‘Sad day when PM had to defend Customs D-G’s appointment’

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PETALING JAYA: A recent revelation by the prime minister that he had stood his ground in the face of protests over the appointment of T Subromaniam as the Customs director-general, does not speak well for the independence of the civil service, says a former prominent civil servant.

Ramon Navaratnam, the former secretary-general of the transport ministry, commenting on remarks by Najib Razak at the recent MIC general assembly, said it was a sad reflection of the times that an appointment endorsed by the top leaders of the civil service, including the chief secretary to the government and the treasury secretary-general, had to be defended.

“This appointment was made upon due diligence by all leaders,” Ramon told FMT. “It is also unfortunate that some people want to interfere with the appointments.

“It is a relatively new phenomenon which did not exist in my time.”

He said Najib’s intervention as well as that of “some political party” showed the civil service was not as independent as it should be.

Addressing MIC members last Sunday, Najib said that Subromaniam was selected as he was the most qualified senior officer in the Customs.

But he revealed that the appointment had been met with protests.

Ramon said the integrity of the civil service would be adversely affected if politicians felt they should have a say in the career prospects of civil servants, especially the senior ones.

“Public confidence and trust in the civil service will decline if this trend continues.

Subromaniam took over as the Customs director-general from Khazali Ahmad on March 24. He was previously Customs deputy director-general (enforcement and compliance).

The 58-year-old, with more than 33 years’ experience in the civil service, started his career as a customs enforcement officer in 1984.

Earlier this year, a letter allegedly from the Malaysia International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) claimed that the NGO had tried to lobby the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a Malay to be appointed to the position.

MHO secretary-general Hishamuddin Hashim denied submitting such a petition to the king.