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Ramasamy lands in eye of storm

His remarks about reforms to the predominantly ethnic Malay civil service sparked an uproar

Photograph: mole.my

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Detractors are going after the scalp of Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy following his recent remarks about the need to reform the predominantly ethnic Malay civil service.

The Penang state assembly member for Perai, who said that the composition of the civil service should reflect the complexion of our diverse society, was echoing similar concerns expressed by Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg and G25 spokesperson and former diplomat Noor Farida Ariffin.

Johari argued that low salaries have discouraged the ethnic Chinese in the country from joining the civil service, while Noor Farida contended that a lack of opportunities for career advancement and racial discrimination have deterred the community.

Yet, critics singled out the Penang DAP deputy chairman for making similar statements. They called for his dismissal from government office while others insisted he made a public apology.

Granted that Ramasamy can be a loose cannon at times, but surely certain things he uttered deserve attention.

It is clearly open season on the man, especially for politicians from Malay-based parties who saw Ramasamy’s intervention as useful ammunition with which to attack the unity government generally and the DAP in particular in the run-up to elections in several states.

Bersatu vice-president Mohd Radzi Md Jidin jumped into the fray, saying Ramasamy’s statement was an insult to the Malays and the civil service.

The anti-Malay narrative comes in handy when attempting to make the DAP a punching bag, although it begs the question as to how calling for a proportionate (and fairer) ethnic representation in the civil service could be regarded as racist.

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Unless, of course, the supposed Malay dominance in the civil service is par for the course for Malay-Muslim nationalists – which is a bone of contention for Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim.

This explains why Perak Pas chairman Razman Zakaria has urged all quarters to respect the rights of Malays, which presumably include the “special right of the Malays in the civil service”.

Are we to assume from Razman’s assertion that the civil service, funded by taxpayers’ money, should be a Malay-only pillar of the government?

Political pragmatism also prompted a few members of the component parties of the present government, namely PKR, Amanah and Umno, to call for some action to be taken against Ramasamy as they were fearful of losing Malay votes – some of which come from civil servants – in the coming state elections. In other words, they didn’t want to spook the Malay electorate who might turn to the opposition Perikatan Nasional, which prides itself as a coalition that fervently protects and promotes Malay-Muslim interests and rights.

The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs), whose members number 1.2 million, too found it necessary to weigh in and defend the civil service, saying that the Malays in employment are qualified and competent.

Does this imply that not many non-Malays are qualified to get government jobs? Would this also explain why, for instance, not many non-Malays occupy such key positions in public universities as deans of faculties, let alone vice-chancellors – because they are less qualified and competent?

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One may argue that Pakatan Harapan politicians have to walk a tightrope given that their coalition partners have divergent views and interests, apart from having the opposition waiting in the wings to pounce. In other words, give the PH politicians some slack.

But then, it would mean that political expediency can result in the elephant in the room not being given due attention. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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