Tyranny of the M’sian bureaucracy

From: Politikus
Subject: Tyranny of the M’sian bureaucracy


During the last few days we have had two clear examples of how
tyrannical and vicious the Malaysian bureaucracy can be, and how
unyielding it is to any reform measures or initiatives. This Mr Hyde
side of the Malaysian bureaucracy is not the usual dark side that the
Malaysian public is familiar with – one associated with inefficiency,
laziness, poor service, abuse of power or corruption.

It is one that is part and parcel of the hidden racially-charged
context of our institutions and it smacks of the ideology of Malay
dominance – or even Malay supremacy – that the civil service has come
to personify. This is the dark side that is generally kept away from
public scrutiny and accountability, not only because it runs against
the grain of what a modern, progressive and representative civil
service is, but also because it is regarded as politically incorrect
to discuss or analyze it.

The first example appeared just two weeks ago when a courageous
whistleblower, Dr Selvaa Vathany, a doctor from the Orang Asli
Affairs Department (JHEOA) Hospital, Gombak made startling claims of
rampant malpractice, misappropriation of resources and other
wrongdoings by the hospital staff and associated agencies of
government dealing with the Orang Asli.

Dr Selvaa is not your ordinary whistleblower. Providing details on
the importance of healthcare and medical assistance for the Orang Asli
– their children are 15 times more likely to die from malnourishment
compared to other children – she revealed that for entire communities
“essentials given out are limited to one to two bottles of cooking
oil, six to eight tins of canned food, two packets of 400g Milo, 15 to
20 small packets of milk powder, 10 to 20 diapers, two bottles of
detergent and 10 to 20 pairs of slippers, per visit. These are
distributed at random …. If the villagers are lucky, distribution
could be as frequent as once in every two to three months”.

She noted that “a tin of infant milk is divided into six small packets
with 15 to 20 packets distributed to a village of between 250 to 500

All of this is strong circumstantial evidence that resources meant for
Orang Asli communities are hijacked, possibly by the very people
entrusted with the responsibility of distributing them to these
vulnerable groups.

In her press conference, she also pointed to an institutional defect
in which individuals without medical training and incapable of
following Health Ministry protocols and standards were made hospital
administrators and were appointed from the Rural and Regional
Development Ministry.

Most tellingly, she pointed to an extensive cover-up of the scandal
with little or no follow-up to the complaints made to the Prime
Minister’s Department, Rural and Regional Development Ministry, Health
Ministry, Chief Secretary, Public Service Department and Malaysian
Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The only follow-up that has taken place appears to have been the
thuggish and unacceptable response of the team from the Rural and
Regional Development Ministry who “questioned the complaint… made by
the Orang Asli in an unprofessional manner”, and threatened and
attempted to intimidate them.

For her professionalism and integrity in speaking out on behalf of a
marginalized and impoverished community, Dr Selvaa is now being
transferred to Kedah where presumably she will be left to rot and to
rue her courageous challenge of the status quo.

Outsiders controlling the Orang Asli

The second example also relates to the Orang Asli and it concerns the
response of the Orang Asli Affairs Department to the demand for
increased representation at the management level in government
agencies formed to handle Orang Asli affairs.

According to the group raising these concerns, the JHEOA is staffed by
over-80 percent non-Orang Asli, resulting in decisions not favourable
to their needs and the marginalization of Orang Asli voices in
important policies that affect their livelihoods.

This is not the first time that such concerns have been raised. During
the past 50 years we have had a constant stream of written petitions,
memoranda, press statements, expert reports and academic work that
have drawn attention to the way in which the government has violated
the basic rights of the Orang Asli and analyzed how the JHEOA and
associated government agencies have been the main instruments for
control and repression of the community.

In response, the Government has simply ignored them or opted for
delaying tactics.

In this particular instance, in typical foot-dragging response, the
department’s Director-General Mohd Sani Mistram said that the group
should have gone through the “proper channels” to air their grievances
and that it was an “internal matter” between the Orang Asli and the

Both these cases – the punishment meted out to a whistleblower and the
cold shoulder treatment of legitimate Orang Asli grievances –
epitomize how dangerous it is for our democratic system to remain
silent or passive in the face of an increasingly out of touch and
unrepresentative civil service. They are the tip of the iceberg of
many unexposed and undisclosed abuses that needs to be put in the
spotlight of public scrutiny.

At the end of the day, the most effective public scrutiny that can
realistically have an immediate impact on these cases of rogue
individuals and agencies of the civil service that are throttling the
Orang Asli is that coming from Malay intelligentsia and Malay civil

Indeed, some Malay colleagues have shown goodwill in helping the Orang
Asli to correct some of the “historical injustices” that have been
perpetrated on the original inhabitants of the Peninsula. It could
make a difference if Malay leaders are willing to take up the case of
Dr Selvaa and stop her victimization by the Ministry of Rural and
Regional Development.

At the same time, more Malaysians of conscience need to step up to the
plate if the Orang Asli community is to regain their rightful place in
the country.

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