How political or apolitical is our Civil Service

We inherited the British system of govt where there is a separation of power between the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of the govt. The three are supposedly to function independent of each other. The assumption is that while the political leaders could change at every election, the judiciary and executive branch could continue to function without being embroiled in a political tussel for power and control. Somehow it works in the British system and to a certain extent even the American system. Our system is designed or copied to work the same. Our civil servants are apolitical in this sense, not part of a political party and will serve which ever party that comes to power in the electoral process. When Vivian Balakrishnan spoke to a university crowd of students, an innocent student popped out the innocent question of how political are our civil servants, are they able to continue to function when there is a change of govt? Vivian did not answer her question directly but gave the standard reply that no one can deny the party from picking the best talents for the job. The adult population will not ask such a question. They have a clear understanding of how our political system works. A student is still innocent and untainted in their views and idealism. They expect things to work the way it is said to work. Why should the students have such a notion and popped such a question? Are they seeing things in a different light? Our civil servants are completely neutral to party politics. The govt has made sure that they are not politicised. The People's Association and the PAP's kindergarten are also not political. They are there to serve the people in general, all, regardless of political affiliations. Our Civil Service is definitely apolitical in this sense. The fear in the student's mind is that should there be a change of govt like the tsunami in Malaysia, very unlikely to happen here, what would happen to the civil servants? Would they resign en bloc or be asked to leave by the new leadership? Or would they go on strike or mount a revolt? Whatever, it means that the country will be disrupted. These are just suppositions. The talents in the Civil Service are indispensable to the smooth functioning of the country and any new political party coming to power is likely to keep the Civil Service intact. And the civil servants only need to pledge loyalty to a new govt and continue as per normal. It is good for students to raise such idealistic questions. Idealism is only for the youth. The pragmatism of the adult world does not have room for youthful idealism. Anything goes for one's personnel benefits and interests. Most adults will be asking what is in it for me instead?


Anonymous said...

You must be joking!

Even the Trade Union is a political tool. That is an insult to the British system of Government which we adopted.

Anonymous said...

The greatest hope and only consolation in Singapore are that the younger Singaporeans though politically apathetics are not as gullible as their elder citizens.

With the Internet, youths today become much more informed and are able to see for themselves how a very small group of elites are making uses of the masses to remain in perpectual power to rule the majority with all kinds of schemes.

Justice as the Chinese knows it, is innate in human nature(Gong tao zi zai ren xin). Consciences are inherent in the majority of human beings. There will always be the awakening and our youngs are proving themselves that they are able to discern.

Some have sensed and suspect the Civil Service has lost its' independence in its' functions and duties. In an ideal society, the Civil Service is indeed to function independently of politics. It is not the idealism of the youths or anyone else, it is the ideal of every society.


Anonymous said...


If the assumption that the civil service is apolitical, just believe it at your own risk.

Even if the civil service is really apolitical, it does serve a very important political purpose.

Civil servants have to take care of their jobs, and that little number on the ballot paper is a grim reminder to them of where to butter their bread.

Well, you can say that not all have that feeling of being psychologically persuaded, but at least the majority of those civil servants that I know admitted to having that feeling of unease, if they do not vote for the ruling party. No need to say how they voted.

Matilah_Singapura said...

WOW! If more local kids were like that, that should give the politicos a nice reality check.

Civil service (made up of humans who are essentially 'political animals') tends to be political -- but not necessarily faithful to the party in power.

Here is Oz the federal cops are investigating a leak from the treasury. Parliament is hung, everyone seems to be scrambling to form minority govt... or we go back to the polls. Treasury leaked opposition policy costing figures and it looks like someone in treasury is out to discredit the opposition.

So whilst the whole, of the civil service may not be 'political', rest assured the people who work there have their own individual political preferences.

Also what these people say could be different from how they really feel: if you are getting good (stolen) money from the mob (govt), it would be wiser to 'angkat' them (RBPS = rice-bowl protection strategy) than to go against the boss.

"When the great lord passes the wise peasant bows deeply and silently farts"

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Whether our civil servants are apolitical is an ambiguous issue. It is not what is stated or claimed. It is what they do that matters. The people will be watching and make their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

'It is not what is stated or claimed'

It is unconsciously perceived and felt.