History of Public Service


Office of British East India Company 1780’s

The Malaysian Public Service, formerly known as the Malayan Civil Service (MCS), inherited its legacy from the British Public Service with significant fundamental changes taking place over the last 50 years. Its establishment began in the late 1700 when the British East India Company acquired Penang. At that time the civil service attracted the best and brightest scholars from England to be appointed as administrative officers. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1845 laid down the public service ethos which emphasized that

1) A politically neutral civil service means complete loyalty to the government of the day regardless of its political complexion;

2) a professional public service, should offer impartial and appropriate advice, devoted to the public interests and obedient to the Minister and Cabinet; and

3) the public service should provide continuous stability when there is a change in government.

This basic tenet sets the tone of the Malaysian Civil Service for the past 50 years since independence. Meanwhile, the late 1800s saw the amalgamation of the civil services in the Federated Malay States and that of the Straits Settlements into a single unified service known as the Federated Malay States Civil Service (FMS). This was to provide a centralised administrative power with a common recruitment procedure that would allow officers to be appointed and deployed to the various Malay states.


Raja Chulan, son of the late Sultan Abdullah, the
first Malay who served in the British Civil
Service since 1892.

The FMS expanded and opened its doors to Malay officers to form a subordinate service known as the Malay Administrative Service. By 1903, there were 332 Malays out of 6,607 employees in the government service. Raja Chulan bin Raja Abdullah who had earlier joined the government service as a Settlement Officer in Perak became the first Malay District Officer in Upper Perak, thus breaking the control of Europeans in the Service.

When the British left Malaya during the Japanese occupation in 1941, the mettle of 85 of these officers who were of the Malay Administrative Service were tested when the administration of the country was left in their hands. They managed the country well and they continued to play an important role towards the nation’s independence in the 1950’s.


The beginnings of the formation of a unified public service started when other Colonial services such as the Medical, Education, Legal, Police to name a few were combined to establish the Colonial Administrative Service of which the MCS was now a component. The MCS later evolved into what is now known as the Administrative and Diplomatic Service (ADS), a premier service whose changing roles from that of a developmentalist to a facilitator and now as an innovator has been seen as instrumental in moving the country forward in attaining economic dominance, enhancing human capital development, addressing socio-economic inequalities, improving and sustaining life quality and strengthening institutions and implementation capacity.

General Order and Federal Establishment Office
circulars 1954 - 1960

A significant move during the early years of independence was the policy of Malayanisation of the Public Service. This was in the forefront of the Alliance government’s agenda with the objective of completing Malayanisation by 1 July 1960. Finally on August 15, 1968, the Federal Establishment Office which was renamed the Establishment Office of Malaysia in 1967 adopted Public Service Department as the agency to oversee all matters relating to creation and restructuring of services to better serve the country’s developmental agenda.


The Public Service continued to play an important role in the years following Merdeka. Through the difficulties following the early years after Independence such as the Emergency, the troubles in 1969, and accommodating the needs of racial diversity of the population, the Public Service has been the steady guiding hand planning, maintaining, and executing government policies and programs aimed at achieving economic growth and social equity in the nation’s journey towards development and modernisation.

Since independence the Malaysian public service has assumed a multitude of roles in meeting the needs and expectations of the public and other stakeholders. The public service, with the strength of over 1.4 million members, has assumed the roles of negotiator, controller and facilitator. In addition, it has also become the pace setter and the change agent for the country. In assuming these roles the public service needs to perform numerous duties which include delivering services, handling public interest, ensuring public security and safety, and community programmes.


1Malaysia: People First, Performance Now
towards the goal of Vision 2020.

In its efforts to meet the expectations of Vision 2020 to become a high income and developed nation, the Malaysian Public Service continues to redefine itself in these challenging times. Carrying the 1Malaysia aspiration of “People First, Performance Now” through the various transformation programs complemented by the call to “Merakyatkan Perkhidmatan Awam” and reinforced by the National Blue Ocean Strategy, the public service will continuously work together will all stakeholders to together create a wealthy and happy nation.

Full article about the Malaysian Public Service can be downloaded here.