Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Khusrin's appointment a comical drama

A bizarre and comical drama is being played out in the running feud between the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.

BN is attempting to force an unwelcome top public servant down the throat of a Pakatan-controlled state government, which naturally has fiercely resisted the forced-feeding.

The scenario is rendered more ridiculous when, in its earnestness to overpower Pakatan, BN has brought in the Sultan of the state to administer the swearing-in of the new recruit, though the Sultan, being a constitutional monarch, has no apparent role to play in this appointment under the state constitution.

On Dec 27, 2010, the chief secretary to the BN-controlled federal government Mohd Sidek Hassan suddenly announced that Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) Director Mohd Khusrin Munawi will take over as Pakatan-controlled Selangor’s state secretary (head of state civil servcie) from Jan 1, 2011.

This unexpected news came like a bolt from the sky for Pakatan, for Khusrin, well known for his pro-Umno and anti-Pakatan stance, is regarded as a thorn in the flesh in the Selangor state government.

Within hours, Selangor menteri besar’s office refuted the appointment, stating that the menteri besar had no prior knowledge of it, and that the state government was still in the process of finalising the appointment from its own short-list. Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim was then on oversea leave.

In a chorus of angry protests, Pakatan leaders described this sneak attempt to appoint a hostile candidate to head the state’s civil service as an outright sabotage against the Pakatan government.

They accused Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of trying to replicate the infamous coup d’etat that overthrew the Pakatan state government of Perak almost two years ago when a similarly pro-Umno state secretary played a key role in the illegal power grab.

Another surprise awaited Pakatan. On Dec 30, 2010, the Sultan’s private secretary Mohamad Munir Bani (apparently another Umno loyalist) announced that Khusrin was scheduled to swear-in at the Sultan’s palace on Jan 6, 2011, for which invitations have been sent out.

This move is clearly intended to pit Pakatan on a collision course not only with Umno/BN but also the Sultan, keeping in mind that both chief secretary Sidek and private secretary Munir had stated earlier that the Sultan had given his approval to the appointment.

From a commoner’s point of view

Meanwhile, controversy over the legality and propriety of this appointment rages on with a variety of opinions from the academic and the judicial circles. However, before we delve into the legal intricacies, let us first look at the issue from a commoner’s point of view.

A few facts need be straightened out first. The state secretary is a state government employee, whose salary is paid for by the state government. He heads the state’s civil service and serves the executive council (exco) of the state (the state cabinet) and reports directly to the menteri besar.

Hence when the federal Public Services Commission (PSC) selected Khusrin as Selangor’s state secretary, it was in effect serving the Selangor government as a personnel agency. The Selangor government remains the employer.

Does it make sense then that PSC should have selected someone without the knowledge of and without consultation with the Selangor government, the exco, and above all, big boss the menteri besar?

It is akin to an employment service agency thrusting a general manager to a company without the knowledge of the chairman and board of directors. The latter must be thinking that the agency has gone mad!

Now we are talking about running a government, which is immensely more complex and serious than a company.

Is it not the height of absurdity that the federal recruitment agency would appoint someone to head the civil service of an adversary state government in a process that was completely hidden from the latter? Worse, when that candidate is a putative “trojan horse” to sabotage the state government.

How is the new state secretary expected to serve his employer when the former is regarded with such mistrust and detestation? Isn’t this move a manifestation of evil intention to cause grievous damage to the Pakatan state government? Isn’t this the crudest expression of contempt and betrayal of the interests of the Selangor people who have chosen Pakatan to administer their state?

Against justice and fair play

Now, let us look at the legal aspects. Under the state constitution (Article 52 Clause 1), the appointment of the state secretary “shall be made by the appropriate Services Commission” – not by the Sultan. So, both Sidek and Munir have falsely invoked the name of the Sultan to over-rule objection from Pakatan.

Next, the state secretary must take his Oath of Secrecy “in the presence of the Menteri Besar” before he can attend meetings of the Exco, according to Article 52 Clause 4 of the same constitution.

With these two provisions, it is apparent that arrangement of Kushrin’s oath-taking in the palace is not an orthodox constitutional practice of the state, but an expedient political machination devised to outmaneuver Pakatan.

As for which is “the appropriate Services Commission” mandated by Article 52 Clause 1 for this appointment , Menteri Besar Khalid contended that the state’s own Public Services Commission should have been involved in accordance with services practice notes prepared by the commission.

While the issue of the “appropriate Services Commission” is being debated, one thing is crystal clear. The employer has the final say as to who can or cannot work for him.

No government can tolerate a key officer who is an anathema to its agenda, much less the head of the entire government machinery. It is against all norms of justice and fair play. It is certainly against the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded.

[Source: FMT]

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