Published on July 10, 2018
by Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad
This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 9, 2018 – July 15, 2018 in its Special Report ‘Are CEOs Overpaid’.
It goes without saying that the heads or senior executives of any government-linked company (GLC) who abuse their position, or the resources of their organisations, for partisan political purposes under the previous federal government must go.
The same goes for anyone who is complicit in corruption or criminal acts, or who is so blatantly opposed to the new government that it affects their professionalism.
Still, this process must be done judiciously and in an above-board fashion. The removal of the leadership of a GLC must be done via the correct procedures of these entities, rather than seeking to nudge them out through leaks, innuendos or attacks via the press.
We don’t want to send the wrong message — whether to the public or investors — that every change of government in the future will result in wholesale “purges”.
Personnel in GLCs who wish to contribute to the New Malaysia should be given the opportunity to do so. Pakatan Harapan has a mandate from the rakyat to clean up our system of government, and that includes the GLCs. The opportunity to do so must not be squandered.
But we must realise that this is contingent upon us doing it in a prudent, transparent and sensitive fashion. A line must be drawn.
History has taught us that reforms, even those that are desperately needed, must be done sequentially and in a measured pace if they are to be sustainable and long-lasting.
The ends do not justify the means. This is not a cop-out: it is about working smart.
In the long run, we must also seek to change the culture of the GLCs and the role they play in our country. They should be the facilitators of equitable opportunities for the creation of wealth and development for all Malaysians — and not be seen as crowding out the private sector.
The fact that so many changes at the top of the various GLCs have had to occur also shows that there is an urgent need for these entities to be depoliticised.
The GLCs need to be divorced from political patronage. This can be done more easily if their leaders were eventually, in the future, sourced as far as possible internally, through merit- and diversity-based talent development.
GLC staff should be paid well to attract talent and ensure their integrity, but the highest standards must be demanded from them.
Allowing diversity in this way may ultimately help public institutions and GLCs become non-partisan. Malaysians must learn to work and live together despite our different political beliefs.
Ultimately, we need to stop seeing and treating public appointments from a political-party angle. This will likely need a sea change in the mindset of Malaysians, and in our political culture as a whole.
But we must make a start.
Nik Nazmi is MP for Setiawangsa, PKR Youth chief and occasional contributor to The Edge.