Khin Maung Myint
I once mentioned a loose translation of a well-known Myanmar saying in one of my articles. It is very meaningful and I admire the person who coined that saying, for his wisdom. I’m quite familiar with some English and American proverbs and sayings, but I have never found a similar one or may be I’m not very much widely read. Thus I chose the Myanmar saying to make my point stronger in delivering the message I want to give. The saying runs like this: “Due to the leaky roof, the floor is decayed, is it the floor’s fault?”.
I used that saying in an article related to bribery and corruption. I wanted to point out that the problem of bribery and corruption was being dealt wrongly in our country. Whenever there was action taken for such crimes, it was the lower echelon staff that were dismissed or jailed. However, those in higher positions who were committing them left and right and in much larger volumes were getting away scot-free or had never taken any severe action in the past. The severest action taken against high ranking officials for corruption, that I had witnessed during my service years, were transfers to a similar rank in other departments under another ministry. I likened that situation to repairing the floor without repairing the leaky roof, which will cause the floor to decay again. I suggested that the leaky roof be either repaired, if still repairable and if not, to totally remove and replace with a new one before repairing the floor.
Now, the roof has been replaced, but is the building strong enough to be safe or free from danger of being toppled? If the decayed floor is not repaired in time, I doubt it would last long. Buildings would collapse if the base is not strong. Thus, it’s time to repair the decayed floor, which forms part of the base, by removing and replacing the unrepairable planks that are decaying. If some salvageable planks are reused, make sure that they are strong enough and reliable. Un-reuseable and unreliable ones should be totally discarded. There’s no reason to be attached to them as they are the ones that would surely give trouble sooner or later.
Likewise, a government’s durability depends greatly on the strengths of the personnel at all levels of the hierarchy in various state departments, especially those in high positions. The strength or the ability of a person is gauged by his or her integrity, honesty, sincerity, character, industriousness, qualification or caliber, reliability and last but not least, loyalty. One may not be endowed with all these attributes. However, if one possesses a few of the the most important ones such as honesty, sincerity, reliability and loyalty, they would be great assets.
During my service years I had served in various capacities, the administrative field of which was my speciality. As the administrative chief, I made it a point to know each and everyone in the department, especially those in responsible positions. I knew most of them and their calibers, capabilities, capacities, characters, their strong points, their weaknesses and above all their mentalities and attitudes or in other words their mindsets, to a certain extent.
As there were a few good, clean, industrious and dutiful staff, there were also many opportunists who would resort to any means to please the superiors for favours and undue privileges. Of course, bribing is their main tools to achieve their goals. To be able to bribe, they too must be corrupt. The term corruption doesn’t apply only to the taking of bribes; mis-appropiations of state funds, facilities and properties and abuse of office, too, are deemed as corruptions. In those days, only a few were clean and free from corruption.
Things I noticed about those corrupt persons were that most were not dedicated to their duties and were not qualified and worst of all, many were misfits in the positions they held. They had no principles or dignity and were disloyal. Thus they were not trustworthy. The only thing they were interested in was their survival.
Today, most of those corrupt persons I knew had gone on retirement or passed away. Though I don’t know how many such persons are still there in my old department, I know for sure some of those corrupt individuals still remain. Some have even risen to high positions. They haven’t changed their characters or mindsets. The numbers of such type of persons may have even increased with the newcomers—either recruited from outside or dumped from other departments. In the past, most civil departments were inter-ministrial dumping grounds to dump misfits and unwanted high profile personnels between various ministries.
I don’t want to name them, but would like to suggest to the authorities that every department need thorough shake-up to cleanse them of such individuals.The practice of transferring such persons from one department to another wouldn’t solve the problems. To create a clean government and promote good governance, these corrupt individuals in all the departments should be done away, if they hadn’t turn over a new leaf. They are the root causes of the ill-reputations of any government department in the eyes of the public. They could also cause hindrances to the nation building process. I bet there are countless numbers of such undesirable elements in every department. However, to be fair, they should be given a certain period of time to change. It may take time but must be done. We couldn’t afford to wait very long, though. In my humble opinion, the sooner the better.