Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) top scorers denied scholarships by the Public Services Department (PSD) can heave a sigh of relief, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has intervened.Of course, our civil service "yang mengikut perintah" will now obediently offer all the fortunate candidates whose names have been published in the various local newspapers over the past couple of days their scholarships for, in all probability, any course they wish. Our Minister of Education, Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein also pledged to do his part:
Hishammuddin also showed his determination when he said: "You can tell them that I am fighting for them. You can tell them that their names are embedded in my mind. I have asked (Deputy Education Minister) Datuk Hon Choon Kim to get all their particulars."So, the upset students will get their scholarships, the politicians will bask in glory and the media will be proud of the role they played in the entire episode. A Malaysian fairy tale comes to a "happy ever after" ending... or not?
Some serious questions need to be asked, and the implications of the above (oft repeated exercise) needs to be raised:
- Why does it take our Prime Minister to discharge his "powers" before the "right" things are done for simple and fairly routine exercise of awarding scholarships to our most promising students? Is our system so screwed up that everything needs to go to our Prime Minister to right the wrongs? It's no wonder Pak Lah has little time for some of the more important issues facing the country.
- This is the question which everyone will be asking - will the same soap opera routine be repeated in subsequent years as it has in previous? Will the lesson be learnt? Do we have to set up a Royal Commission to Reform our PSD? The actions of PSD, whether intended or otherwise, seriously damages the efforts of our leaders to enhance national integration - undoing the millions spent for example, on National Service.
- More importantly, what about the negative implication of our Prime Minister's intervention? While I expect most top students to receive scholarships, it's not necessary that all top students receive them. I would never award scholarships to candidates who are too big-headed, who demonstrates anti-social behaviours or opinions such as being a racist, or candidates who intend to obtain the scholarship to study overseas and subsequently have zero intentions on returning home. However, with the Prime Minister's intervention, which civil servant "yang mengikut perintah" would dare to risk his career by persisting in not awarding the scholarship to aw "top student"? In fact, a potential negative development to avoid controversy, the "bosses" of PSD may decide that "all" top students will be awarded scholarships irregardless rendering the interview exercise all but a formality, with the sole objective of avoiding controversy.
- Finally, every protective parent worth his salt will start cultivate relationships with every press and media person in order to have the necessary connections to raise a ruckus, just in case that his son or daughter is "unjustly" treated by scholarship authorities. Why is that not necessarily a good thing? For one, it then becomes the media who decides the fate of whether a candidate obtains a scholarship, and not rightfully, the PSD.