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February 26, 2018

Role of Civil Service

U Khin Maung
(A retired diplomat)

After we have gained back our sovereignty and independence from the British colonial rule, we have had good civil service, composed of highly-qualified, clean, effective and efficient personnel, recruited and selected from the best and the brightest candidates through the highly competitive examinations held by the Public Service Commission. Well, what is the civil service? The civil service is a branch of public services or a kind of public servants. And the Penal Code, in chapter II. “General explanation”, stipulates under section 21, inter alia as follows:
“The words “public servants” denote a person falling under any of the descriptions here-in-after following namely _
First – Every covenanted servant of the government.
Second – Every commissioned officer in the Military, Naval, or Air Forces of the state.
Third – Every judge and so on …
According to the explanations stipulated in the Penal Code, the civil service is certainly distinguished and different from the military, naval and air forces of the state. Civil service is a kind of public service, carrying out the prescribed duties by the civil servants for the public. I remember quite well that, in the early days of our independence, the political system our country adopted was parliamentary democracy system or multiparty democracy system. And the civil service machinery, the government adopted and adapted, in accordance with our own culture and tradition, was based on the British civil service system an impartial civil service serving, whoever was the elected government of the day. And it is worth remembering the fact that in those days, the government had created a good civil service, high quality clean, then effective and efficient, properly rewarded and paid. Accordingly, the university graduates were recruited and appointed through the highly competitive examinations, held by the then Public Service Commission. Those selected and appointed civil officers were called B.C.S, Burma Civil Service officers and when Burma was just part of the British colony India, they were called I.C.S India Civil Service officers.
As regards the principles and policies of recruiting, selecting and training of the civil service personnel, chairman of the Union Civil Services Selection Board of the democratically elected civil government, His Excellency, Dr. Win Thein has mentioned explicitly. And it was reported in the Myanmar Daily newspaper “The Minor Daily” dated 4th of June 2016. In this article may I present to you only the salient points in my own unofficial translation in English as follows:
“His Excellency Dr. Win Thein said that the Union Civil Services Selection Board’s primary function is to recruit and select civil service personnel, through the highly competitive examinations and then also to give them training in order to become highly qualified, efficient, civil service personnel. As regards the definition of the term” civil service personnel”. His Excellency, the chairman said “civil service personnel are those who shall have to do their duties for the public convenience and benefit, who shall have to render their services for the public requirements. In essence, civil service personnel” are public servants.
Role of civil service
According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “the civil service is the government departments in a country, except the armed forces, and the people who work for them. A civil servant is a person who works in the civil service.” So, the civil service of the executive branch of the elected government is not independent unlike the judiciary which is a different branch of the government. Under our own system of government, the civil service must serve the elected government of the day. For this reason, the civil service must understand the political context and the thinking of the political leadership. However, it is a very important point that the civil servants shall have to be politically impartial. The civil servants should not be campaigning for or against any political party. The civil servants should not and must not misuse state resources, or power for partisan political purposes. And the civil servants should neither shy away from carrying out their duties without fear or favour, when a matter might prove to be politically controversial. Well, these are the reasons why key officers in the civil service are not allowed to be members of political parties.
How should we, the civil
servants rserve the people?
In essence, a civil servant must serve the people to the best of his or her abilities, even at the cost of his or her own life, if and when necessary. We can take the example of secretary U Ohn Maung (I.C.S) who paid his life together with our national hero, General Aung San and other martyrs on 19th July 1947.
The incumbent government is democratically elected government. Thus, we can call the incumbent government as the government of the people, by the people, for the people. That’s why, I mention as “how should we, the civil servants, serve the people?”
To be able to serve the people to the best of our abilities taking the initiative and with a spirit of goodwill, we, the civil servants, must also update and upgrade ourselves through constant learning. Why?, simply because there is no end in a learning process. As a matter of fact, “no educative process is ever the end: it is always the beginning of more education, more learning, more living”. And in this globalized world of ours, or in a sense, in this changing world, in this living world, we, the civil servants must keep ourselves abreast with the world of today.
For this purpose, we must have global literacy. I hope, you may wish to ask me; what do you mean by global literacy? Well, let me mention it this way, “global literacy means the ability to access and converse with the rest of the world with “lnformation Technology Tools”, such as computer, the internet and the mastery of English as the international lingua franca”. So, to achieve global literacy and to keep ourselves up-to-date with the changing world and with the latest technology, we must go on learning.
The successive governments have been kind-heartedly and broad-mindedly made and ensured all kinds of public services to have security of tenure. But, on the other hand, there is a saying that “there is no future in any job. The future lies in the person who holds the job”. In fact, our future lies not in our jobs, but in our hands, in our knowledge and intellectual capacity. Needless to say, therefore, we, the civil servants must go on learning. We must go on upgrading and updating ourselves. The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it from us. It is our future, our inexhaustible wealth; it is our own property” Ii fact, it is we, ourselves, who can make or mar our own careers.
In the civil service, specially the official, who is in authority, needs to be a good manager with new ideas and vision. A leader in the civil service must uphold the dignity and honour of his or her office. A good leader should not demand respect, he or she should earn respect from his or her colleagues, from his or her peers through his or her ability and integrity. And a good civil official should also try his or her best to be well appreciated by his or her peers and patrons as well, through his or her constant learning and perfect morality. Needlees to say, therefore, a good civil official in authority must be totally free from corruption. In passing, may I present to you sir, about the concept of bribery and corruption. Corruption does not mean only bribe taking. Corruption also means mismanagement, i.e committing an act that ought not to be done and failing to do an act that ought to be done. In a sense, corruption also involves committing “four kinds of prejudice and bias.” They are (l) pursuance of emotional wishes irrespective of whether it is right or wrong (2) prejudice born of anger (3) bias, followed for fear of threat of personal danger (4) prejudice caused by ignorance and delusion.
I have already mentioned that a good civil servant especially with the rank of an officer, should be a good leader. Being civil servants, we should never give orders, or commands to our colleagues. In the civil service, there should be interactions, discussions and consultations. This is what leadership is all about, I think. Therefore, a good civil officer should have a love for learning, should always try to enhance his or her talents and skills by self-study and by taking regular training courses, so as to earn due respect and admiration from his or her peers and subordinates as well.
A western scholar has pointed out “that all normal human beings are born with a powerful urge to learn”. In reality, our Myanmar’s society was an education oriented society since the days of yore. And as the current era, knowledge era demands more of the quality of human resources, today, we, the civil service personnel are required to build our capacity from life-long learning, apart from formal education. If we, the civil service personnel do not develop our talent from constant learning process, we will miss the train of knowledge era, and we will be left behind forever.
In a democracy, government may come and government may go. However, we, the civil service personnel must go on learning forever, and thus, must update and upgrade ourselves, so as to serve the people and whichever party is the elected government of the day, to the best of our abilities. What do you say, sir? Thank you.
(l) Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
(2)     The Global New Light of Myanmar, “Perspectives”, “live and learn” dated
(3)     The Straits Times (Singapore)
(4)     Word power made easy. Norman Lewis.
(5)     အဂတိတရားေလးပါး။ ဆႏၵ၊ ေဒါသ၊ ဘယာ၊ ေမာဟ။
(6)     A book of essential quotations Edited by Eric Partridge


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