Tuesday, July 05, 2011


I refer to the commentary by the New Straits Times journalist Ben Tan “ Nazi label a disservice to the civil service” as appeared in the NST( July 4, 2011)

It has been a long while since I read such squalid and irresponsible piece of journalism by a journalist who has completely missed the trees for the forest. The writer took umbrage to an article “ Isn’t a one race civil service a form of apartheid” written by Dr Boo Cheng Hau, Johor DAP State Chairman and Skudai state Assemblyman posted in the Centre of Policy Initiatives website.

Dr Boo, as a background to his article, narrated an incident when he was a young medical officer in service at a local government hospital, how a Malay nurse decided not to treat a pregnant patient but instead went to a kenduri leaving her tasks and responsibility to a young assistant nurse who utterly ill-prepared to assist in a surgery. If Dr Boo by highlighting the ethnicity of the nurse was playing a racial card, it is worth knowing that Dr Boo also highlighted that the young patient lying on the operating table waiting to deliver her baby was a Malay. Dr Boo further recounted how after the incident when he asked for stern action to be taken against the delinquent nurse, the operating theatre staff instead rallied around the race banner, myopic to the fact that someone belonging to their own ethnic community was about to give birth and she deserved the best medical care.

This unfortunate incident narrated by Dr Boo was a background to Dr Boo’s article where the crux of his article was that the Malaysian civil service has transformed overwhelmingly into a single race dominated civil service. Instead of commending Dr Boo, Ben Tan not only omitted to mention the incident narrated but even worst concealed the statistics with regard to representation by the ethnicity in the civil service as revealed by Dr Boo. Instead, Ben Tan chose to select words and highlight phrases from Dr Boo’s article which was mischief making since any reader of Ben Tan bellicose commentary not having read Dr Boo’s article first would assume that Dr Boo’s had written an article with a racist slant.

Nowhere in his article did Dr Boo draw any parallels to Malaysia’s civil service with Nazi Germany or that the country is being run along the lines of a totalitarian state akin to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. That analysis is Ben Tan’s infantile journalism.

What Dr Boo in his article wrote was that despite Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution which states that all citizens are eligible if suitably qualified by educational standards to enter any branch of the public service, and that there can be discrimination on ground of race, religion and the like, in reality the truth is that the Malaysian civil service no longer reflect the country’s plural society.

Dr Boo substantiate his argument with data and figures. For example, as of December 31, 2009, the Malaysian civil service comprised 1,247,894 employees. The dwindling to a trickle of non Malays in the civil service can be seen.

Before NEP (1971) 60.80% 20.2% 17.40% 1.6%
June 2005 77.04% 9.37% 5.12% 8.47%
December 2009 78.2% 5.8% 4.0% 4.2%

The statistics from Johor are even more damning and shows that the non-Malays are grossly under represented. Last year, at the state assembly, the Johor Menteri Besar Dato Ghani Othman revealed that there are only 126 non- Malays in the 8,372 strong Johor civil service. According to the Menteri Besar the racial breakdown of the Johor civil service is as follows;

Malays Chinese Indians Others
8,244 (98.47%) 10 (0.12%) 116(1.39%) 2(0.02%)

This in a state where out of a total population of almost 3.17 million has 54% Malays, Chinese 33% and Indians 6%. Johor despite having an Indian voter population of approximately 83,000, the Indian representation in the johor civil service is neither reflective of the total Indian population in the state nor the Indian registered voters. The irony is that at independence 40% of the Johor civil service were Indians.

Ben Tan cites his Malay friend who is a rank and file personnel attached with the Johor police contingent who reasons that there is a lack of appeal by non Malays and monetary rewards in the private sector as the reason why non-Malays are disinterested to join the civil service. That’s pure baloney ! The truth is that non Malays and particularly Indians do want to serve in the civil service but the all too often excuse given is that non Malays are not interested to work in the civil service. Looking at the statistics provided it clearly does give a perception that non Malays have no place in the civil service or the perception rightly or wrongly that they are kinda being weaned out.

Continuing his ramble Ben Tan calls on Dr Boo and others to give solutions as how to increase the participation of non-Malays in the civil service. It would be accountable journalism if Ben Tan can investigate and reveal to the public the genuine steps taken thus far by the government in enticing non-Malays to join the civil service. Spare us the usual recruitment method purported to have been used –advertisement in the newspapers !. If that is the method being used and reading the data revealing the gross under representation of non- Malays in the civil service, then the present recruitment method has been utter failure.

Since, Ben Tan calls for solutions, for one the government can have a big scale “Ops Isi Penuh” recruitment drive to attract non-Malays to join the civil service. Get the religious and ethnic based NGO’s to help to encourage non- Malays to join the civil service. I am sure Dr Boo will be able to easily recruit the best and qualified Indians amongst his own Skudai constituents. The question is if the government has the gumption to redress the serious racial imbalance in the civil service instead of giving the tired old excuse that non- Malays are not interested to join the civil service.

Ben Tan further writes that that he is “happy to say that I am not forced to wear shirts with a “saya Cina” patch and or interned in concentration camp or to be ethnically cleansed or gassed to death like how the Nazis did to the Jews” but had Ben Tan read Dr Boo’s article with a small modicum of intelligence and reasoning, he could have understood easily what a sensible reader would have easily understood what Dr Boo was actually saying and which would resonate with most Malaysians. Truth hurts and Dr Boo was just doing that – telling the truth and far from being racist or offensive. Instead, selecting and highlighting certain words from Dr Boo’s article, Ben Tan went on a grandstanding journalism.

Ben Tan ends accusing Dr Boo of ‘pulling out the racial card such as Nazi labeling, is a cheap trick that desensitize a profound meaning that should be reserved only for its historical significance and the horrors that they were known for”. Reading Ben Tan’s claptrap, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln who once said, that it is better to remain silent and be thought of a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Those profound words may well apply to Ben Tan’s puerile commentary.

Norman Fernandez