PM urged to allay concerns of political patronage at Intan

The 52 students were dropped from the National Public Administration Institution just two months shy of their graduation. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Selayang MP William Leong has urged the prime minister to intervene in the case of 52 post-graduate students who were let go from the National Public Administration Institution (Intan) just two months shy of their graduation last year.

Leong, who heads the major public appointments committee in Parliament, said the lack of explanation so far had led to the perception that the students were axed from the civil service programme due to “lack of political patronage or allegiance”.

“The civil service must be politically impartial. Unfortunately, there are some who view the axing of the students as an indication of the change in political masters demanding the same kind of political allegiance.

“This is a serious allegation or misperception which the Pakatan Harapan government must take immediate steps to refute,” he said.

The students were let go from the programme after failing to meet the passing grade, which was set three days before they were told to leave.

The group would have become administrative and diplomatic officers, a higher salaried rank, upon graduation.

Selayang MP William Leong.

They were part of a larger 86-member group pursuing their postgraduate diploma in public administration at Intan.

Four of the 52 had been contract staff who resigned from their day jobs in order to enrol in the course. Today, they remain unemployed.

Leong criticised Intan for “making a big deal” of the need to pass the “sahsiah” or personality component for commitment and discipline, noting that the group comprised five PhD students, 23 who were doing their master’s degrees, and 24 who were bachelor’s degree students.

He added that the students were mostly high achievers with a cumulative grade point average of 3.75 to 3.95 out of 4.

He questioned the 50% weightage given to the sahsiah component, saying there was no indication of how it would be graded.

“Without the rubric and discussions with the instructors, the participants were unable to assess their own progress and achievements towards the specific requirements and acceptable performance standards of the instructors,” he said.

He said the 52 had since been put in cold storage at their respective departments with their promotions put on hold.

He also claimed one had been demoted from a deputy director to a research officer, while another deputy dean had returned to her workplace to find that her position “no longer exists”.

He said this was at odds with a parliamentary reply he received from the Prime Minister’s Department on March 12, assuring that the group’s seniorities and promotions would not be affected.

“These 52 face an uncertain future. Due to the negative connotation of ‘sahsiah gagal’, they have been put in cold storage and their promotions put on hold,” he said.

He also warned of a negative effect on reforms in the civil service including entry based on merit and freedom from political interference.

“Not even a shadow of political patronage must be seen,” he said.

“The government must ensure that appointments, promotions and transfers are merit-based and not based on political patronage. This must begin at qualification and training centres such as Intan.”