Wednesday, February 5, 2014


So, Khalid Ibrahim is going to be removed because of the various problems he is facing in Selangor and which he cannot seem to resolve. And Anwar Ibrahim is going to replace Khalid as the Menteri Besar so that all these problems can be resolved. And in one stroke all the problems in Selangor are going to go away.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
One of my favourite satires used to be (and still is) ‘Yes Minister’. Later it became ‘Yes Prime Minister’. It is certainly very British and those more tuned to American slapstick-style comedy would probably find it a bit too dry. But then that is British comedy for you.

The funny part about this satire, other than its very clever wordplay, is the fact that it is very close to the truth. It is not exaggerated like some of these modern satires and comedies. It is actually real life. That is what makes ‘Yes Minister’ so hilarious. The British have always known how to laugh at themselves and they say that good comedy is making fun of yourself rather than making fun of others.
My favourite character is actually the British Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (played by Nigel Hawthorne), who always twists and turns and tries to sabotage the Minister, ‘Yang Berhormat’ Jim Hacker (played by Paul Eddington). Caught in between these two is the Minister’s Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley (played by Derek Fowlds), who needs to tread very carefully and not get killed in the crossfire.
Basically, a politician will always be a politician, as MP Jim Hacker shows, and he conjures various schemes on how he can come out with policies that will further his political career. Most of these schemes, however, may not be favourable to the civil service. So Sir Humphrey needs to put obstacles in the Minister’s way to thwart all these moves.
The question is: who is really running the government? Is it the politicians or is it the civil service? The politicians think that they are running the government. The civil service has to make the politicians think that they are running the government. But behind the scenes the civil service is the one that decides how things are done and what policies should be formulated.
As far as the civil service is concerned, politicians come and go while the civil service will always be around. But then the politicians have certain powers and authority, although temporarily. So it is not wise to antagonise the politicians who can make life difficult for you. What the civil service needs to do is to allow the politicians to think that they are in charge but at the same time subtly keep them in their place and sabotage their moves without it being seen like it is an act of sabotage.
Eventually, the Minister will leave and a new Minister will come along but the civil service will always be there to make sure that this new Minister does not really run the government just like what happened with all the Ministers before that.
And that is what the satire ‘Yes Minister’ is all about (and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ as well).
PAS has been running the state of Kelantan for more than 23 years. You would imagine that after almost 24 years in power PAS, by now, would have a tight grip on the state civil service. But they do not. It may not be so bad now as it was in the first ten years. But PAS never had and never will have absolute control over the Kelantan Civil Service. This, the PAS leaders themselves admit.
The only plus point is that Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who ran Kelantan as the Menteri Besar for more than two decades, is much respected, not so much as a Menteri Besar but as a Tok Guru. Even the kaki gedebeh (gangsters) at the Kota Bharu taxi stand who do not pray and indulge in all forms of ‘un-Islamic’ activities have great respect for Nik Aziz and if were to insult Tok Guru in front of these people you would get punched in the face.
If anyone else other than Nik Aziz had been the Menteri Besar, PAS would not have lasted 24 years in Kelantan. PAS Kelantan is Nik Aziz and Nik Aziz is PAS Kelantan. It is Nik Aziz rather than PAS that managed to defend Kelantan from the onslaught by Umno. And that is why it was very difficult to replace Nik Aziz before this. To do so would mean PAS would be giving the state back to Umno.
I remember in 1999, during the Reformasi days, I made a trip to Terengganu, a place I had called home for 20 years from 1974 to 1994. I visited my old friends (some of them ‘Old Boys’ of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar) in the state government and state government agencies like the SEDC.
“What are you doing here?” they asked me. “Are you coming here to campaign? No need to campaign here lah. We are going to give the state to PAS. So don’t waste your time in Terengganu. Go campaign on the west coast.”
In November of that same year they did give the state to PAS. Hence what these civil servants and government officers said did come true.
I met all these same people again just before the 2004 general election. But this time they were no longer gung ho like in 1999. They lamented about the lack of development. They complained that they were earning less over the last five years because the state had no money so outstation trips had been stopped — hence no additional allowances and claims. They now had to survive just on their salaries and no one could survive just on their salaries alone.
We have no choice but to give back the state to Umno, they told me. And they did exactly that in the March 2004 general election.
These were not the kampung people whom I met and spoke with. They were not fishermen and farmers, the bulk of the voters in Terengganu. They were the civil servants and government officers, those in the GLCs included. When they told me in 1999 that they were going to give the state to PAS it happened. And when they told me in 2004 that they were going to give the state back to Umno it also happened. Hence, just like in ‘Yes Minister’, is it the politicians or is it the civil service that decides things?
When Pakatan Rakyat first took Selangor in 2008 I spoke to Ronnie Liu of DAP. He asked me what EXCO portfolio he should take. It was hinted that they might give him the portfolio involving foreign investments. I told him to not waste his time with all that nonsense. Take local government, I said, because that is the most important job when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of the voters. If the local councils do not perform then Pakatan Rakyat is going to be in deep shit. All it needs is for the rubbish to be not collected on time and that alone can get the voters angry.
The next thing I told him was to be careful of the civil service. The civil service can do a lot of damage to Pakatan Rakyat if you are not careful. Selangor has always been under Umno since Merdeka. Hence the mentality of the civil service is that Umno is the boss while Pakatan Rakyat is the usurper. So winning the hearts and minds of the civil servants is not easy. After 20 years in Kelantan PAS still cannot fully control the civil service (even though PAS had been ruling Kelantan for many years before that until 1978).
Therefore expect to face a hard time in Selangor. It will take more than ten years before the Selangor Civil Service can be ‘tamed’. And in the meantime expect various acts of sabotage against Pakatan Rakyat. The civil service will do all sorts of things to try to undermine Pakatan Rakyat. And ‘Yes Minister’ comes to mind when I say this.
So, Khalid Ibrahim is going to be removed because of the various problems he is facing in Selangor and which he cannot seem to resolve. And Anwar Ibrahim is going to replace Khalid as the Menteri Besar so that all these problems can be resolved. And in one stroke all the problems in Selangor are going to go away.
That may not be as easy as what we think. The message we are sending the Selangor Civil Service is that you have been messing with Pakatan Rakyat long enough. Khalid is not much of a politician and is too soft. So you can play games with him. But now Anwar is going to come in and straighten all you people out.
Is this Pakatan Rakyat’s declaration of war on the Selangor Civil Service? And if this is how the Selangor Civil Service views this, how do you think they are going to react? Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was one tough nut. He even declared war on the Rulers and the Judiciary. So the civil service is little league as far as Dr Mahathir was concerned. He kept them in their place and made them aware that he is the boss.
But that was Dr Mahathir. He was a dictator. He told the Rulers and the Judiciary what to do and if they did not do what he wanted he went for their throats. Is Anwar able to do the same in Selangor? The civil service was scared shit of Dr Mahathir. They are not scared of Anwar.
I support Anwar’s move to contest the Kajang by-election and after that replace Khalid as the Menteri Besar because I want to see how he handles the Selangor government machinery. Khalid is a better administrator than Anwar. Administration has never been Anwar’s strong point in all those years in government. When in government Anwar would bulldoze his way through and because he was number two to Dr Mahathir he would not meet much resistance. Today it is another matter.
Anwar said he advised Khalid on how to handle the various problems that Selangor was facing, in particular that concerning the government machinery. Yet Khalid did not do what Anwar advised. Is it that Khalid refused to do or could not do what Anwar advised because Anwar’s style would antagonise the civil service and make matters worse? Was Anwar asking Khalid to walk on egg shells or to break the egg shells? We were never given any specific details.
One issue that is of concern to most Malaysians is the Allah word issue and the confiscation of the Malay Bibles. Khalid is being blamed for this. Can Anwar handle the state religious authorities when Khalid could not? Did the religious authorities not bar Anwar from speaking at a mosque in Selangor last Friday and threaten to arrest him if he defied this ban?
This was Anwar, the incoming Menteri Besar. How can the Selangor state religious authority bar Anwar from speaking and threaten to arrest him? Is that not lawan taukay?
Anwar says he is going to make changes when he takes over as the Selangor Menteri Besar. So many heads are going to be chopped and heads of departments replaced. You cannot just sack the heads of the civil service. The civil service can bring down your government. You need to win them over. And if you have not been able to do that then you suffer the consequences.
This is going to be a most interesting four years up to the next general election probably in early 2018. We are going to see a battle of the wits between Anwar and the Selangor Civil Service. Anwar can rant and rave and threaten action. But the civil service will walk silently and carry a big stick and throw spanners in the works every step of the way.
That is the real problem that Pakatan Rakyat is facing in Selangor. And it was a problem that PAS faced in Kedah and is still facing after more than 20 years in Kelantan. And do you think DAP is not also facing the same problem in Penang? It is just that DAP does not talk about it because they have to make it appear like they are in total control in Penang. But they are not, really.

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