When news broke that Subromaniam Tholasy had been appointed the new director general of the Royal Malaysian Customs, not a few Malaysians, especially those from minority groups, cheered.
After all, it is rare to see someone from a minority group breaking through the glass ceiling to head an institution of the civil service, which is predominantly made up of the majority ethnic group in the country. Has it dawned on the government that meritocracy has a role to play in a sea of affirmative action, many wondered.
My own late father worked in the Customs Department. Starting as an officer in the late 1950s, he rose through the ranks to eventually retire as state deputy director of sales tax. But growing up, I gathered enough to know that despite his slow but steady rise, several of his subordinates were being promoted over him and ended up as his bosses or seniors.