Rise of the new Little Napoleons?

JULY 24 — A senior minister recently sacked a newly-appointed official in his ministry after the latter attempted to get rid of two other officers.

The official, who had been in the minister’s office for only a month, was caught telling the other officers that they would need to vacate their posts since they were political appointees and do not fit in the new Pakatan Harapan government – even invoking the name of prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

His actions were not sanctioned by the minister who upon receiving complaints of this high-handedness and over-reach, immediately gave the rogue official his marching orders.

Sources in Putrajaya said this official acted beyond his powers as the staff whom he was trying to terminate did not even report to him. 

So now, apart from losing his job he could also face a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) probe for abuse of power.

Kudos to the minister for nipping the problem in the bud. One cannot allow such power trips, especially in this era of “New Malaysia” where it has been proven that the people will kick out politicians and even an entire government if they are perceived to be corrupt, abusive and a law unto themselves.

With the new ministers come new faces in the various ministries and layers of administrators who overnight find themselves in positions of power and influence.

While many take these new positions with huge doses of humility and responsibility, there are those who are unsure of how to conduct themselves as the increased size of their heads seem to cloud their better judgement and block memories that not too long ago they were on the streets as part of the movement for a better nation.

Suddenly they are getting phone calls and requests for meetings from people with honorifics preceding their names. Suddenly businessmen are seeking appointments and promising rewards to facilitate meetings or make an introduction to the new ministers.

Several of these individuals who have just moved to their ivory towers in Putrajaya — who were once humble and media-friendly — are now placing conditions on the media in interviewing or seeking to meet their bosses.

Where once they used to beg for coverage, these individuals have now ring-fenced their newly-minted ministers and deputy ministers.

It is learnt from some members of the media that at least one minister has apologised for one of his officers, following complaints by journalists that the person was rude, abrasive and does not respond to media queries.

The transformation was almost overnight.

While their bosses have largely remained the same persons they were before taking office, it seems that these new pseudo Yang Berhormats have adopted new attitudes as they switch from T-shirts to suits.

Several have even demanded high salary packages and perks such as a car, probably feeling they are entitled to these rewards for the sacrifices endured.

There have also been complaints of some of these new aides lording over civil servants, which have resulted in a tense and ruffled civil service.

One hopes we are not seeing a repackaged version of the dreaded “Fourth Floor Boys (and Girls)”... that unelected bunch who ran the country by interference.

May 9 was unprecedented for many including members of the new administration. But while they are elected and their words and conduct are open to public scrutiny, those who assist and represent them are somewhat shielded.

It is in these shadows that new demons emerge. Here new deals are made, policies are frustrated, and manifestos and election promises reneged upon.

The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) for instance is one entity that is constantly under scrutiny. Their role is meant to be advisory; to facilitate the work of the ministries and newly-minted ministers.

They are not an extension of the prime minister and should not and cannot be issuing instructions to the appointed ministers.

So, who is watching the CEP and its influential gatekeepers who decide who gets to meet the council to present their case?

The majority of the people did not vote in Pakatan Harapan so that it can be business as usual, or in the case of the CEP, business unusual.

While the new elected leaders run the country, it is also imperative that they keep their own houses in order, and ensure that those representing them uphold the same standards of ethical and moral behavior that the electorate expects of our Yang Berhormats.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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