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Only worthy civil servants should be selected to serve overseas

A Malaysian embassy abroad

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Criteria should be drawn up stipulating the prerequisites that a civil servant aspiring to represent the country abroad must have, such as having an exemplary record, writes Benedict Lopez.

Fortunate civil servants are given the honour and privilege to serve the country overseas be it in the diplomatic service from Wisma Putra or in other government agencies.

When a civil servant is selected to represent the country abroad, he or she has to maintain a favourable opinion of the country and uphold a positive image of Malaysia’s public service.

Many civil servants posted abroad have been a credit to the country, and some have done yeoman’s service to the nation. When the occasion warranted it, they exhibited their mettle by responding sharply and quickly during difficult times, especially when asked about certain issues happening back home.

These diplomats of repute to our country often mingle well and attend functions in the countries they are posted, frequently and eloquently putting forward the government’s policies and point of view on a host of issues. Very astutely, they are able to circumvent sensitive issues. They also attend functions at other embassies and interact well with their fellow diplomats and society-at-large.

Unfortunately, blended with the respectable civil servant are those who look upon a posting overseas as a break from the routine and mundane chores of the daily duties expected from them at home. A few when posted overseas give flimsy excuses not to attend official events and functions.

Some even adopt a laid-back attitude and look forward to enjoying certain perks and bringing home a Mercedez Benz, BMW or Volovo. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as it is a privilege given to a diplomat serving abroad who is allowed to buy a car exempted from duty and bring it back home upon return. But a tax has to be paid once it is brought back to Malaysia.

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To our credit, very few civil servants posted overseas have tarnished the image of the country overseas through their misdemeanours and transgressions.

Civil servants posted overseas should be imbued with the virtues of diligence, sincerity, integrity, passion and dedication. Mandarins in the civil service must ensure that only those worthy of a posting overseas should be given this opportunity. On occasions, apple polishers have been selected over those worthy of an overseas posting and have no recourse to channel their grievances.

It would be a good idea if the Public Services Department appoints an ombudsman to look into the grievances of good civil servants who have been unfairly overlooked. This would give a ray of hope for good performers in the civil service that justice may be delayed but justice would not be denied.

Criteria should be drawn up stipulating the prerequisites that a civil servant aspiring to represent the country abroad must have, such as having an exemplary record.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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