IN the eighties, there was a popular TV series named “Yes, Minister”. This was a British series, depicting the struggle of a politician (minister) and the ministry’s permanent secretary (like our Ketua Setia Usaha) . In the series , you can see how the civil servants manipulated their political master to achieve their aims. While the minister was more concerned about winning votes and being popular, the civil servant was more towards consolidating his own power and more concerned about staff and budget.
This series was followed by another called Yes, Prime Minister, when the minister became the Prime Minster and the permanent secretary became the cabinet secretary (chief secretary).
This series shows that ultimately the political power rests with the civil service.
In the last post, many commentators mentioned about the perceived institutional bias. Individual bias exists everywhere, even among people of the same flock ( less likely than that of different flocks of course). This is because we are all different in our make up, upbringing , environmental influence as well as our thinking. So individual bias will occur no matter where we are.
The bias will be more when it comes to people of different flocks. I use the word ‘flock’ and not colour, because even people of same colour may not be in the same flock, and people with different colours may be in the same flock. BUt by and large, colour is a very important consideration for flocking, because people of same colour tend to have same type of upbringing and hence same type of mindset.
The flock is the group that thinks alike. The police is a flock by itself. UMNO politicians are a flock by themselves. MCA people are a flock by themselves. Gerakan too, but in Gerakan there are still many who believe in the party ideology so within the party, there are many flocks. PAS is slowly but surely evolving into 2 seperate flocks, one of which may join UMNO to become a bigger flock.
Students from a certain institution , like Mara, would think alike and therefore constitute a flock. Students from CHung Hwa, including those who are non-Chinese, would be a flock because they think alike.
Flocking can be good or bad. ICAC in Hong Kong is a flock by itself and has made a very good name for the whole flock. The whole Singapore is an giant flock of which they are many sub-flocks, and the giant flock has also made a name for itself. Triads are a flock by itself and they are of course bad..
Our civil service is a flock by itself. It is a very powerful flock. Sometimes more powerful than the political masters, like what was depicted in the British series. The flocking in civil service is made easier because almost all are from the same background and same colour. The flock forms a very strong culture. One of the most notable features of civil service is the presence of many ‘napoleons’ as mentioned by our former Prime Minister once.
The presence of these napoleons who tend to decide arbitrarily, not always following the guidelines, is one of the the reasons for the perceived institutional bias that many people talked about in my last post.
How to change this institutionalised flocking? Well there are a number of ways.
Firstly, open the civil service to more of different colours. As i have said, colour is not a necessity for flocking, unless the colour difference is very obvious. To add a drop of blue into a bucket of red would not make much different. You need to add at least 20% or more of volume of blue to the red to make a ‘significant’ difference.
So to make a change in the flock, you need to add at least 20% of different colour. That means opening up at least 20% or more for people of different colours to the same flock in order for the flock to experience some changes. But the problem is of course people of different colours do not want to join this civil service flock, so it is again a difficult process to persuade sufficient people of different colours to join. So we should set our KPI target of 20% colour difference in the flock, within a certain time span, and it is up to the KPI ministry to devise ways to attract this 20% to join. .
Another way to change the flock is of course through long term education and reminder to the members of the same flock to change their mindsets … When sufficient number inside the same flock change their mindsets, the flock can then be changed. This is a slow and tedious process.
A third way is to have an independent but powerful flock to supervise this present flock. Like the ICAC and an independent judiciary of Hong Kong ( and like the IPCMC that was advocated by our previous Royal Commission). This would put fear into the present flock, and slowly and surely, the habits of the flock will change.
But how to have an truly independent flock to overlook into this present flock? The answer is to build up a new flock of people with integrity , maybe for a start, we need to borrow some from UK , USA etc to head this flock, and make this flock totally independent.
What is needed to change the whole flock mentality is to implement all three together, and with that, we can slowly and surely see institutional bias be done away, and professionalism come back to the flock.
When the whole civil service changes to become an attractive flock, then more young people of ideals and passions may want to join and that would ensure that a good flock always stay being good.