Angela Johnson: both grace and protocol

By Professor Daizal Samad

Angela Johnson, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Public Security, has passed on. It came as a shock because she was a rather private person about her personal business.

I only had the pleasure of meeting with her about a dozen times, but from our first meeting I knew two things: first, that she was unwell, although not to the extent that she clearly was. Second, that Angela Johnson was a person of both grace and protocol.

Her years of service speak to the kind of dedication and loyalty that has become rare in our nation. She set standards. Any suggestion that made sense was acted upon with the kind of promptness that defies the usual red tape to which many of us have become accustomed. She had the ability to assess both the quality of people and the virtue of the ideas and suggestions that were brought before her.

This always takes nimbleness of mind, a quick and efficient working through of the ideas and suggestions themselves as well as the implications of those ideas and suggestions. Once assessed, there was no hesitation to act. Many of us would do well to emulate this; most people in the public sector must emulate this.

Most of us are quite the opposite of the likes of Angela Johnson: we immediately find ways to say NO to the most logical and simple ideas. Then time is spent to explain why the no is the no, flying in the face of all reason. This is precisely why we spend hours on end at meetings, after which things are left in abeyance.

Instead of that, we ought to find ways to say yes, but explore the timeframes, costs, staff capacity, and so on. This Johnson-like strategy saves time and shows an appreciation for initiative, that thing we tend to discourage all too frequently.

Angela Johnson seemed to make things simple and straight-forward. And if she knew that any idea or suggestion was not within her ken or authority, she would advise immediately as to the next step to move the idea forward.

Angela Johnson was soft spoken, but it would be a mistake to think that this soft-spoken woman is soft-spoken and therefore somehow weak. No weakness there that I have found. One is always suspicious when people boast of having spent 26 or 30 years in a job. Time is no real measurement for efficiency. With the late Permanent Secretary, the efficiency may be measured by time and by things done during that time. I convey sincere condolences to her family and to her family within the Ministry of Public Security. We have lost a good person. Please let us keep her alive by following her examples. May her soul rest in peace.

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