MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have succeeded at kickstarting reforms after removing a 60-year-old regime, but now he fears that old habits may die hard in the nation’s civil service.
The prime minister on Friday called into question the “loyalty” of civil servants who openly campaigned for the ousted Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition in the recent elections over concerns that their allegiances could affect the new administration’s governance.
“We found many among the government officials, whether voluntarily or not, have taken part in the elections to campaign for Barisan Nasional, and we have doubts about as to where their loyalties lie,” he told a press conference after chairing a meeting with the leaders of the newly elected Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition.
Dr Mahathir said the civil servants’ loyalty to the previous administration would pose a problem to the current government, which has its own approach to governance and obligations to fulfill its manifesto.
“We need the cooperation from the officers, but they were deeply involved in the election campaigning, and now that the government has changed hands, we need to determine whether or not we will get the cooperation from those who should not have been partial to any (political) party.
The prime minister said although the civil servants put into question had the right to support any political party, government officials should not take sides.
Msian PM @chedetofficial says civil servants who openly campaigned for @barisanasional in #GE14 will pose problems to the current administration. Their loyalty to the govt is being called into question pic.twitter.com/ADJoZTzsUw
— A. Azim Idris (@AzimIdrisHybrid) June 1, 2018
“Their job is to implement policy decisions of the government of the day,” he said.
On the course of action to be taken, Dr. Mahathir did not specifically state whether or not the civil servants in question would be removed from their posts.
“We do not want to punish people unnecessarily because that is not our way of doing things,
“But we need to know the loyalties of these civil servants because unfortunately, they have committed themselves towards propagating the propaganda of the previous government,
“So we hope that they will change their attitudes and become neutral again. They will have to carry out the policies and the instructions of the new government,” Dr Mahathir said.
The Pakatan Harapan alliance led by Dr Mahathir delivered a shock victory in the May 9 elections, removing the ruling coalition which has ruled for over 60 years.
In the first three weeks of taking power, the alliance has taken on numerous reform measures, including putting ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak under probe for corruption allegations and announcing several austerity measures that include the removal of 17,000 civil service employees said to be “political appointees”.
Barisan Nasional politicians have criticised the new government’s plan to swiftly remove the so-called political appointees, given the current timing which coincides with Ramadan and Eid festive season, but Dr Mahathir maintains that the group served no purpose for the current administration.
“They (political appointees) will receive their remuneration in time for Hari Raya (Eid) but they came from the opposing party and so we must take action,” Dr Mahathir said.
“Their designations are not needed as they were created merely to work for party officials,
“But aside from the political appointees, we have also found that regular civil servants have tainted themselves after taking part in politics,” Dr Mahathir said.
“They campaigned openly and wore the blue shirts and so on. We even have videotape (evidence) of their activities and that is why we are questioning their loyalties to the current government.”