An Oral History Interview with Tan Sri Sidek Hassan

Child #10 of 11 children and born in a remote village of Pahang, Tan Sri Sidek Hassan is evidence that hard work and determination can yield success in Malaysia.

Perdana Leadership Foundation and the Institute Pemikiran Dr Mahathir of UUM recently had the opportunity to interview him on his life, his philosophy as well as lessons he learnt from his time as Chief Secretary to the Government (Tan Sri Sidek was the 12th Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia, September 2006 to December 2012). The interview was part of our Oral History Series with Malaysia’s former Chief Secretaries.

Tan Sri spoke about his childhood, where going to the town of Pekan, Pahang needed a bicycle and a boat. While he did well in school and obtained a place in the Sultan Abu Bakar School, he did have to stay in another family’s home and had to do chores to earn his room and board at the house. The experience, he said, taught him time management as well as the importance of seeing the positive in all situations.

Tan Sri also spoke at length about his work in the civil service. He credited Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, the former Minister of Trade and Industry, for shaping his career and influencing his leadership style. Tan Sri is a firm believer that the civil service is only a policy implementor and advisor to the Prime Minister and in carrying out policies, must always remember that the ultimate goal is for the betterment of the lives of the rakyat. Discipline must also be installed in the civil service and any misbehaving civil servants should be removed from office.

Tan Sri regarded both Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak as being good listeners and calm leaders. With regard to the civil service, he would like to see more Malaysian civil servants advise the government better and become a “thinking” civil service.

The transcript of the interview will be published in book form. The Oral History series will continue with other notable personalities.