Oh, the things that we take for granted
Published on: Sunday, March 22, 2020
By: Datuk John Lo
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I was amazed by Covid19 patient no. 33. He has detailed his deep appreciation of the high quality of medical care he has received from our medical personnel as a corona virus patient. He has given names of medical personnel too. All too often, we criticise, take things for granted but don’t appreciate. Please his article below. 


On reflection, most of us also have taken the services/improvements we have been receiving for granted. I like to mention the following outstanding examples. 

UTC – efficient, pleasant ambience.

UTC has been, since its introduction some years ago, the single most impressive innovation in government service for the public. With UTC functioning, gone were long queues, endless return trips for passports, driving licences etc. To get services speeded up, under counter money and runners were prolific. The service level in UTC has been transformed to world class, comparable, if not better than those in many 1st world countries. Good examples—-[a] Passport renewals within 3 hours. [b] Replacement of I/C within 1 or 2 hours. [c] Road tax/driving licence within 2 hours. Though I have not used other UTC services, they must be equally fast too.

I look forward to even better service in UTC with technological developments in AI and 5G.

QE1 – vast improvements, service with a smile.

The world class medical attention/services that Covid19 patient 33 talk about are also available in QE1. Going to QE1 to see a doctor or just visiting a friend was something to be dreaded in the past. It was always a no choice situation. The level of service was horrendous, seeing a good doctor was like striking lottery, unsmiling medical personnel, cleanliness was a big issue. Common sights of poor relatives sleeping on the floor. All these are no longer true.

Recently, I have seen doctors for medical reasons, have visited friends there. The transformation is exceptional. Most pleasant and striking is that you are more than likely to be greeted with helpful, smiling faces nowadays.

The transformation of QE1 is more than smiling faces. QE1 is now a teaching hospital, with many specialists, clean, efficient. The range of specialists is impressive.

QE1 may require a bit of waiting for service. But that is to be expected with all public hospitals. The service level of the British National Health Service is no better. The British MPs have been complaining about long queues and delays for operations in Parliament, waiting time can be as long as 3 or more years.

In addition to these nice improvements and smiling faces, our medical service is practically free and is completely free for seniors!

### QE1 and the health care system in Sabah will be sorely tested by the expanding number of Covid19 cases. The public can best show appreciation by their understanding and co-operation in coming months. The medical personnel are risking their health and, in some cases, their lives to tackle this virus.

Land and Surveys Department—-Impressive, major technological advancements by Datuk Safar.

Safar Untong, during his time as director, has made impressive, major technological advancements in this department especially in computerization. Safar has modernised this department from 20th century right into the 21st century. One such service which I find very useful and use often is the search of locations of land titles using the app of the department. So convenient and easy! 

The computer section got to be singled out for mention as it is now the main engine for the efficient working of the whole department. With the high degree of computerization, efficiency and quality of services to the public has improved beyond recognition from the past. Another section whose service has improved hugely and has huge impacts for the public is the survey section.

Walking into the department for my first visit in years, I could sense the transformation. There is a sense of welcome and efficiency. The staff that I approached for help even told me when to return for my document. I returned on the appointed day and the document was ready for my collection! Wonderful experience and so vastly different from the past!

I hope Safar’s innovation and transformation can continue. From the 1 and only 1 visit to this department, I love the experience of such efficient and friendly service!

Many professionals/consultants have spoken deep appreciations of Datuk Safar’s transformation in the L&S Department. Their endorsement is the ultimate accolade because their livelihood is dependent on the department’s quality of service.

Safar has since been promoted to State Secretary [No. 1 of Sabah civil service]. I hope he will continue his innovative drive and put a smile on the face of all Sabah’s civil servants and in doing so, put a smile on the face of every Sabahan!

JKR’s Datuk Armullah Kamal makes his outstanding mark whereever he is posted. 

A good official will leave his mark where ever he goes. Such an official is Armullah. Never has there been a JKR director like Armullah. In addition to being open and approachable, he was the personification of efficiency and “quick to the draw” in response for action for road improvements and maintenance. He was tireless in endeavouring to improve JKR’s services. It is said that even potholes have been reduced! Armullah’s ability to “think of the box” makes him a unique and valuable officer whenever he is posted. 

Armullah carried with him his brand of “service for the people” to DBKK on his transfer. Always open and approachable, Datuk Armullah was soon making a positive difference in service for the public as well as officers’ motivation. Datuk Armullah, now President of Tawau Municipal Council, is creating the same positive ambience there.

DBKK – new DG Puan Noorliza Awang Alip’s refreshing style.

You never know what a lady can come up with until you see Puan Noorliza’s refreshing style as the new DBKK DG. Rare for senior officials, Noorliza is at ease engaging KK residents in a number of activities and generating a new life style in the city. 

Amazingly, she is very much at home with vendors of the Central Market, urging them on the necessity of cleanliness More importantly, she has initiated things for the young which can make them see life in a wholesome productive way, can keep them from harmful activities like drugs and undesirable activities. 

Her latest initiative in garbage collection will mean the city and suburbs cleaner. If the city folks can give Puan Noorliza their whole hearted support, KK will become a more liveable and pleasant city for us and tourists.

In defence of Civil Servants against YB/politicians with no government posts.


Reported in the above news is that the politician concerned gave a warning to federal civil servants in Sabah for extending invitation to a state assistant minister for an official function. This is tantamount to intimidation and/or coercion on the civil servants. Politicians [of government or opposition parties] who have no official government appointments have NO LOCAL STANDI to give such warnings. 

They should recognise their proper roles

[a] They are not government officials as they do not hold official government positions – simple principle of separation of power. 

[b] If they have any grouses like in this case, they should either bring it up in parliament [if there are MPs] or via their party organisation or to relevant ministers. 

[c] The government does not belong to any political party, even the party in government. The government belongs to the people. Ministers are appointed as trustees of the people. 

[d] Civil servants are answerable and accountable to appointed and/or elected government ministers only. They do not in anyway answerable to politicians with no official appointment. 

[e] Whether the state government is in opposition or with the federal government, the ministers, in keeping with protocol, should be recognised as government officials and not, as political enemies. 

[f] Lastly, the invitation from the civil servants is completely legitimate if it is for the benefit of the children and schools. Don’t politicize education.

If any “Tom, Dick and Harry” YB or politician is allowed to give instructions and/or warnings to civil servants, there would be chaos within the government. Who should they listen—-so many YBs and politicians? The integrity of the civil service structure must be defended and the dignity of senior civil servants [federal or state] must be respected.

The pertinent federal and state ministers are morally obligated, duty bound to defend the civil servants in this case. Failing to do so will reflect on them badly for allowing their staff to be told off by an outsider.

All these are very basic democratic, management norms. So, politicians, please hands off, don’t interfere with civil servants in the performance of their duties.

Appointing good senior officials is essential for progress. 

The contributions of the above departments, 3 officers and many others like them can produce huge social/economic impacts. The purpose of mentioning them is to highlight their huge potential social/economic contribution and the benefits from having more such senior officials in Sabah. Imagine the positive difference if there are just 20 more officials like  Safar, Armullah and Noorliza can be identified and appointed to key positions to serve the people.

No doubt in my mind that there are many more good officers in Sabah with potentials. They should be identified, be given the opportunities to apply their energy and innovative ideas of service. Having more officers can expedite social/economic progress for Sabah.

Good officers are valuable rare assets to political leaders for they can solve their problems at the grassroot level without them having to receive and attend to endless mundane requests/complains. 

Some may not realise it, overly compliant, too submissive and excessively eager to please officers are biggest liability of political leaders. They tend to do nothing else, do not solve the people’s problem except to clown and amuse their political masters.


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