in Penang is not about a chief minister reprimanding his civil servant. It is about fear. Our inefficient, bloated and arrogant civil service is afraid of losing its privileged existence.

The writer wishes to acknowledge the thousands of dedicated, loyal and hardworking civil servants to whom this article does not apply to.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Christians - the bogeyman again

[Pictures courtesy of Malay Mail]

Way back in the eighties, during the then recession, Lee Kuan Yew spoke to his citizens, "You either buckle up or we may have to re-join Malaysia." Immediately, there was an uproar from UMNO who staged a protest outside the Singapore High Commission office demanding that the Singapore prime minister withdraw his statement, which implied making Malays the bogeyman just to perk up the Singaporeans to work harder to overcome the economic crisis.

Fast forward to last week, when the Mufti of Johore, supported by the Mufti of Perak, seeking the ban on soccer club t-shirts and jerseys that have the emblem of a cross, citing that it will promote the wrong values to the Malay Muslims in the country. By making such a remark, they have once again, unwittingly created the Christian bogeyman.

"Wrong values"? Let me try to understand the logic here. What values can be so wrong when Christians are trying to promote inter-faith discussions, love and goodwill amongst Malaysians of all races, creed and religion; remain patriotic to the country, pay taxes as a good citizen, etc. If these are wrong values, then by the same reasoning, UMNO Muslims must be practising the "right values" like corruption, incest, murder, stealing, money laundering, enforcing the ISA to the hilt, calling a certain sultan "binatang", a low ranking officer calling Chief Minister of a state "biadap", wasting tax payers money on useless stuff like the two submarines, burning churches and insulting Hindus by stamping their feet on the head of a decapitated cow and organising a road show with the sole purpose of running down opposition leaders. Isn't this what Muslims called "fitnah"? During the current road show in Selangor, I have yet to hear one idea how they could make the state better if they were to re-take the state. None, but from the start of each ceramah, each speaker will be up at the mike condemning the opposition leaders. For that "I do not lie" Perak Mufti, why did he lie about the SMS he sent to the Malay community which nearly caused a riot at one of the Catholic churches in Perak?

If this are the right values practised by UMNO and their beloved Muftis, then I rather be on the side of the wrong [values].

If they could pass a fatwa on Yoga, why can't they do the same with the soccer t-shirts? They know that the following of the sports is huge here even among the Malay Muslims which deem the sport almost like a religion. The muftis realise that if a fatwa is passed, social unrest will emerge and currently, Najib can live without that. It is a case of one fatwa too far? Maybe.

Now if they want to ban the t-shirts that bear Christian crosses, then shouldn't they ban -
1. All T-junctions and cross-junctions in the country (since Malaysia is an Islamic state).
2. Muslims henceforth cannot use the plus (+) sign, or the letters "t" and "T", as that would mean they are part-taking in some Christian rituals. Even BM and religious books will blank out the alphabets.
3. They will have to ban all Muslims from playing/singing rock 'n' roll music, jazz, blues, etc as their origin came from black Gospel music/hymns (read Christian). A fatwa must be passed to this effect and all Muslims henceforth will be restricted to Gazal, keroncong or some Arabic music.

Next is the Manchester United emblem and the name "The Red Devil". To me as a marketing consultant, this is nothing more than a branding exercise. During my younger days, we had several soccer teams in our neighbourhood which compete against one another on a regular basis during the weekends. My team was called "The Blue Angels". Upon wearing the jersey each time before each play off, do we really get up lifted and feel like angels with halos above our heads, flipping our wings and looking cute like cherubins. No, we were just eleven boys (Malays, Chinese and Indians) out there having a great time kicking a ball around.

Muslims must refrain from flying AirAsia because of its close assication with "The Red Devil". I am sure MAS will be looking forward to an increase in passenger load in the months to come.

Remember what William Shakespeare said, "A rose called by any other name, still smell the same". Manchester United is nothing more than a world class soccer team, devil or not. Anyway, give me PAS Islam any time which can certainly act as a balm to our raw nerves these days.