Thursday, August 27, 2009

Public Institutions must be apolitical

Public service should uphold laws that protect the people

I refer to “Don’t drag MACC into political games, says Najib” (Star,Aug 26)
Prime Minister Datuk Seri NajibTunRazak’s advice that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should not be dragged into political games is timely as it comes at a time when then the commission comes under severe criticism for its alleged selective prosecution. Its political neutrality and professionalism are being questioned by many.

In fact not only the MACC but all public institutions must strictly refrain from taking sides in the ongoing political tussle. They should remain politically neutral at all times in carrying out their duties fairly and boldly in accordance with the laws of the country.

The politicization of the public institutions has done a great disservice to the people and the nation. It has created the mindset in the people that the civil service must be subservient to its political masters at all costs, even if it means having to breach the laws under which it works.

The public institutions must be loyal to the government of the day in implementing the policies formulated but their service to the people overrides all other considerations and that must be strictly in keeping with the existing laws alone. They must uphold these laws that are meant to protect the rights of the people regardless of their ethnicity or political inclination.

A truly independent and non-partisan public service is vital for the progress and development of the nation. In advanced democracies like the US, the government may change every 4 years but the public institutions stand firmly unchanged. In Japan there is frequent change of government and the prime minister but the institutions remain intact holding on to the laws under which they are governed. Even in India, a poor country that was torn by war and severe internal squabbles and corruption, racial and religious riots, is now on its way to rapid socio-economic development. This is mainly due to its strong and independent public service that could withstand the tremendous political pressure from outside.

Politicisation of the public institutions has seriously undermined their independence and impartiality. This has created a negative perception of these institutions in the minds of the people who see them as being biased and unfair to certain sections of the population.

The is a need to depoliticize our public institutions and restore their independence to serve all citizens fairly in accordance with the laws governing them. They should advise the politicians against issuing orders that are not in keeping with the laws and regulations. A non-partisan and racially balanced public service would ensure a high level of professionalism in its services to the rakyat.

Political parties, in particular the ruling one, must take the lead to respect the independence of all public institutions. They should refrain from trying to influence the civil servants in wanting to submit to their demands that are unreasonable and at times unethical or even illegal. On the other hand the heads of the various arms of the civil service should be people of high integrity who will not succumb to the unlawful demands of those in power. They must be willing and courageous to uphold the laws at all times under which they are supposed to function.

Most of the evils that we encounter today, in particular corruption and abuse of power can be overcome by ensuring a public service that is professional,strong, truly independent, ethnically balanced and politically non-partisan. Only by being truly neutral can the public institutions like the MACC and other arms of the civil service, including the police and judiciary be able uphold the laws that protect the people against political abuses.


Dr.Chris Anthony

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