Post-May 9: What's our biggest problem?

Opinion  |  Terence Netto
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Just two days after the results of the general election filtered out to an expectant nation, the skipper of the winning slate, after some baulking by assorted hostile elements, was off and running.

One would think that at 92 years of age, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, even granting his formidable reputation for hard work, would pause for a well-earned rest.

Barely had the ink run dry on the appointment papers he signed late on Thursday night, making him prime minister of Malaysia for the second time in his life, than his kinetic self reminded us of the second rallying cry that had accompanied the beginnings in July 1981 of his first stint as premier - Berdisciplin, Giat, Maju (Be Disciplined, Proactive and Progressive).

The first rallying slogan– Bersih, Cekap, Amanah (Clean, Efficient, and Trustworthy) - did not wear well over the long 22 years of his initial prime ministerial tenure as did the second clarion call.

This is not the place for a discussion on why the first did not fly so well.

The second did - if only because it was well epitomised by Mahathir himself.

One recalls, by Mahathir's own account, the occasion when he returned early in the day from a trip abroad and went straight from airport to office where his underlings sheepishly demurred, “Oh, Dr Mahathir boleh lah” (“Oh, you are able to work hard”) when he frowned on the apparent listlessness of some of them.

Even after 15 years of his leaving the PM's office, at an age when eminent retirees would more likely be playing with their grandchildren after completing their memoirs, Mahathir's work ethic is relentless.

That is why the betting is that he will overcome the shortfalls in government revenue expected from the abolition of the GST, bring to account kleptocrats and other malefactors who revelled during the premiership of Najib Razak, and give short shrift to the racial and religious bigots who had a field day during Najib's tenure.

If on the last score he may lag, bearing in mind the favour in recent years he showed Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa, we can expect Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, with whom Dr M has forged a good understanding, to lead the fight against racial and religious bigotry in the country in the course of the second Mahathir administration.

However, Mahathir's hard work alone won't avail against the biggest problem faced by Malaysian society: The absence of a core curriculum by which our young are educated.

A core curriculum is the corpus of historical, scientific and literary knowledge that students ought to be acquainted with if they stay schooled for as little as 11 years (from primary to secondary level), or for as long as 16 years, by which time they would have completed a basic degree at university...

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