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Malaysia 101: Fine Dealing With Some Two Minded Civil Servants

slogan najib civil servant

(“People First, Performance Now,” says the PM where slogans like this look good on paper but matter little to civil servants who suppose to be upholding such slogans. Image source: Slides Share)

With the advent of technology, my wife having a car on her own and me having to fly out very often, it has been some time since I had to face a civil servant for something really important.

A long time ago when I went to attend some matters at the Land Office, I was reminded not to go very early as it will be time for these civil servants to have their “after the start of work” breakfast. So, there is no point in trying to be the first in line. And if one goes to the counter, one would see perhaps 1 – 2 counters opened very early in the morning.

You will also notice that there are people behind other counters but they are too busy with their chit-chat or promoting their side business. I even saw one lady busy with knitting instead of attending to the public who been patiently waiting for their turn.

Angry looks from the impatient public did not move this lady from putting down her knitting kits and start working.

I thought these were a thing of the past, (and it is for most departments – there have been plenty of improvements over the last few years) until I had no choice but to drive up and hand over a document to a civil servant last week.

After checking with the old security guard at the front (on who to meet), I walked up to the office – with the documents in my hands and anticipating what would be the reaction from the civil servant that I suppose to meet.

As I entered the main door, I noticed no one was around to greet me. I look up and noticed 3 civil servants busy chit-chatting (thank god, it was not time for breakfast). As I waited at the front, I noticed the 3 civil servants were still busy chit-chatting.

One of them looked up and noticed me standing at the front. He noticed I had a document in my hands and I was looking for someone. We made eye contact and for a moment there, I seriously thought that he would walk up to the front and asked what I wanted. But unfortunately, no such thing happened. To my surprise, he went back to his chit chat and completely ignored me.

I got angry and walked in straight towards him. Just before I could reach him, I noticed a lady who was practically lying on the table – must be tired from the fasting, I guess. She must have heard me coming – she slowly “woke” up and looked at me. I stopped in front of her and gave her the document that I was holding and explained why I was there.

She walked back to the front and started to take out a large register and a couple of documents to cross-check with my document. Despite the initial tidak apa” attitude, the lady was very polite and managed to get done with my document fast. Perhaps the absence of other members of the public somehow expedited the transaction.

As I walked out, passing the old security guard, I wondered which part of “People First, Performance Now” that I have missed. Perhaps, like the unlucky ones who get great cars that do not have working power windows, this encounter with a civil servant who doesn’t give a damn must have been a rare, rare encounter.

But just how effective the “People First, Performance Now” slogan have worked in all levels of the government? Don’t mind the politicians – they are good at making slogans but have a shitty record practising them.

People first, performance now is a noble idea and if given the right push, it can spell wonders to Malaysia and Malaysians but if it gets screwed at the bottom of the “implementation” is nothing to shout about, then Najib’s 1Malaysia concept and slogan are as good as Pak Lah’s “Don’t work for me, but work with me” slogan.

And we all know how that went, right?

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