Fear and loathing in Putrajaya redux - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, September 10, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” ― Laurence J Peter, educator and author
COMMENT | While the White House is in a state of fear regarding the anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times
about the dysfunction in the Trump administration and the so-called
“resistance” attempting to stymie the US president’s more egregious
agendas, the opposite thing is happening in this country.
While I am not someone who makes excuses for the Harapan
administration when it comes to their reform agenda, Prime Minister Dr
Mahathir Mohamad is correct when he says that there are officials in
Putrajaya who are purposely stalling the administrative policies of the
new regime. There are a couple of points worth considering.
The first is the lack of experience
of some of the ministers appointed. Much has been said about the “Call
me bro” youth and sports minister, the education minister who wants more
responsibility - or is that prestige? - but has no real reform agenda
when it comes to one of the more important portfolios of this country,
the defence minister who likes to cook, and of course, the finance
minister who can’t seem to get enough of exposing the scandals of the
past administration and nodding to whatever the prime minister says.
Fulfilling campaign promises is one thing but more damaging is a lack
of vision of many of these ministers. Besides Gobind Singh Deo (photo)
who seems to actually have a vision of what his Communications and
Multimedia Ministry can accomplish and Transport Minister Anthony Loke,
who you may disagree with some of the things he has done - at least,
they are doing things when it comes to their ministries and not
attempting to define their ministries by their polemics against the
While this is an important point, it should not detract from what I
consider the bigger point - and what the prime minister rightly points
out - the sub rosa moves by bureaucrats to hamper the progress of
Harapan regime. I have been doing my own snooping around, calling
contacts serving and retired, and there is a definitely a conspiracy of
sorts to destabilise the Harapan government from within.
One example I put much stock in is when serving and retired state
security personnel tell me that there is a movement within the Defence
Ministry to “contain” the popular Mohamad Sabu (photo). This
means different things to people but the general idea is that reform
within the security services comes with the price of exposing the
corruption, collusion and god knows what else, which ironically could
prove to be a threat to national security.
Can you imagine what would happen if forces domestic and foreign,
ever discover how compromised our state security apparatus is? So we get
all these “investigations” which go nowhere and an inexperienced
minister who is grappling not only with his administrative duties but
also his political ones, believing that things are running smoothly.
In reality, the petty fiefdoms in the state security apparatus are
making moves to conceal buried secrets that could not only bring them
ruination but everyone in the food chain.
Furthermore, some minions actually resent that there is a new
government. This resentment, depending on the cabal, is based on racism
or religious bigotry. Years of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) horse manure
has created a culture that views any “interloping” by non-Malay
political operatives other than from BN as trespassing on the provinces
of the ‘ketuanan’ types.
No doubt, the propaganda of a New Malaysia rattles their precious
sensibilities and these people are ever ready to demonstrate that the
bureaucracy can strike back. One recently retired government official
told me that these people not only resort to stalling but also hiding
relevant documents, misdirecting new and inexperienced aides and
attempting to portray everything done by the new Harapan regime as a
This, of course, does not take into account what I call the deep
Islamic state and their operatives, who are considering working with the
committed Islamists within Pakatan Harapan and carrying out their
obligations for their handlers within Umno. Whispering into the ears of
easily-rattled Harapan political operatives of the precarious nature of
the Harapan alliance when it comes to the Malay vote, they advance an
Islamic agenda which is at odds with the supposed “secular” agenda of
the new Harapan regime.
However, if you think that this is all Umno’s fault, you are naive.
The infighting within Harapan contributes immensely to the hampering of
the reform agenda. My comrade, Malaysiakini columnist Hishamuddin Rais (photo) may have ruffled some feathers when it comes to his writings, but he is more often correct than wrong when it comes to the machinations of the political elites.
There are elements within the bureaucracy who have decided to take
sides and the infighting within Harapan plays out in how policy is
carried out in Putrajaya. Various fiefdoms have erupted like boils
within various ministries where busy factotums carry out the agendas of
the Harapan political elite and this sometimes includes frustrating
As one frustrated political operative lamented that she has to watch
her back when it comes to the bureaucracy because not only has she to
worry about the flotsam and jetsam of the former Umno regime, which
includes agents of MCA and MIC, but she has to be wary of not stepping
on the toes of her political higher-ups who are wrestling for dominance
in various ministries.
A still serving low-level bureaucrat in Putrajaya candidly told me
that he is impressed that Harapan has been able to accomplish some of
the reforms they promised because with all the crap thrown their way by
their infighting and elements from the previous regime, it is remarkable
that they are able to function.
Another source said, if only Mahathir was younger and had the support
of a committed base, he would whip the government into shape. He has
preoccupations which are political in nature which are hampering what he
needs to do with the government, this near-retiring source claims.
This, of course, is all part of the political culture in Malaysia
which is Umno-based and something that people in Harapan, who are
actually interested in reform, have to contend with. Coupled with their
inexperience, they find it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy which
is at war for itself and with itself.