Many Malaysian civil servants were openly campaigning for the Barisan Nasional coalition during the recent general election, raising doubts over their loyalty to the new Pakatan Harapan government and their ability to carry out their duties, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.
"We find that many civil servants, whether voluntarily or otherwise, campaigned for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the general election. We question their loyalty, whether they are loyal to the previous administration or to us," Tun Dr Mahathir told a news conference.
"This affects our administration, as we want to run the country according to our methods and manifesto. We are not sure if we can get their cooperation or not, as they are not supposed to side with any parties," he said.
He noted that there were videos of civil servants wearing BN's blue uniforms and actively campaigning for the coalition during the general election held on May 9.
The Prime Minister, however, stopped short of saying the errant civil servants would be sacked.
He said: "We don't want to punish unnecessarily because that is not our way of doing things.
"But we need to know the loyalty of these civil servants because, unfortunately, they had commissioned themselves so deeply towards propagating the propaganda of the previous government.
"We hope that they will change their attitude and become neutral again because they have to carry out the policies and instructions of the government."
There are about 1.6 million civil servants in Malaysia.
The Mahathir administration, in one of its first steps after winning the polls, terminated the contracts of 17,000 political appointees who had served under the previous government.
Dr Mahathir said it was essential to "trim excess fat" and to cut government spending in order to reduce the national debt of RM1 trillion (S$335.7 billion).
"We had to take action (by sacking them) because their positions were not needed."
The administration also shut down several government bodies which it said were unnecessary and "political", and cut the salaries of Cabinet ministers, as part of its austerity drive.