US Envoy Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir has advice for the victorious Pakatan Harapan coalition supporters – rejoice but stay vigilant. She sees the need for civil society to monitor the present period of government formation to ensure that those elected into office deliver what they have promised.
That night (when the results of the General Elections were announced), I kept saying, 'Malaysians Boleh, not Malaysia, Malaysians!
Having experienced many transitions of government in the US, Kamala says that she is quite well versed as to what takes place when people vote in who they want through the ballot box.
"That night (when the results of the General Elections were announced), I kept saying, 'Malaysians Boleh, not Malaysia, Malaysians!" says Kamala.
A seasoned diplomat who has been in the foreign service for years, Kamala says that she probably has seen it all when it comes to transitions and changes in the government after an election.
"I have been through, in my profession, transitions repeatedly from one president to another president, one party to another party. We also have transitions where the majority of house of representatives flip," saya Kamala.
She says that the electoral process and changing the government is not the hardest part. The making of the government and waiting for it to take its proper shape is the most difficult phase, not only for those who have been elected to office but also to the voters who voted them in.
In this crucial period, Kamala says that it is important that the civil service ensure the government of the day gets its full support. Otherwise, the civil servants should resign.
Kamala paints what usually happens in the US after a new government takes over.
"We are trained as career government professionals (to state) that our oath is to the constitution. So, every single employee of the US government including the President takes an oath to uphold the constitution of the US. And what that means is that we protect the rule of law."
"My responsibility is to protect the rule of law. I promised to serve the President and government of the day but that is through the fact that the American people have voted for that President and that government.
"The other thing in my training is that as we have political leadership, our responsibility is to serve the political leadership that the American people have picked and we are professionals. A part of that is that we convey our best advice to the political leadership. That is our responsibility - we explain the consequences of what they are proposing and the actions," says Kamala.
She further says that the civil service has the duty to steer the new government to make the right decisions for the people in the most diplomatic way. Should they not agree to what the government ultimately decides, then they should resign, for it would be wrong to stay on at loggerheads with the employer.
"If they disagree, we should again try our best to explain the consequences - but if the political leadership makes that decision, it is our professional responsibility to serve that political leadership. If we decide that we cannot carry it out for our own moral reasons, we as government servants should resign.
"This is part of the dynamics of having a political leadership and career professional civil service, which Malaysia has. For Malaysian civil service, the greatest challenge now is to be seen assisting the government, as we are the career professional service serving the government of the day," says Kamala.
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