Ex-CJ calls for review on rules against civil servants’ political involvement

Former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi suggests that all government servants must be prohibited to register as a member of any political party. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi suggests that all government servants must be prohibited to register as a member of any political party. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 ― Former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi called for The Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 to be amended to tighten rules against political involvement of public servants and employees of statutory bodies and GLCs.

At the moment, he said Malaysian civil servants were not totally prohibited from participating in party politics with those below a certain rank being allowed to hold positions up to a certain level, while those above certain positions were not.

He said the duty to observe reserve in politics did not also apply to those in GLCs with this freedom often leading the employees in GLCs to indirectly participate in partisan politics.

“I wish to suggest that all government servants must be prohibited to even register as a member of any political party. If he or she wishes to be one, he or she should resign from being a civil servant,” he said in a statement, today.

Zaki was commenting on the recent media report that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has admonished senior civil servants who went overboard to support the former Barisan Nasional government at the last General Election.

He added that a new Code of Political Ethics for civil servants must also be drawn up and perhaps, a Commission should be set up to re-look into the rules and practices of the public sector that hindered meritocracy, clean government, multiracialism, inclusive development and economic growth.

“Public servants must be loyal to the new government and implement its policy and if they have any problem about complying with it, they should resign. They must distinguish between loyalty to political parties and to the government,” he said.

Zaki who was a civil servant for 15 years said civil servants lacked such an ethos perhaps due to the uninterrupted 61-year rule of the same party at the federal level.

“After having been under the same coalition government for so long, perhaps our civil servants have lost that understanding of how they are supposed to act, particularly the younger ones,” he said.

He said civil servants should obey the lawful political wishes of whomever was in power and serve governments of any party with the same degree of commitment but, at the same time, they must exhibit political impartiality.

“They must not campaign for or against a political party. It need not be said that they must not misuse state resources or state powers for partisan political purposes. They must act in the interest of the government and no other alternative public interest,” he added.

Zaki further said that civil service neutrality casts duties not only on civil servants but also on ministers.

He said ministers should articulate clear goals and strategies for the ministry and provide guidance to public officials to deliver results.

“Unfortunately sometimes the policies are not clearly expressed. At the same time, the political leaders must protect civil servants from political interference and must not involve them in political activities or debates,” he said .

Zaki said politics is the realm of the minister, policy is the land of the civil servant. ― Bernama

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