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As you all have already known the issue of two Deputy Director Generals in JKR (Malaysian Public Works Department) ended two days ago with the report of Judin Karim being given a higher grade than at least three Ministries’ Secretary Generals, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board). So whatever the reason behind Judin’s removal as the powerful JKR Director General, at least his transfer ( to facilitate certain quarters’ interests) is not seen as a demotion by him and a punishment by others including his family,friends and staff.

If not for Judin’s courage to bring up the issue of his removal and the high-handedness of the power that be, we, the public (tax-payers) would not know this Malaysian Civil Service aberration. Though we are kept in the dark on the reason for his treatment. As we are in the dark, we tend to speculate many things involving many people with their permanent interests. In keeping with my self-promise I would not venture into the specifics. I’d rather give away my RM300k to orphanages than to some big guns who might successfully sue me in court for blogging without substantiation.

The three-month old saga has affected the moral of the civil service as reflected by the flurry of cyberworld activities on the subject. It reveals how easy it is for a civil servant to be “taught a lesson” by being removed/transferred away from his post. We have seen this being done and quite often through political interference. You have never heard the Chief Secretary to the Government defending a civil servant being accused of not toeing the line but wait a minute, what about the Federal Development Officer who was chided by CM Lim Guan Eng of DAP-ruled Penang? And that new State Secretary of PKR-ruled Selangor? Didn’t we all note that the KSN was defending them vigorously? Now we know that things can go either way whenever they suit the situation.

That is why in Malaysia,the civil servants especially the PTDs (civil servants without professional degrees and possessing degrees in arts/administration) are generally afraid to give their true opinion in public or during meetings. We in the private sector are more vocal and concerned with the bottomlines. A visiting Professor from Harvard Business School intimated that his discourse with some of the most senior government servants in Malaysia some years ago was intellectually less exciting (read boring) compared to the one he had with the private sector. The former appeared lost for words and not able to pick his brain and so it turned out to be a monologue. A discourse is supposed to be a two-way interaction, for the uninitiated.

A few civil servants also admitted that they were scared to give a differing view as their superiors generally don’t welcome them. In this climate of fear you can never get the filtration of decisions through debates,arguments and disagreements ( not being disagreeable though). Only one person, at the top is thinking and the rest just follows so no wonder you observe so many implementation problems when a project starts!

This culture of silence and only say things your superior wants to hear doesn’t augur well for the civil service and in fact for Malaysia as a whole. We will end up having mediocre civil servants And worst still we will end up with mediocre Director Generals and Secretary Generals who will perpetuate the culture. We will rue the day when a superior tells his subordinate to leave the meeting if the latter doesn’t agree with him. God help Malaysia!

Sorry for my digression as I wanted to make a point on the type of civil servant being nurtured in this current culture of fear and perceived political interference. Things will not get better when the Head of the Civil Service is continually being extended. Implicit upon this is obeying orders without inputs and thinking, a culture not definitely inherited from the British.

Datuk Seri Ir (Dr) Judin Abdul Karim , Ex-Director General JKR

I feel sad looking at the image of Judin Karim. He and his family (especially his loving sister H ) must’ve gone through a lot. He had filed a suit against the government three weeks ago and has promptly withdrawn it on the new grade offer but that is only part of the story. Then we are informed rather tersely that his new appointment would cease in December 2013 on his compulsory retirement. I would have thought he would be better off in his post due to his vast knowledge and experience as the JKR DG as his retirement is only two years away. But sadly it is not to be.

Wishing him all the best in his new undertakings and remember a quotation from the late President Nixon: ” Some people may hate you, but they cannot win unless you hate them and end up destroying yourself“. Your getting a better grade on the new post is at least worth fighting for.

May be one day Judin’s great grandchild would write a memoir about his/her great grandfather to include the reason for his much talked about and rather singular removal from his powerful civil service post. Interested people should also tell theirs to look out for it as part of the “dark history” of Malaysian Civil Service. Unless you learn history, you are bound to commit the same mistake all over again. So those involved in Judin’s saga must remember that your involvement will be read by your great grandchildren and let them assess it for themselves what type of great (pardon the pun) grandfathers they have.

Judin’s saga has ended but the impact on the civil service will remain for some time and the ripples continue. I don’t know what the President of CUEPACS meant when he said let this (tussle/saga?) be a lesson to other government departments – what lessons may we be enlightened on Datuk Omar?

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