MAY 6, 2014
A geology graduate turned writer, Khairie Hisyam Aliman enjoys stating the obvious... occasionally in writing. He is still figuring out how to write a proper bio of himself.
MAY 6 ― Would you prefer mindless robots or thinking individuals to run this country we call home?
That was the question that came to me when reading about Chief Secretary to the government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa’s comment on civil servants participating in the May 1 anti-GST rally.
“As usual, if we have solid evidence about their involvement, stern action will be taken against them as stated in the public service circular and disciplinary regulations, starting with warning to termination of service,” Ali Hamsa was quoted as saying by Bernama, adding that civil servants are supposed to support all the government’s aspirations and policies instead of going against it.
I don’t share the anti-GST sentiment but I understand the opposition towards it. And I respect the public’s right to express their disagreement.
If anything, such strong opposition as seen last Thursday is a positive sign — it implies that the public service, long ridiculed as lazy and inefficient, can make up its own mind on matters of national interest.
In other words, they’re not simply mindless drones twiddling their thumbs waiting for monthly pay cheques, Raya bonuses and yearly increments, more concerned with gossip than national issues.
Why is that positive? Because ministers come and go, but the public service is there no matter who is in charge of any portfolio. Politicians set policies and directions but the public service gets us there.
And if the grunts doing the hard, dirty work on the ground all the way up to those who give advice to ministers can think for themselves then it implies some form of check-and-balance, however small, against political idiocies that have been evident over the years.
Such independent thinking should be encouraged, not curbed. Constructive debate should be allowed within the public service instead of a blanket requirement of unanimous support from all government-paid employees for all government policies.
So Ali Hamsa’s reported apology after the perceived threat is welcome.
But it would be meaningless if employment clauses against participating in public rallies are not removed for the public service — make it official and let members of the public service participate in causes they hold dear so long as it does not interfere with their professionalism during working hours.
If they feel so strongly against a policy then it is their right to express their opinion on it peacefully, a right enshrined in the constitution.
|Protesters holding up placards during the protest against |
the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on May 1, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Lest we forget, Article 10, Part 1 of the Federal Constitution allocates that “every citizen has a right to freedom of speech and expression”, subject to lawful restrictions. And peaceful assemblies cannot be criminalised, as made clear by the Court of Appeal ruling late last month that found the 10-day notice requirement for public assemblies in Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 was unconstitutional.
Nor should Malaysians, especially those involved in administration for the country, be punished by termination for expressing their views on matters of national interest in peaceful gatherings.
If Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants the public service to spread the word on why GST is good for the nation — which it ultimately is, in my opinion — then the onus is on Putrajaya to address any concerns and misinformation about the tax within its own ranks first.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/khairie-hisyam-aliman/article/let-the-public-service-think-for-itself#sthash.37aB6RAs.dpuf