Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Political parties banking on votes from the civil servants, the sacrosanct!

The civil service is sacrosanct, politically speaking. If you are a politician, you better think twice before speaking up against it.

ALTHOUGH more non-Malays are beginning to join the civil service, the fact that Malays make up the overwhelming majority of the 1.4 million-strong public sector remains.(The highest ratio of civil servants in the world)


It is said that nearly every Malay family has someone either in the civil service or the uniformed services.

Thus, the civil service is home to a sizeable percentage of voters. Therefore, their welfare and livelihood is a key priority of the Barisan Nasional Government which likes to project itself as its protector and benefactor.

On the other hand, the Chinese and Indians predominate in the private sector as small businessmen, professionals and wage earners.

They are largely cut off from the civil service. They have little clue how the civil servants, as a unified special interest group, think and respond in a crisis.

This is the reason why some Chinese and Indian politicians and even some thoughtless Malays make insensitive remarks about the civil service and pay a price for their faux pas.

The more seasoned politicians in Umno and other Barisan component parties managed to avoid making insensitive remarks, preferring to work with the civil service rather than against them.

When civil servants die in the line of duty, Barisan gets all worked up. It immediately moves in to comfort and reassure them as it is mindful of the civil services' vote bank.

When security personnel were killed by Sulu insurgents, the Government's game plan changed as well.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak ordered an all-out assault by a combined force of army and police personnel.

Resources were rapidly mobilised, villagers told to move out and security forces encircled the red zone and the shooting war started in earnest.

When Najib announced the decision to attack on March 5 at a gathering of religious leaders at Putra Stadium, he was given a standing ovation.

The civil servants had rejoiced that the initial decision to negotiate was over and that the army and police were on attack mode.

The Opposition, on the other hand, had fallen flat. They had failed to connect with the powerful emotional impact the crisis had on civil servants and the Malay voters.

In fact, they committed a faux pas of the worst kind imaginable when PKR vice-president Tian Chua remarked that the Lahad Datu crisis was a sandiwara by Umno and Barisan Nasional.

His remarks, published in Keadilan Daily on March 1, had riled up the Malay groups, including former servicemen, who vented their anger and demanded an apology and retraction.

Not a day passes by without someone burning or stomping on pictures of Tian Chua and lodging a police report and urging stern action.

At one anti-Tian Chua session, even former IGPs and former deputy IGPs were out condemning Tian Chua and rooting for the Malaysian security forces.

The message out there is simple while the armed forces are risking their lives in protecting the country, Opposition politicians are playing politics.

The civil service is sacrosanct, politically speaking. If you are a politician, you better think twice before speaking up against it.

Former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo had angered civil servants when he gave out a broom as an “award” to two underperforming local councils in Novem-ber 2007.

While he wanted to improve the service, the civil servants saw it as demeaning and felt slighted. They took it out by spoiling their votes when the general election came, contributing to the fall of Barisan in Selangor.

In more recent times December 2011 Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua was forced to eat humble pie after he announced that Pakatan Rakyat would slash the civil service by half, if it takes power.

Pakatan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had to step in and assure the civil servants that Pakatan would do no such thing if it is in power.

Even Pua, who stands in an overwhelmingly Chinese seat, was forced to clarify that he did not mean “slash by half” but reduce its numbers through synergies.

The civil service is overwhelmingly Malay and largely pro-Barisan, who is their protector and benefactor; although PAS and, to a lesser extent, PKR are making a dent.

However, it is not big enough a dent for the supposedly neutral civil servants to change direction as yet.

Comment by BARADAN KUPPUSAMY

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