When a school banned pupils from wearing the traditional clothes of other cultures, former minister Rafidah Aziz criticised the wilful “little Napoleons” who make our lives a misery, before suggesting an overhaul of the education system.
She is only partly right. Anyone who has received abysmal service in a government department will appreciate that it is not just the education system that needs a revamp.
To be truthful, most, if not all of our government sectors are due for a total overhaul.
From education to the environment, from the attorney-general’s office to APs to agriculture, from defence to disabled people, from the land department to local government, from the Prime Minister’s department to Parliament to the private and public sectors.
All have allowed their standards to drop over the past five decades. All have their own fair share of Little Napoleons, and all are plagued with weak leadership and incompetence.
Take education for a start. There are many major issues that clog up the system. The minister of education, Fadhlina Sidek, needs only to speak to the parents, pupils, teachers and administrators to get a flavour of what has gone wrong and how things could be improved.
However, instead of acting on the most pressing issues, Fadhlina has introduced the “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” appreciation module for schools. No one is sure if this is her initiative or her boss’s idea, but surely they are aware of more urgent issues than this divisive module.
Segregating Malay pupils from non-Malay pupils for this module does not encourage integration, so how on earth will children learn about racial integration before they become adults?
Two weeks ago, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s conditional discharge on corruption charges caused outrage among Malaysians, especially given the anti-corruption and clean elections narrative that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has long championed.
Last year, Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah had ruled that a prima facie case against Zahid had been established by the prosecution but just several months later, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) sought a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, or DNAA.
This disconnect does not bode well for Anwar’s administration. Malaysians will lose faith in the justice system if trials of allegedly corrupt politicians are halted and they are either acquitted or allowed a conditional discharge.
Malaysians who stole smaller amounts of money or goods are swiftly brought to justice and sentenced in a remarkably short time. On the other hand, it takes years for a corrupt politician’s case to be brought to court. Let’s not forget the years of delays that the trial typically faces before eventually being halted.
To most people, the justice system appears to discriminate between the rich and poor.
A man with money can pay the best lawyers to defend him or take advantage of loopholes in the law. Most poor people have no money to pay for legal counsel, nor do they know how to look for a lawyer.
To the ordinary person, it also looks like the higher the amount stolen, the greater the chances of one being let off. There is no doubt the justice system needs an overhaul because at the moment, as recent trials involving corrupt politicians have shown, justice is not blind.
On police outriders
Another seemingly innocuous activity that needs a complete overhaul is the police convoy. On Sept 20, it was alleged that when police outriders stopped motorists along a highway to make way for a convoy, a lorry was unable to brake in time and slammed into several cars, killing two men on motorbikes.
This tragic news prompted other motorists to vent their frustrations about police outriders who they allege act with extreme arrogance and are not conscious of others’ safety.
Some claim that outriders will kick their car if they do not move aside fast enough. Others say they ride perilously close alongside cars and have clipped wing mirrors before speeding off. Many policemen even order motorists to edge closer to monsoon drains so that some VVIP can enjoy the full width of a three-lane highway all to themselves.
When police outriders halt fast-moving traffic without due consideration for drivers who may or may not have seen them, the risk of accidents happening is high. Was it the fault of the lorry driver who could not apply the brakes in time? Or was it the sequence of events triggered by the police outriders suddenly stopping traffic?
That is where Rafidah is wrong. An overhaul is needed not just in education. Most, if not all, government departments need a complete shake up to improve performance, remove deadweight and inject enthusiasm and motivation into the workforce.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.