- By U Khin Maung
(A retired diplomat)
For me, a retired civil servant, only a few days shy of my eightieth birthday, it is really a heart warning news to read that “Civil Service Reform Strategic Action Plan” is launched by our democratically elected incumbent government. As regards the terms “the civil service, and civil servant” the “Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary” has defined as follows:
The civil service is the government departments in a country except the armed forces, and the people who work for them. (government departments). Civil servant is a person who works in the civil service. And from another point of view, the civil service is a branch of public services or a kind of public servants. The Penal Code, in “chapter II, General Explanation” defines the term public servant in section 21, as follows:
First – Every covenanted servant of the Government.
Second – Every commissioned officer in the Military, Naval or Air Forces of the State.
Third – Every judge, etc. According to the explanations made in the Penal Code, the civil service is certainly distinguished and different from the military, naval and air forces of the state.
2. Well, the civil service reform strategic action plan and its vision is a blue print for extensive reforms. By these reforms, the civil service system will be changed to become more ethical, more efficient and to better reflect the diversity of the country. As regards this plan, Her Excellency, the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said interalia as follows:
“The union government was committed to building the capacity of Myanmar’s Civil Servants and equipping them with the skills and expertise in a few years. Furthermore, H.E, the State Counsellor also said;
“We must take in a few years the issues that other countries have addressed gradually over many decades”. In this connection, it was also highlighted that “the Strategic Action Plan also notes the importance of “merit based and performance driven culture and systems”.
Civil Service System during the parliamentary democracy era.
3. After gaining back our independence and sovereignty from the British colonial rule, our mother land, Burma, (Myanmar) had applied the most efficient and the cheapest administration system, left behind by the British colonial government, of course, with necessary adaptations, changes and reforms, so as to be in harmony with our traditions and culture.
In those days, the civil services, the backbone of the Executive Branch, was an independent, impartial, efficient and effective organ of the state.
4. Accordingly, the civil service personnel had to take the departmental examinations in four subjects, namely, criminal law, civil law, revenue and treasury. And for ‘’Burma Civil Service B.C.S (Senior branch) officers, only when they had passed those departmental examinations by higher standard, they were appointed as ‘’permanent’’. For the B.C.S (Junior branch) officers, they must have passed those examinations by ordinary standard for being appointed as permanent.
5. Why? Under the then administration system, civil service personnel were entrusted with and empowered to serve as magistrates, treasury officers, revenue officers and general administration officers.
Well, no system is perfect. And our previous civil service system during the parliamentary democracy era was no exception, I think, So, we should take good aspects of our old service system and leave the out-dated aspects.
6. In my own opinion, the good aspects of our old civil service system, during the first parliamentary democracy government era, or during our first civilian government era, were many and varied.
To present only a few. In those day, there were many internationally renowned scholars, lawyers, civil service personnel, diplomats etc. To honour those, who honour is due, may I mention only a few of them, And all those internationally renowned dignitaries, scholars, were in a wider sense of the term, civil service personnel or in essence, the right men, in the right places. They were, Dr. Htin Aung, the first Rector of Rangon (Yangon) University, Ph.d, D.Litt, LL.D; Dr. Maung Maung, J.S.D (Yale) LL.D) (UTRECHT) of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister-at-law; Chief Justice of the Union Supreme Court; U Thant, UN Secretay General; and Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt, Rector of Mandalay University, still hale and hearty, etc. etc.
Taking examples from all those highly distinguished civil service personnel, we could see that a highly educated, honest, hardworking, highly qualified and respectable civil servant could aspire and could have ambition and try his or her utmost to get to the highest career ladder. Nepotism, cronyism, prejudice and bias, and giving special preference to somebody or to some organization, were almost nil in those days. Meritocracy was just the rule, practiced and propagated for assignment and promotion in our old civil service system during the first parliamentary democracy era. So, we really hope and importance of merit-based and performance driven culture and systems.
(1) The Global New Light of Myanmar. (11th July 2017 edition)
(2) Her Excellency, The State Counsellor’s guiding principles.
(3) Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.