Civil service needs to be proactive, don’t wait to be nudged

Congratulations are in order for a colleague who has shown that the media can be harnessed for the power of good.

You don’t need to be a superhero donning a cape and wearing your undies inside-out to offer your hand in rescue.

In this case, it was more of using one’s God-given ability or perhaps more accurately – sense of civic duty – to do the work one is entrusted to begin with. Perform the task for which one is obligated, once in the payroll of an employer – in this case, the government.

If I sound rather incensed, it is with good reason.

First, the good bits. A young journalist friend self-produced a documentary highlighting the systemic failure that ails the welfare services in a series that has appeared in print and online.

It created enough of a stir at the relevant ministry that this journalist was invited to contribute towards the shaping of a strategic plan to tackle issues in protecting children in this country.

What riles me to no end is that an entire ministry, with all the resources at its disposal, needed nudging from a third party (my persistent friend who is a bit of an outlier, atypical of a compliant local media) to have its eyes and ears opened to the shortcomings that ail the system.

In their defence, the ‘man-from-the-ministry’ did indicate that the “comprehensive review” was being undertaken as a result of a “global entity initiative”, which means that it comes with requisite funding. (I shudder to think that such a study would not have been initiated in the first place, otherwise).

No doubt, the media has a role to play, but surely, what the documentary revealed could really, easily, have been uncovered by the powers that be, on their own, and under their own steam.

This, at a time when our Cabinet is roundly derided for its plus size. How many deputy ministers must one minister(y) have? Come off it!

I cannot get over the fact that once you hop onto this gravy train, you qualify for several pensions and ultra-generous allowances, including for cups and saucers, and pots and pans (what the incredulous public call ‘elaun pinggan mangkuk’ – with special emphasis on the word ‘mangkuk’ – which paints an attitude of indolent and worthlessness in common parlance to express derision at officials and officialdom).

Denial of identity documents, human trafficking, forced prostitution, drug abuse and back alley abortions do not come so much as a shock, do they?

If they did, what were the ‘cemerlang’ civil servants doing all this while?

Be that as it may, the media also faces huge challenges, with social media shaping how news is reported, delivered, presented, and more alarmingly, created!

So, I wondered aloud what all the National Journalists Day (Hawana) hoopla was all about. Apparently, there was this sideshow of a shindig, maybe blown out of proportion, to take the sting away from the real problem of runaway inflation and rising costs.

Revealing its ‘Nusantara’ origins, Hawana – an anagrammatical concoction for (Ha)ri (Wa)rtawan (Na)sional – gave politicians an excuse to stoke the egos of us journalists, who get an almost carnal euphoric lift when told: “You are somebody, you are important!”

Oh, how the media landscape has changed. Gone are the days when mainstream media meant pro-government media.

Now, you can be mainstream, and anti-establishment. But vestiges of the old order remain – only if you are proven ‘Putrajaya-pally’, will your media be invited to ‘official’ events.

Then, there is the continued need to flash the Penerangan-issued media passes, without which you will be excluded from so many event venues.

During the reign of one former prime minister, a whole gang of frisky journalists were taken on a junket to some ‘foreign’ parts – far enough to be released from spousal-leash, yet near enough to be socially excited, culturally comfortable and culinarily stimulated – to participate in a so-called regional Hawana inaugural celebration.

“At whose cost?”, all taxpayers should reasonably ask. “What came of it?” The ‘chosen few’ should honestly advise.

After this latest event, many ‘retired’ and old-school media who watched with a large dose of askance from the sidelines, commented on the dearth of women journalists participating (or ignored), the exclusion of non-establishment media, and the justification for it all, among others.

Media does not need ‘godfathers’ to perform their duty to report the news fairly, in a timely fashion, and accurately. In the words of a real “Hawana-wannabe”; “Pantang dibeli!” (no amount of cringe-worthy flattery is enough to sacrifice personal dignity and professional integrity!)

Learn a thing or two from this young man’s video documentary!

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.