KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today that he insisted on appointing a senior civil servant to head the Customs Department despite objections to the latter’s Indian ethnicity.
Speaking to over 2,000 MIC delegates here, Najib said that it would have been unfair to overlook Datuk Subromaniam Tholasy, who is the most senior government officer, in favour of another candidate, on the grounds of racial preference.
“I don’t mind telling you that the appointment of the director-general of Customs was marred by difficulties. I received a petition to not appoint an Indian as the Customs director-general. I said no. He qualifies due to seniority. I stood my ground.
After admitting that he had “received a petition” to not appoint Subromaniam, he continued: “I told the Agong that we must appoint Datuk Subromaniam as the director-general for Customs. It’s only fair not to deny an Indian who is already in a senior role the right to become a director-general, or a department head. We must always stand for a fair and just government.”
In March, Subromaniam was appointed as the new director-general of the Customs Department.
His appointment came despite a non-governmental organisation allegedly petitioning for the post to go to a Malay candidate.
The former deputy director-general of enforcement at the department succeeded Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad who retired on March 20.
A group called the Malaysia International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) had allegedly submitted a memorandum to the Yang diPertuan Agong calling for a Malay candidate, the current Customs deputy director-general Datuk Zulkifli Yahya, succeed Khazali.
The alleged memorandum sighted by Malay Mail Online and dated March 20, 2017 stated that MHO preferred Zulkifli as he was Malay, Kelantanese and would be the best candidate when it came to protecting the interests of Malays and Muslims in Malaysia.
The memorandum added that Zulkifli’s appointment would also “indirectly” ensure that the Islamic agenda within the Customs Department would be preserved.
The group denied sending the memorandum to the Agong.
Shortly after the denial, Istana Negara confirmed receiving the document from the MHO, but declined to comment on its contents.