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Jan 18, 2008


Letter from Ong Ka Ting to JPA students

I got wind of a story that MCA President Ong Ka Ting recently sent out an email to Chinese JPA scholars. I'll reproduce the letter below and then share my thoughts after that.

Greetings to all JPA students all over the world! Its certainly a privilege to be a star student, standing tall as young Malaysians living overseas. I am sure you do your family proud, and I hope you will cherish this moment for the rest of your life, especially at this time of the year when the cheerful holiday mood is abound.

2007 has been a year of many lessons learnt for many nations. As other cities burn in turmoil, violence and disruption, Malaysia has thankfully weathered our difficulties in a peaceful manner to ensure that we have continued harmony and unity among the races. Amidst some tough economic times ahead, with worries of escalating global oil prices, every day living will increasingly be challenged. Similarly, Malaysia will also need to brace itself for such a period by remaining economically relevant and globally competitive.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has worked hard over the last eight years to ensure that the community's best and most talented receive top class education for deserving people such as yourself. While it is understandable that the world over is also vying for the best that it can attract into their labour force, it also our hope that our own students and graduates return to their homeland to serve their country.

MCA is also actively playing a role to help returning graduates and local talents who have a special interest in serving in the government. Civil service diversity is critical to address moderation, fairness and balance in the implementation and enforcement of our nation's laws and regulations at all levels. So important is this point that MCA has set up a secretariat/service centre to handle first hand the enquiries and issues pertaining to application, entry and even promotion in the Malaysian civil service.

MCA hopes that our efforts to build the nation and community can be realized with your appreciation as well as your service so that you, your family as well as your friends can enjoy the fruits of our peaceful nation forever.

MCA wishes you a good year ahead! And Happy New Year!

Ong Ka Ting

President, MCA

Firstly, whoever sent this email out on behalf of Ka Ting, did not BCC the recipients of the email so that the privacy of these JPA scholars were not protected.

Secondly, I strongly feel that ALL JPA scholars should return to serve out their bond in Malaysia, failing which, they should be asked to pay back the value of their bond. This should not just be a call out to Chinese JPA scholars. I feel that JPA scholars can contribute a great deal towards professionalizing the improving the state of our civil service at all levels. Hence, this is a task that should be performed by JPA scholars of ALL races rather than just one race.

Thirdly, I think the move by the MCA President to send out this letter ONLY to Chinese JPA scholars can be counterproductive. Does this mean that the UMNO President and the MIC President and the PBS president and the PBB president should send out letters to Malay, Indian, Kadazan and Melanau students asking them to return to Malaysia? Will this not result in the politicization of the civil service, something that a wise MCA leader would not want to occur?

I think most of us who are reasonable can agree that we should have a professional civil service where promotions and positions are based on merit and performance rather than race or know who. The fact that the MCA president can appeal to Chinese JPA scholars to join the civil service might lead UMNO and the other component parties to do the same. Hence, we are back to a situation where individual parties in the BN are 'championing' candidates from their respective races within the civil service! This is counterproductive for the likes of MCA because the dominant party within the BN is UMNO and it does not take a genius to figure out who will win out politically at the end of the day! Politicizing the bureaucracy this way (beyond what it already is) is a double edged sword for the MCA, one which it would be wise to avoid.

I think it's much better for MCA to try to work together with other parties within the BN to push for some sort of program which will make better use of the human resources which are the JPA scholars. Right now, most JPA scholars don't return to Malaysia to serve out their bond or even if they return to Malaysia, most of them are 'lost' to the private sector. There just isn't a comprehensive, fast track, specialized management trainee type positions for JPA scholars within the Malaysian civil service. JPA scholars, if they do ever get into the civil service system, are treated as run of the mill civil servants instead of students whom the government has invested millions and millions of dollars in.

MCA cannot just 'stick' any JPA scholar into the civil service system. He or she will get discouraged and bogged down in the routine of the civil service and quickly quit public service. A much better idea would be for the government to come up with a special program that recognizes the skills and abilities of these JPA scholars and put them on a fast track within the civil service including stints in different departments to make their jobs more challenging and interesting. This kind of practice is already quite widespread in many MNCs in Malaysia in what are known as management trainee programs. Why not try to do the same within the civil service in Malaysia?

Most of the JPA scholars would not want to take up 'political positions' within the civil service for MCA ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Most of these politicians have special assistants, personal and political secretaries and while these people are technically civil servants, their jobs are very much political in nature, which might not appeal to many JPA scholars. These jobs are also not 'stable' jobs in that if a certain minister loses his or her position, so does the people working for this minister. So, unless the MCA President can put these Chinese JPA scholars into positions within the civil service which are sufficiently challenging and rewarding from a career perspective, whatever which is proposed is only a short term palliative which is bound to fail as JPA scholars drop like flies in the civil service.

So my proposal to the MCA president is this: Try to work within the government to create a fast track position for ALL JPA scholars where their skills are recognized and can be utilized properly instead of trying to 'fit' a handful of JPA Chinese scholars into positions which they might not be interested in and are likely to be swamped by the larger bureaucracy within the civil service. This would yield more rewards for ALL Malaysians including the Chinese constituency which the MCA President wants to represent.


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