Exposure of racial imbalance in composition of state’s civil service raises calls to address thorny issue
KUCHING: The revelation of racial imbalance in the state’s civil service frontpaged by The Borneo Post on Friday has brought to the fore an issue that many are aware of but refrained from bringing it up in public.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing in response to the report said he had actually talked and wrote to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem on the issue soon after he took office two years ago.
“I said we needed to have a civil service that reflected the social fabric of Sarawak society, without sacrificing its quality. I attached the details of the state civil service with my letter. I did it just to remind him that the road ahead would not be easy.
“But I am confident that in the next five years Adenan will tackle this matter with fairness because he is a fair man.”
Masing added that promotions should not be entirely left to the State Secretary or the agencies concerned as the make-up of the state’s civil service must have political input because it was based on political government.
“The quality of government depends not only on politicians but also on government servants. The government’s KPI (Key Performance Index) is under scrutiny, at least once every five years, and as such we (government) must give directions including recruitment of government officers. And politicians have a bigger stake in ‘righting’ the wrong. I am sure the State Secretary’s Office understands this modus operandi.”
When asked if Dayak and Chinese leaders had contributed to the current imbalance, Masing admitted that by their inaction in the past and present, they had indirectly been parties to the present situation.
“Yes, indeed we are. And if we want to have a civil service which reflects Sarawak and its people and the quality therein, we must make amends. It will take time. I understand. But we must be seen, now, to make amends and moving toward a fair and just society. Sate Secretary office and the politicians must work together to redress this imbalance. The sooner the better,” added Masing.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who also responded to the exposure, said he would need to look at the information and statistics published together with other data for a balanced view.
“Firstly, we need a more detailed information on the breakdown of the state’s civil service and so on. Maybe we have to look at the bigger picture of the state’s civil service, which will include not only the management group but also the support group. Then, we also have to look at the government agencies and the GLCs (government-linked companies) as well,” Uggah told thesundaypost.
He added that if the latest information and statistics indicated that there was indeed such imbalance in the civil service, government agencies and GLCs, then he and other Dayak leaders would discuss the matter with Adenan and State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani.
“I am confident that the chief minister will, if there is indeed an issue, address it. This has been proven by his encompassing policies in the last two years since he took over (as chief minister).
“A case in point was the appointment of another Dayak – Ken Leben as the director of Immigration Department. It is the result of his (Adenan’s) intervention. We have raised the matter to him and he was adamant that another Dayak should take over the job from outgoing director of Immigration Datu Robert Lian,” explained Uggah.
However, Uggah hoped that nobody would exploit the issue as it could create racial tension among the people.
“Lets’ look at it in a mature way and we must also understand that this issue will not be resolved overnight,” Uggah pointed out.
Meanwhile, Minister of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Datuk Fatimah Abdullah disclosed that her ministry had been doing academic research on how to make the state’s civil service more inclusive, that it would not just based on race but would also include gender equality, the handicapped, as well as the various age groups.
“My ministry is looking at the bigger perspective for the wellbeing of the people in Sarawak. We have to have an inclusive policy in the hope of making everyone happy,” she stressed.
Second Minister of Finance, Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh pointed out that the shortcomings in the state’s civil service must be rectified to reflect the chief minister’s policy of inclusiveness.
“He is the chief minister for all races, so we hope that he would do what is right and necessary for all the people in Sarawak,” he said.
Wong also recommended a target on the racial composition should be set to ensure a fair distribution of job opportunities for all races in the civil service government agencies and GLCs.
Meanwhile, it is learned from the Chief Minister’s Department that the State Secretary will discuss with the Chief Minister on the issue before making his statement.