Karminder retires amid glowing tributes

Change in Malaysian federal government after May 2018 polls stands out as the most recent memorable moment in his 32 year career

Dr Karminder Singh Dhillon
By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |

Sikh critical thinker Dr Karminder Singh Dhillon has retired after a 32-year stint with the Malaysian civil service.

He retired yesterday (28 April) as the deputy secretary general (management) of the Ministry of Defense (Mindef).

Among those who noted his departure was Liew Chin Tong, the former Malaysian deputy defence minister from the Pakatan Harapan government which stormed into office after the surprise victory in the May 2018 polls.

In a Facebook entry yesterday, Liew said he and former defence minister Mohamad Sabu had a ‘great time’ working with Dr Karminder during their tenure in Mindef.

“He is knowledgeable and has written a PhD on Malaysia’s foreign policy, in part based on his experience during his first tour at MinDef. This research work later culminated into a book, titled “Malaysian Foreign Policy in the Mahathir Era, 1981-2003: Dilemmas of Development, which is often cited by scholars internationally when discussing Malaysia’s development.

“He was a great advocate for Defence White Paper and good governance in Defence. Good luck in retirement, Dr. Karminder,” he said.

Asked what was the biggest learning after more than three decades serving the Government, Karminder said it all came down to individuals.

“The greatest hope society and the nation can have is in individual character. Not technology, processes, systems and a whole host of other things we tend to focus on,” he told Asia Samachar.

Karminder, whose father was a granthi and a Sikh intellectual, is also a well-known Sikh writer and speaker who never shies away from tackling difficult and controversial topics.

Karminder is currently the joint editor of US-based The Sikh Bulletin and sits on the board of the Sikhi Vichar Forum website which aims to create awareness on ‘authentic SGGS based Sikhi’.

Karminder was appointed deputy secretary general in July 2018 which made him the senior most Sikh in the Malaysian civil service.

Earlier, Jesbil Singh also ended his career as a deputy secretary general at the same ministry. He is now an assistant vice chancellor at the National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM).

One of the photos shared by Liew (middle) who is seen here chairing a Mindef meeting

Prior to his last position, Karminder was the senior deputy director at the National Institute of Public Administration Malaysia, popularly known by its Malay acronym Intan.

He has previously served at the Prime Ministers Department, the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Karminder teaches at the National University of Malaysia on an adjunct basis. He has previously served as adjunct faculty in the Department of International Studies, University of Malaya and UPNM.

He holds a B.Sc in political science, a post-grad diploma in public management, an MA in international relations and international communication, and a doctorate in international relations.

He has obtained his educational and professional qualifications from Harvard University, US; the University of Nottingham, UK, and the National Defense University, Beijing; Boston University, US, and University of Science Penang.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Karminder.

Q: The biggest learning you take along after 32 years of service.

A: That it all comes down to individuals. The greatest hope society and the nation can have is in individual character. Not technology, processes, systems and a whole host of other things we tend to focus on. Individuals must want the change, progress and development that society and the nation aspire; else it will simply not happen.

In my 32 years, what I remember most are individuals: individuals who made a difference, individuals who stood up for what is right, individuals who valued other individuals.

Q: What was your most memorable moment while in the civil service?

The change in government that happened in May of 2018 stands out as the most recent. The civil service had not known any other government. The novelty of the entire process and the whole range of unknowns that hung over the heads of everyone involved was what made it inimitable.

I guess the new minsters and their teams were as anxious as we were. Neither side knew what to expect. Witnessing Minister Mat Sabu take the guard of honor given to him by the Armed Forces was historic in itself.

Experiencing the intellectual passion of Deputy Minister Lew Chin Tong in all matters of defense of the nation – in particular the Defense White Paper – something never done in the history of Mindef – was equally historic.

In the end professionalism triumphed on the side of Mindef and patriotism on the side of the new administration.

Q: So, what’s next?

Back to basics. Family, Writing, Teaching and Consulting.


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