You know something’s not quite right when the paranormal becomes a far more appealing explanation for administrative flaws in the public sector.


Coming from a family of government servants, I am not unfamiliar with the workings of the public sector. After the administrative problems I faced upon accepting a government scholarship 7 years ago, I should have anticipated the glitches following my graduation.

I dealt with 3 government agencies when applying for a position as a House Officer:

  • Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam (SPA) – responsible for the appointing me to the civil service;
  • Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) – my sponsor; and
  • Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) – for which I had to register before I can practice as a doctor.

To their credit, the application process was fairly easy. SPA took the liberty to go to my university to teach us how to apply online (albeit in a condescending manner, but let’s not go there), and then conducted interviews on campus. The form from MMC was made available online and came with clear instructions.

What happened to the documents after I sent them out was a different story.

I reported to JPA immediately after graduation. However, I made a couple of mistakes. Firstly, I did not to go to Putrajaya. This was after being assured several times by a nice lady on the phone that it was alright to send the documents by post. I also sorted out my MMC application in the meantime. On the advice of my mother, wise from her years in government service, I sent both sets of documents by registered mail.

Then I made my second mistake, I went off for a vacation and forgot all about it.

The notification to resend some documents to the MMC came while I was away. It was imperative that I obtain my MMC registration so I prepared the necessary the moment I got home and sent the documents by Pos Laju. My father, another seasoned ex-civil servant, suggested I call a week later just to be sure they have received my documents.

Perhaps it’s my youth and naivete, but I had no doubt they did. So imagine my horror when I was told my documents were nowhere to be found. Worst of all, the woman on the phone insinuated that it was my fault.


Well, thank God for mail services with tracking numbers! I tracked the documents from the post office, to the ministry’s mail room and spoke to the person who signed for the letter and thus confirmed that someone from the office had indeed picked up the mail 4 working days ago. It was only after I conveyed that information that some real searching went on. My documents were located an hour later.

Just last week, I suddenly remembered that I did not call JPA. This time, I wasn’t as shocked to learn that my documents had gone “missing”, 2 months after I sent them. Once again I tracked the letter and got a non-committal “I’ll look for it and call you back.” She never did. Instead, I had to call back twice before I got the answer I needed – that they’ve found my documents.

Anyone who has worked with government agencies would consider this old news, attributing it to the general inefficiency of the public service. However as an avid fan of the X-Files, I would like to propose an alternative theory – the Bermuda Triangle in the corridor. It mysteriously makes documents disappear in the space between the mail room and the intended government office, possibly taking the office clerk with it. This would simultaneously explain two phenomena – the large number of applications that go missing or remain unprocessed in government offices, and secondly, why you can never find that gopher when you need something done.

Fear not! There is good news. The documents floating in the Bermuda Triangle in the corridor will magically resurface with a couple of firm phone calls or, in my case, laced with panic-stricken words. As for the disappearance of the office clerk, I suggest you try the break room.

Jokes aside, it is disappointing to know that my documents would have never reached the hands of the people-in-charge had I not called to enquire. This has dented my faith in the government service; the sector that I will be joining very soon.

Surely administrative staff in government offices are tired of receiving calls from Malaysians conditioned to follow up every application with a phone call within a week? When can we fully trust the civil service?

LB: Li-Shun has yet to come to grips about being a doctor and still thinks of herself as a writer-in-the-making. A Jane of all trades and master of none, she blogs about whatever takes her fancy at LiShun’s Musings.

3 replies on “Bermuda Triangle in the Corridor”

  1. Li-Shun,

    "This has dented my faith in the government service; the sector that I will be joining very soon."

    Be a good officer then. A good one can gain trust. And don't be corrupted inside that group.

  2. From my past experiences, nothing will be productive over a phone call. Thus, I make a point to be in front of them when I need to inquire about anything at all. Once I need them to check the status of my application for something really crucial, after three hours of bizarre – they told me that my file is not found. Please call this number after 1 week. Of course I did. Oh yes, we found your file and it is under processing. 2 weeks down the road I showed up again in the same office asking the status – what status? We cant even find your file yet!

  3. Li-Shun and LoyarBurok

    Teruskan perjuangan utk expose Government inefficiency and idiots in civil service who have to learn faster and work better. Look at Pam's video incident reported in Malay Mail released by LoyarBurok:

    Pamela Lim was stopped for this traffic offence but went on to claim she was intimidated and harassed by police officers during the incident. She also recorded the exchange on her handphone and posted the eight-minute video on controversial blogsite 'LoyarBurok'.

    In her blogpost, Lim claimed she was using the speakerphone function on her handphone instead of the hands-free kit already in the car.

    Admitting to her offence, she asked to be issued the summons for it. The policemen became agitated when she asked for their ID numbers and began to question her further. The exchange apparently became quite heated.

    As a result, the policemen withheld her MyKad, driving licence and the summons despite her demands they return them to her.

    The officers also instructed her to follow them back to the police station but she refused and even threatened to lodge a police report against them.

    Acknowledging the incident, the police later posted on their Facebook page that both parties had showed a lack of courtesy in the video.

    "The policemen should have been more courteous. Unnecessary words should not have been uttered at all."

    The post went on to advise policemen to greet traffic offenders with civility before informing them of their offence.

    "If the motorist has admitted to it, the policemen should use their own judgement whether to pursue the matter by issuing the summonses or merely giving them a stern warning.

    "If the motorist refuses to hear their explanation, they should just issue the summons and leave. If the person refuses to accept it, take note and leave the area. Do not engage in unnecessary talk."

    Based on the video, police also said the person seemed to be trying to challenge and provoke the policemen who were just doing their job.

    "This should not have happened. It is not wrong if the person decides to videotape the incident but there is no need to challenge the policemen and utter unfriendly words.

    "If their conduct was not satisfactory, the motorist can always report the matter to superior officers at a nearby police station. He or she can even bring the matter to court if they are not happy with the issuance of the summonses."

    The post ended by thanking the public for highlighting the matter to police.

    Some comments left on the blogpost on the 'LoyarBurok' blogsite were also critical of the driver, accusing her of trying to make it a big deal out of nothing to gain publicity.

    Now pplice more careful dealing with motorists and vehicle owners!

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