August 19, 2016

Everybody needs to Change

The people had chosen the representatives, who they thought could lead the country on the right path to prosperity. The Second Pyithu Hlutaw is in session for the first time. The Amyothar  and the Pyidaungsu Hlutaws will follow suit. In the coming few days, a new government will be ready to take office. A beginning of a new era has emerged. However, it would take sometimes to change the mindsets of our people that had taken root. Habits are hard to change, but with proper guidance it wouldn’t be difficult.
If we really want to change, a change in the government only wouldn’t be enough. The people of every walks of life need to change. First they must change their mindsets, especially their attitudes, mentalities, habits and outlooks. It is undeniable that over the decade, the moralities and the characters of the people had deteriorated. Being faced with poverty and hardships, it is no wonder the survival of the fittest mentality had taken root. Most people would resort to any means for their survival and later got greedier and wouldn’t hesitate to do anything, legal or otherwise. These attitudes and mindsets should be changed, especially the government employees, as they are the ones who must run the administrative mechanisms and implement the objectives an plans laid down by the government. They constitute an indispensable force in the building of a nation. Thus they are required to possess strong moralities and right mindsets, besides their qualifications and abilities.
While I was in the government service, I had came across some who were in positions of some authority became despicable authoritarians of their own making. The higher up the hierarchy, the more power and authority they craved and wielded them. As everyone of them was crazy for power and authority and when given the opportunity they became arrogant and irrational. During my entire career I had never said to my subordinates, “I am your officer so you must obey me without arguing”. However, I had came across many who used to say that. Some people thought, just because he held a high position, he was the absolute authority.
I had served under one such person. At first he was quite meek and humble, but after he had tasted power and authority, he became arrogant. Once, I tried to reason with him and advised him not to be hasty in his decisions on a certain matter, but to wait and see how the other departments would handle that case. He arrogantly replied that though his rank may be the same as the others, he was different from them. His decision affected many employees. Some lost their jobs and some their seniorities. A few days later he realized his mistakes, but it was too late. One time he went even further and told me, as he held the highest position in the department, he would do as he liked, when I pointed out that his decision was not in line with the rules and regulations.
These are just a few examples, there were many more, even worse than those. He should have learned a lesson after one blunder. I was even criticized by him, behind my back, as being “a bookish person”, in Myanmar sense, meaning one who strictly adhered to the rules and regulations as to the letter. These are the words of those who ignored and by-passed every rules and regulations in the books. Later he ignored every procedures, even financial procedures and audit objections, and did everything his own way.
I do not mean to discredit anyone, but I’m citing these incidents as examples  of the damage done to the civil service rules, regulations and procedures due to disregards by arrogant officials. As far as I had noticed, other former colonies of the British Empire like us, had maintained the old civil service structures introduced by the British. They are well tested and proven to be useful and would need only a few amendments to apply with the prevailing situations of the changing times. Take Singapore for instance. The late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew once commented that there was no proper civil service mechanism in Myanmar, like the one they had. On first hearing his remark, I was not pleased at all.
However, I later realized he was dead right. I assume they are still applying the civil service rules, regulations and procedures introduced by the British, wherever applicable with minor amendments and are prospering. I totally agree with him. Every rule, regulation and procedure were either replaced or abolished in our country. The worst of all was, even the amended or the substituted rules, regulations or procedures were ignored or disregarded. The excuse was, it is important to get things done no matter how.
We are accustomed to the phrase “The Japanese Officer mentality”. No insult intended, nor I bear any animosity toward the Japanese people. During the Second World War, we were being subjected to the rigid and aggressive attitudes of the Japanese soldiers. They didn’t accept any excuse. They used to say “ I don’t care if the water canteen is leaky, I want the water”. I can’t imagine why our people adopted that despicable attitude, while abandoning the tested and proven practices. I believe that other former British colonies including Singapore, are still preserving most of the old civil service practices.
From my personal point of view, for our country to move forward, priority should be to salvage our collapsed civil service mechanism. Without a proper or set civil service structure, we would be solving the problems on case by case basis without any set procedure. However, it would take plenty of time as every aspects of the present civil service need to be revised. The best approach would be to study one sample country in the region, preferably Singapore, and adopt what would be applicable to us. I do not mean we must copy everything.
Another ingrained mentality was, most of our superiors do not tolerate any disagreement or accept the advice from the subordinates. During my career days, I used to argue if my superior was in the wrong. I did that with good intentions and faiths, for the good of the department or the organization. However, one senior officer once told me not to argue with the superiors because though I may be right, the superiors wouldn’t like it. Unless the superiors learn to listen to what the subordinates had to say, they are bound to make mistakes in their decisions. Such things are unproductive and thus unacceptable.
The subordinates too should be dutiful and sincere in the execution of their duties. They should be honest, truthful and abstain from unlawful dealings that would tarnish the image of their organizations. Above all they should be loyal to the country. An organization flourishes on team work—the team work amongst all employees, from the highest to the lowest. A good leader must be a good listener. The voices from below, not flatteries but good and reasonable views and suggestions, must be listened to and accepted. That would assist very much in the decision-making.
In conclusion, I would like to urge all the government employees to change their mindsets, their attitudes, their mentalities and discard their old ways of thinking and accept the fact that they are public servants. Their duties are to serve the people and the country and not any individual who can make or break them. Let’s change for the future of the country.


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