After grouses about civil service, Daim tells ministers that trust is a two-way street

Daim said civil servants have complained to him that political appointees appeared to hold the reins to some ministries, which he said was further alienating the public workers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Daim said civil servants have complained to him that political appointees appeared to hold the reins to some ministries, which he said was further alienating the public workers. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Pakatan Harapan ministers must learn to trust and depend on the civil service regardless of their continued suspicions about the latter, Tun Daim Zainuddin said.

The former finance minister and advisor to the prime minister said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that civil servants have told him that the current crop of ministers was sidelining them and using third-parties to replicate their functions.

“Now you (PH ministers) are in government. When you are in government, you have to deliver. You cannot deliver by yourself, the civil servants are the implementers, not you,” Daim was quoted as saying.

“You plan policies, then you say [to the civil servants], take over. (If) you don’t trust them, they just sit down.”

Daim said civil servants have complained to him that political appointees appeared to hold the reins to some ministries, which he said was further alienating the public workers.

When pressed to say if there was any truth to some ministers’ claims that they were being sabotaged by their own officials, the chairman of the defunct Council of Eminent Persons said he could not be certain.

What he was sure of was the inevitable doom of PH ministers who cannot or will not come to depend on their own officials.

“Without them... you are dead,” he emphatically.

He told the ministers, many of whom are holding federal portfolios for the first time, that the civil service was a monolithic entity that has been around since the days of the British and will be around long after them.

Daim further said that PH leaders must learn to be constructive instead of focusing on undoing the policies of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, pointing out to them that these were now effectively their policies as the government of the day.

The country must also continue to pay its sizeable civil service workforce whether the unnamed PH ministers put them to work or allowed them to continue idling, he said.

“I have been telling them — you like it or not, there are 1.6 million civil servants. And we are paying them every day. Can you imagine? One, plus wife. Plus one child.”

The civil service is also a valuable source of votes that PH could not afford to alienate.

After initially claiming sabotage by civil servants, PH has softened its tone in recent days.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also been spearheading a charm offensive to convince the civil service to shift its loyalties to PH as the government of the day.