Digital sustainability crucial going forward


MAY 1 is a date that is always awaited by workers in the country, be they civil servants or private sector employees, because it is a public holiday observed in recognition of their labour; hence, Labour Day.

In an exclusive interview in connection with the special day, the chairman of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (CUEPACS) Sarawak, Omar Bahrein Unin, shared certain pertinent information including those on issues affecting civil servants in Sarawak. He also spoke on some initiatives implemented by his organisation.

SUARA SARAWAK: We are observing Labour Day again, so how does CUEPACS celebrate?

MBKS general worker Mazrul Zulaihi

OMAR: We highlight the theme of this year’s celebration, ‘Sustainability of Digitalisation Facing Challenges’.

We see the digital challenges that civil servants are facing and will continue to face into the future. We expect civil servants to change themselves, to adapt to technology.

The delivery of government services requires civil servants to be tech-literate and skillful in the applications of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems. All civil servants should be prepared to upgrade their IT skills because digital advances are very fast. By upgrading their skills, they won’t be left behind and badly affect the public service.

CUEPACS Sarawak has a very good relationship with the state government which has helped us financially over the past three years. We greatly appreciate the good relationship and hopes that it will continue.

We made annual courtesy calls on the chief minister (now premier) to whom we usually bring issues and problems faced by the civil servants in Sarawak.

In what way is CUEPACS assisting the government to implement the National Recovery Plan (PPN) successfully?

Frontliners on duty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both at the federal and state level civil servants are always ready to serve, to carry out the plan.

The seriousness, loyalty, and commitment of the civil servants to their responsibilities have been evident all these years, and very apparent when the country was hit by the pandemic about two years ago.

Most of the frontliners were civil servants. During the implementation of the movement Control Order (PKP), we saw civil servants serving or protecting the public.

The professionalism of all civil servants was quite clear the government changed three times at the federal level. The civil servants did take any side; they just serve the ruling government, being bound by their pledges to serve the country and being loyal to the Agong.

What about a proposal for the government to restructure its ministries to make them more organised and coordinated as suggested by Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg?

Just another shift in a glove factory to ensure that there is enough supply to handle the pandemic.

We strongly support any proposal to enhance the performance of any ministry, department or agency, especially the ones that need to satisfy the high Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that the government can develop the country or state.

For example, we suggest that departments or ministries that have similar or overlapping roles should be reorganised or merged. For example, in maritime law enforcement, many departments are involved — Marine Department Malaysia, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, etc. Maybe they can be restructured or streamlined.

We also recommend restructuring ministries that serve the public face-to-face such as those with counter services. This is recommended because the public often evaluate the services provided by ministries or departments at their counters.

We hope those in charge can see this because we often hear about complaints concerning counter services. Maybe some restructuring or simplifying of governmental processes can reduce bureaucracy that annoys the public.

The ecosystem of online services or internet systems ought to be emphasised to enhance the capabilities of government servants to drive forward the digital economy that has been implemented in Sarawak. In this, we hope that the quality of internet connections would be given full attention.

How do you see the government looking after the welfare of civil servants?

MBKS landscaping worker Princes Ngan

CUEPACS Sarawak thinks that the government has given the best possible attention to the welfare of workers. The congress has always been given opportunities to talk to the government about the welfare of civil servants.

At the same time, we also have various platforms to voice to convey the wishes or demands of CUEPACS. Among the platforms that we often use is the ‘Majlis Bersama Kebangsaan (MBK)’ and we also have a lot of opportunities to visit ministers or even the prime minister.

CUEPACS hopes that its official will be allowed to visit the prime minister soon to convey some welfare matters that we hope he can announce for the benefit of civil servants.

Also in terms of welfare, CUEPACS often holds engagement sessions with the government through the Public Service Department (JPA). We usually do this before an administrative circular or guidelines are issued by the government.

What are the challenges faced by civil servants at the moment?

We are well aware that the civil service has been particularly affected by the pandemic for the past two years, so we now have to deal with the post-COVID-19 service delivery. In this we take into account the technology-driven change of management method that has become the new norm. Civil servants need to change their thinking to be more open to handle real-life scenarios.

Street cobbler Hamzah Bujang

What about civil servants who find it challenging to use technology to deliver services?

Technological changes in the present age place lots of demand on everyone to upskill, not just civil servants. I am confident that civil servants are willing and ready, especially in terms of improving their skills to ensure that they can perform their duties including those involving the internet.

How many state and federal civil servants are there in Sarawak at the moment?

The number of federal and state civil servants in Sarawak now is estimated at almost 120,000. State civil servants number about 22,000 and the rest are federal civil servants.

Any word for this year’s Labour Day?

We hope that civil servants in the state will continue to serve to the best of their abilities, especially in terms of increasing productivity and maintaining integrity in employment practices.

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