Integrity, responsibility and trust are among the values government servants must have for departments and services to run smoothly.
TIME marches on but will never fade the exciting memories of a young girl when the vibrant shouts of MERDEKA rang loud and clear followed by a thunderous round of applause in the Tawau town padang (field) on Sept 16, 1963 ... the day Sabah achieved independence through the formation of Malaysia.
I can still visualise the lowering of the Union Jack which in turn saw the hoisting of the Malaysian flag followed by the Sabah Flag.
My classmates and I sang the Negara Ku and Sabah Tanah Air Ku standing at attention and with a sense of pride even at the age of 12.
The smiles on the people’s faces, the flags and the banners said it all. Sabah was celebrating the birth of a new nation and her liberation from colonial rule.
As an adult, I now look back at our celebrations and can understand better why there was so much jubilation and hope amongst the people. Malaysia was our nation, our home.
With hope comes a very special sense of responsibility from the government, particularly government servants.
Every government servant plays a special role in providing hope. It is thus vital for them to be subservient to the government of the day.
The word “government” defined in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (3rd Edition) is the act or process of governing, especially the control and administration of public policy in a political unit.
“Servant” refers to one who is publicly employed to perform services and in this context, for the government.
‘Subservient’ means subordinate in capacity or function; one who expresses submission, recognisance while “government of the day” means the ruling political party of this present time and “must” means compulsory.
Stated in Article 132 (1) of the Federal Constitution, the public service and all government servants including the education service are subjected to the law and regulations made by the ruling government.
We in the Education Ministry are also subordinate to the government and are subjected to obey all rules.
Closely related to the act of subservience is the pledge of loyalty to the King, country and the government and the application of values and ethics like trustworthiness, sincerity, responsibility, commitment, a caring nature and gratitude.
These values are some of the examples that form the core (teras) and absolute (mutlak) standard of the public service.
We are also reminded of our duty and loyalty to the government every time we sign official letters that explicitly state that we are carrying out our tasks under strict orders and abiding by the rules.
To ensure that government servants adhere to the public service standard, the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations, 1993 under Section V1 (Hukuman Tatatertib) provide:
l Penalties of conduct and behaviour found to be in breach of specified rules or tarnishing the image of the government service.
The regulations also include procedures for disciplinary action against them.
The documents as points of reference state that every government servant must be subservient to the government of the day.
How is the act of subservience instilled in all government servants?
Our government sees the answer in educating government servants and ensuring that values and ethics are observed at all times.
The values and culture promoted in the Malaysian public service are based on the following:
l To set a meaningful direction to guide the thinking, action and behaviour of the public employees so that they can fulfil their responsibility and trust in the assigned jobs;
l To foster integration and coordination among public servants;
l To inculcate values and ethics of the public service which form the absolute standard in motivating government servants to serve the nation with sincerity and excellence.
Based on the rationale above, an on-going effort to groom efficient, trustworthy public servants to effect the implementation of national policies is made.
From 1970 the Rukunegara spelt out five principles for good citizenship which are: Belief in God, Loyalty to the King and Country, Upholding the Constitution, Rule of Law and Good Behaviour to inspire good conduct and positive values.
Other major measures taken to enhance the integrity of the public service included the Excellent Service Guidelines (1978), The Clock-in System (1982) ; The Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy Campaign (1982); Leadership by Example (1983); Assimilation of Islamic Values (1985); The National Education Policy (1988), Conduct in the Teaching Professionand Vision 2020 (1991).
If practised effectively, such efforts should bring about quality public service and individual excellence.
Upon reflection, it can be said our government has done a good job in bringing and maintaining peace, unity, stability and prosperity in our country over the years.
Despite the achievements, those helming the Malaysian public service are aware that the effectiveness of the efforts taken, may not have reached the government servants at all levels of administration.
The public service provisions on discipline and conduct should be applied stringently without fear or favour to effect positive results.
I suggest we commit ourselves to “ethics assurance” with the leaders setting an example and monitoring the practice through audit reviews and ethical behaviour, so that their subordinates will realise how committed and serious they are.
Our government must continue working towards arriving at the highest ethical standard and sustain it because if we are to successfully compete globally in the future, we need to understand that being world-class does not begin and end with building world-class facilities.
Being world class
We need, above all else, world-class management and working practice.
The public service commands influence over the nation’s development and prosperity.
Hence, it is incumbent upon every government servant to be subservient to the government of the day by practising the stipulated values and ethical standards because we are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit and this is summed up very nicely by Confucius when he said that:
“If we lead people by laws and then regulate with penalties, there will be no sense of shame.
“If we lead by virtue and then circumscribe them with proper rules of conduct, they will develop a sense of shame and hence become good citizens.”
Let us work together with our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to realise Vision 2020 and make Malaysia a country of excellence, glory and distinction just like what’s said in the popular song Oh Malaysia.
On that happy note, I wish all readers a great weekend.
* The writer, Datuk Mary Yap is Deputy Education Minister. Connect with her via Twitter @maryyapkc and Facebook.com/maryyapkainching The STAR Home News Education Sunday September 28, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM