When the Civil Service was instituted it was hyped to provide job security to the 35,000 odd government employees in the Maldives. They were promised protection from politically motivated and arbitrary dismissals. Join the Civil Service and assure a lifelong career, they were promised. But today hundreds of civil servants under threat of dismissal from 'redundant' government offices are wondering where the promises and assurances have gone.
Whatever its faults – be it discrimination, favoritism or nepotism – Maumoon government rarely practiced arbitrary dismissal from government service. In fact if the Civil Service Commission goes ahead it with the current spate of planned dismissals, the Commission would be responsible for more involuntary dismissals from service in one year than Maumoon in thirty years.
When an assistant secretary who has served faithfully for over 15 years in her job, her only means of subsistence with her two kids, faces dismissal just because her ministry is no longer deemed expedient, it matters little to her whether the dismissal is politically motivated or legalistically justified. What matters to her is she faces destitution tomorrow. What matters to us as citizens is that the State has failed to protect job security for its people.
The Civil Service Law requires employment in the service to be career based. What it means to most people is that once a person chooses a civil service job one is assured job security as well as the opportunity to go up the steps in a hierarchy, provided one performs satisfactorily in one's job. In the Maldives Civil Service things don't work out exactly that way. For example, when a DG position falls vacant, it is openly advertised with no preference given to in-service candidates. Even Deputy DGs in the same department will have to compete for the job with all those who apply including fresh graduates. In other words getting the DG post is more or less equivalent to getting a new job. In effect someone in a deputy DG post has two choices: remain in the post for ever or find another job. One wonders how one could call it a career based system.
No one says an unproductive person must be retained in the civil service. But are all those currently under the guillotine unproductive, and if so how does one know? The staff appraisal system is still in its infancy and in most offices appraisal forms are filled mechanically at the end of the period, the same way overtime approval forms are filled towards the end of each month. Can one rely on such appraisals to decide someone's future?