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Supporting letters: Abuse or necessity?

“Sometimes, people come to your office and ask for recommendations. If you say no after they have come from 20 miles away, I think that will be bad for public relations and disastrous in politics.

“So let [the politicians and officials] sign, make the people very comfortable. To be human, you still have to provide that comfort.”

SELANGOR Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, in explaining the phenomenon of support letters by elected representatives and councillors. This was following the revelation by The Star on 27 July 2010 that a “rogue councillor” from the DAP had abused a state exco’s official letterhead to obtain contracts for cronies and family members.

Khalid said The Star report put him in an “embarrassing” situation because the issue had been exposed while the state was still investigating the matter. He stressed that the state awarded most contracts without referring to any support letter. However, he admitted it may not be possible to completely abolish the practice. Still, Khalid said his office had asked for an audit of all support letters that had been submitted for contract tenders.  (Source: Selangor to audit support letters, Free Malaysia Today, 28 July 2010)

“Recommendations made by politicians or influential people should not in any way influence the decisions of the government. We have come up with a comprehensive set of rules to check this because civil servants are often caught in a bind with requests or recommendations from politicians and influential people.”

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, in a circular, urging all civil servants to report any request for “favours” by politicians in the awarding of government contracts. Such requests could entail communication such as “Sila timbangkan”, “Disokong dengan kuat” and “Saya tiada halangan”, in all forms.

Mohd Sidek stressed that civil servants should not “treat any recommendation letter from politicians as a directive”. (Source: Report politicians who seek favours, civil servants told, The Star, 26 July 2010)

“This case is clearly theft and a matter of public concern.”

Penang Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim, saying that Klang municipal councillor Tee Boon Hock’s use of Pandamaran assemblyperson and state exco Ronnie Liu’s official letterhead had to be reported to the police. Azhar said the matter was no longer an internal DAP affair, and that the party had to act against Tee and could not “sweep the matter under the carpet”.

Penang MCA adviser Datuk Koay Kar Huah described the matter as a criminal breach of trust that should be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency. Penang Gerakan vice-chairperson Teng Chang Yeow also took the opportunity to criticise the DAP, saying the affair demonstrated that the party had trouble controlling its members.

The DAP sacked Tee, who was on an imposed leave of absence, from the party on 1 Aug 2010, and is also expected to write to the Selangor government to request for him to be removed from the Klang council. The party said it was also investigating Liu over Tee’s allegations that Liu was fully aware of his use of the official letterheads. Liu has since lodged a police report about the matter. (Source: Khalid: State probe on rogue DAP councillor started 2 weeks ago, The Star, 27 July 2010)

“… saya ingin membangkitkan persoalan mengenai peranan ahli politik yang dipilih rakyat. Apa guna kita mengadakan pilihanraya untuk memilih wakil rakyat sekiranya perkara seperti menulis surat sokongan pun tidak dibenarkan? Jika seorang wakil rakyat gagal membuktikan kebolehan membantu dan membela rakyat, maka beliau akan diundi keluar, manakala kakitangan awam pula tidak dipilih. Oleh itu, janganlah kita terlalu cepat memandang serong peranan wakil rakyat dalam menyokong sesuatu permohonan kepada Kerajaan.”

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, explaining that politicians who wrote support letters were sometimes helping people whose applications, which had merit, were being thwarted by “little Napoleons” within the civil service. The Rembau Member of Parliament said politicians should be allowed to extend support letters when the civil service had failed the public. (Source: Sokongan Ahli Politik dalam Permohonan Kepada Kerajaan, Khairy Jamaluddin’s blog, 26 July 2010)

“Arahan [Ketua Setiausaha Negara] memberi gambaran seolah-olah surat sokongan ahli politik adalah suatu tindakan menyalah gunakan kuasa. Di sini Pemuda Umno membantah persepsi sesetengah pihak yang menganggap surat sokongan sebagai tindakan salah guna kuasa oleh ahli politik kerana seringkali wakil rakyat menyokong permohonan rakyat bukan atas pertalian politik tetapi semata-mata mahu membantu rakyat. Kes-kes ini bukan hanya melibatkan kontrak atau perolehan kerajaan tapi kebanyakkannya adalah permohonan untuk biasiswa, pemindahan tempat kerja, kebajikan dan perumahan.”

One of Umno Youth‘s resolutions at its 30 July 2010 meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The youth wing said while it believed the majority of civil servants were professional, there were a handful of “little Napoleons” who did not treat public requests fairly. The wing also called on Mohd Sidek to clarify his directive to all civil servants. (Source: Kenyataan Akhbar Pergerakan Pemuda Umno Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin’s blog, 30 July 2010)

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2 Responses to “Supporting letters: Abuse or necessity?”

  1. mkat says:

    Hard as it is to say it, I actually agree with Khairy!! Ugh… I feel dirty now. But it’s true, letters of support SHOULD not be necessary in a perfect world, BUT as we know it, Malaysia is far from perfect and our civil service has to rank amongst the worst of the worst.

    As Khairy says, at least an MP can be voted out of office should he/she be corrupt or fail to perform (although lord only knows how Khir Toyo manages to get elected year after year), BUT not our horribly incompetent civil servants.

  2. Ruzaini says:

    To certain extent, I am persuaded to agree with Khairy Jamaluddin that a support letter from a politician functions to support the application by a member of the public; and I see no wrong to such a practice. However, I need to stress here that the support letter must be issued to support applications which have merit. Application which, even on its face value has no merit at all, or that support letter is asked purely for political expediency should not be supported at all.

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