Yang Berhormat Mohd Shafie, the Representative from Belait District, I think is the most eloquent and well versed of all the Yang Berhormats in the Legislative Council, always coming up with the most interesting questions and suggestions. In a way, it's a pity he is representing Belait District only.
Anyway, in one of his long list of questions and suggestions was the one concerning the firemen. He was representing the firemen in Belait but his proposals equally applied to all firemen. His proposal was that the firemen were the unsung heroes of the recent floods in helping out all the flood victims etc and they therefore should be singled out for special awards, special allowances, better equipment and also their pension status be activated.
Interestingly enough, firemen (Division 5 officers) were until 1978 considered as pensionable officers but after 1978, they were no longer pensionable (unless they hold ranks and in Division 4 and above) and with the introduction of TAP in 1993, all the firemen lost the pensions completely. If anyone remembers the history of the fire services, they used to be part of the police force and that was why they were pensionable as policemen were pensionable officers. After the breakoff, at one point, the civil service would remember their special status and would be included in any mention of pension service but I guess after 1978 nobody remembered that anymore. In 1993 when TAP was introduced, the armed forces and the police were exempted from TAP and the prison wardens who luckily enough at that time had their own act also got exempted. But the firemen did not.
Anyway, digressing. Back to the original proposal. Do firemen deserve special awards? The Minister of Home Affairs argued that they were part of a group of people who served during the emergency. There were many others. The doctors and the medical and health staff, the welfare workers, the PWD staff, the police and the armed forces, all did their bit. I do know that our own PWD people especially the people in PWD's Road Department (DOR) and PWD's Drainage Department (DDS) and other PWD staff worked 24 hour shifts making sure that any land slides or floods get whatever needs to be done. Their work continued until even after everyone has gone. I know the welfare people worked their ** off making sure that everyone is housed etc. So, to me if there is any award or any special things to be given, there are many people who deserved them including the firemen.
Related to this is one question which I always ask myself, should I be rewarded for doing the job I do? When I signed up to work for the government, it meant that I am a civil servant - a servant who will do what my employer, the government, ask me what to do. For that I and many other civil servants will get a medal when the time is right or if I or we have not done anything wrong. I don't know how many of you out there remembers the BBC series "Yes Prime Minister". There was one particular show when the Minister, Hacker refused to sign the honours list because he thought that civil servants and those working closely with government receive honours as a matter of course, simply for doing their job. It should be given to 'normal' people who serve their communities in different ways, and are nominated by local people to give them some recognition for that work.
I pray the Al-Mighty will show us the right way.