Civil servants are not pawns but have rights

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Mahdzir Khalid - Photograph: Saw Siow Feng/Malay Mail Online

Bersih 2.0 condemns the action of Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid, who explicitly threatened civil servants who may support the opposition and not vote for the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.

Mahdzir Khalid’s comment barring civil servants, teachers and education department officers from joining an opposition party or from voicing opinions critical of the government on account of “sabotaging and tarnishing the government’s image” is in fact a blatant abuse of his ministerial position and the powers entrusted to him. It violates all principles of governance for a person of his stature to see it fit to threaten those who are subordinate to him.

Mahdzir’s comment saying that the civil servants are welcome to join the government also displays his ignorance as he is not able to distinguish the roles and responsibilities of a government from that of a political party. This is appalling and truly puts into question his integrity as a Minister and as a civil servant.

The act of instilling fear of economic loss into the civil servants or any persons severely violate the rights of civil servants or any persons, as voters to choose their own representatives. It also contravenes their freedom of expression and right to dissent.

Civil servants are not the living property of the ruling coalition. They are citizens of the country and their rights are enshrined in the Federal Constitution, which also lays down the foundation and powers of the government. 

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This kind of intimidation should not be tolerated as the civil servants form a large portion of the workforce in Malaysia and are under the direct control of the government.

A change of government is not necessarily negative, but in fact increases political competition where incumbent parties will be placed under pressure to ensure better laws and policies are introduced and protected.

The minister should see this election as a challenge and not be complacent by resorting to underhanded dirty tactics of intimidating those in subordinate positions.

Bersih 2.0 calls upon the Electoral Commission to investigate this matter with immediate urgency in order to protect the rights of citizens to vote without fear or favour and to maintain the secrecy of their votes.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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