Active Sikh thinker Dr Karminder Singh Dhillon has been made deputy secretary general for administration at the Ministry of Defence. The appointment makes him the senior most Sikh in the Malaysian civil service.
He replaces Mohd Zainy Mohamed Zain who goes on mandatory retirement on 1 July, according to an announcement at the ministry twitter.
He moves from National Institute of Public Administration (Intan), a government agency responsible for the training of civil servants in management and administration.
The son of a granthi, he is a formidable force amongst the global Sikh intellectuals who does not shy away from tackling controversial religious issues.
A granthi literally means a reader of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture. However, it also refers to Sikhs who take charge of the Sikh scripture and religious affairs at gurdwaras (Sikh temples), akin to a priest, though Sikhs do not have a defined priesthood.
Karminder is the author of the book Malaysian Foreign Policy in the Mahathir Era 1981-2003: Dilemmas of Development which is the result of his PhD dissertation at University of Boston in 2005.
In December 2016, at the height of the Dasam Granth debate in Malaysia, he narrowly escaped what was believed to be an attempted assault when a brick was flung towards his car by a motorcyclist when he was returning after a speaking session at Selayang gurdwara.
“This is no coincident, not an accident. It is a blatant and daring attack on a Sikh parcharak to cow him from doing his work,” Karminder then told Asia Samachar.
At the gurdwara programme earlier, Karminder’s talk on the ‘Ek Granth, Ek Panth, Ek Maryada’ in the darbar sahib (prayer hall) was interrupted twice by two Sikh men on the pretext of raising questions, something not commonly done in talks in the darbar sahib.
He speaks and writes fluently in Malay, English and Punjabi. He also does kirtan and can play the tabla.
Karminder, who had a stint as a journalist earlier, was a former secretary of Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) and is the current member of the religious committee of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC)
Attempted assault on Dr Karminder Singh after talk at Selayang gurdwara (Asia Samachar, 17 Dec 2016)