During this MCO period, I spend much of my time thinking and writing on philosophical thoughts. After all I am a liberal arts student with my Alma Mater, Ottawa University in Kansas. I remember during my uni days, I read the Letter from Birmingham dated 16 April 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned and the letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism.
It sadden me to see even in this modern day there are so much of racial tone flying around accusing the Chinese of starting the Covid-19 virus pandemic. It is sad to see Chinese descendant from so call developed nation are being beaten on the street and hurled with abuses. They are as much American, or British or Australian or Malaysian like anyone of us except that they share the ancestry skin color of their ancestor.
All these will never happen if we have a learned leadership governing the country be it any country. Leaders with integrity and proper qualification to start with. With integrity and proper qualification then leaders can think and act properly laying down sound policies for the nation in the midst of crisis or even during flourishing time. Our neighbour did much better in announcing a wholesome stimulus packages for both businesses and citizen, and Malaysia’s leader follow suit after much lobbying from the SME business community, and at time like this you can see leaders are leading not only in economic but importantly as the spiritual guidance of the people of the nation. But that is not what I would like to touch on. The key point is the critical thinking and the compassion of the leaders at the time of needs. Nations with qualified learned meritorious leaders will do much better than those who are chosen based on connection and skin color like what Martin Luther King Jr. puts it.
In Confucius teaching, he said that for government, the three requisites of conduct are: “sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler”. If only one is to be foregone, the Confucius insists that it is the military equipment. Instilling the confidence of the people is an important role for the government. This can only be done if the civil service are being guided properly by the leaders. Confucian thought focuses on the cultivation of virtue in a morally organised world. But in our modern day are we morally organising the branches of government? If yes, why are having the people calling one of the elected representative, a Doraemon minister? This should never happen in the first place.
To improve on leadership quality, both of our Parliament and civil service have to change. Both branch of leadership needs to be elected or promoted based on an open civil service exam and meritous service performance. Then a continuous civil service exam is imposed on leader/officer so that they can be assess continuously every year or 2 years once to test on their on-going capability to serve the ever changing society. Meritorious service performance means leader/officer are being assess of their performance on the ground akin to how private sector employee having their respective bi-annual performance review. I am aware that Malaysia very own Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awan is doing it for the last 60 years but it must go through a total revamp to reflect the on-going changes in the society.
Self-cultivation and self-creation is what the worldly concern of Confucianism rests upon, as it belief that human beings are fundamentally good, and teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor. Anyone who wanted a government office would be tested on the government laws that were based on spirit of the country’s thoughts.
So it didn’t matter what class a person is from, as long as you had the skills and pass these exams and merit testing then everyone is entitle to apply. Only then we have meritorious civil service.
Only then we see mind set change and improve Government operations and productivity while, at the same time reforming the civil service into a world class workforce that citizen will aspire to apply as it will pay well and have a clear promotion pathway besides the stable nature of the job. A well-ordered civil service is of benefit to the people and it create a network of scholar-officials who had won their government positions through merit or through election that focus on merit rather than through connections or political popularity and this can create a strong system of values within the government that can last for centuries.
Chris Daniel Wong, 6 April 2020
The writer is a graduate from Liberal Arts Faculty of Ottawa University, Kansas USA and is currently reading law at ATC College, Kuala Lumpur. He also an alumni with Harvard Business School having completed Finance Accounting and Leading with Finance with the school.