Let civil servants take the lead

EACH time during festivities like Hari Raya the unity theme gets a boost. Especially so under the guise of so-called “open houses” where the full house is touted as a sign of unity.

However at the TN50 dialogue with civil servants on May 31 when the concept of single-stream schools to strengthen unity was raised, it was described as sensitive and akin to a “political landmine”.

The proposal came from committed professionals who are familiar with the situation on the ground. Their concern was well-articulated given the diversity of experience across multisectors over a long period lending much credence to the suggestion. This is to be expected the moment the civil servants are truly empowered with trust and credibility to voice their deeper societal concern. It is no longer the archaic “saya yang menurut perintah” especially when the “perintah” is meant to promote or cover up some dubious decision.

Like all patriotic citizens they too felt compelled to protect the dignity of the country, and not so for any one or group of individuals who are known to abuse the system.

As a matter of respect, such aspirations must be taken up seriously and not filtered out prematurely or evaded for whatever reason including “political landmines”. Otherwise it defeats the very purpose of “listening to the people” and that the government still knows best, despite its claim that it is long over.

On the contrary, by returning the rightful role to the civil servants to take the lead in professionally solving major national issues, it will bring back the shine that was once our pride and joy. Then they acted as professional “advisers” to the politicians at all levels and were highly regarded for that. Their professional integrity was unquestionable, elevated well above the corruptible gutter politics that is fast becoming mainstream today.

Simply said, the current situation is a stark contradiction and in need of urgent rehabilitation. Thus it is not surprising to learn that many yearn to go back to how it used to be. And the golden opportunity is here and now with TN50 provided it is not just a talk shop for political expediency. Regretfully this is the general impression so far with comments like “political landmines” weighing in on the sceptics who believe nothing “transformative” is likely to happen if the politicians fear that they have much to lose. More so when the civil servants succeeded to deliver just that.

To a thinking citizen, however, the option is crystal clear. For argument’s sake let us buy the “political landmines” reason. In the short run it is a potent “gimmick” to meet short-term gains, while in the long run it is a social time bomb. It has been ticking long enough that a potential explosion is becoming more real each day. The civil servants know too well that if they do not defuse the “political landmines” soon, we will have to clean up an even messier social disaster in time to come. It is now eating up the social fabric at the very place where it should be strengthened, that is, in all our schools and universities. Instead it is hard to miss how things have deteriorated reflective of the convoluted partisan and racial politics, even when it comes to parliamentary debates.

To discerning professionals the writing on the wall is plain to see. The longer it is left to myopic political zero-sum thinking, the worse the situation will become. Likened to a malignant social cancer it has to be removed promptly before even the host is sacrificed because the social downside is becoming more real to many more people than ever before. In other words, by not dismantling the “political landmines” argument, the social time bomb version will easily manifest into reality.

Likewise by remaining in denial like disowning the issue of widespread “bullying” – it is destroying our future by the minute.

Now that the civil servants have courageously spoken of their concern publicly, they at once recognise that education is a vital game-changer to bring to life a truly unified multicultural Malaysian society once again. Indeed Unesco has long accepted that “to live together” is one of the four pillars of learning in the 21st century which we have in no uncertain terms put on hold politically for more than 60 years. And the situation has since worsened over the years not unexpectedly. It cannot get any worse without triggering events sooner than expected.

It is therefore only logical to give civil servants the chance they truly deserve to demystify the “political landmines”. It is time to prove their point professionally without any political interference of any sort. Let us welcome 1Malaysia beyond just the tired sloganeering. More importantly let’s get real!

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com