Education Ministry controversy: Severe missteps, correct conclusion

Opinion  |  Nathaniel Tan
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | I read with great relief the decision by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to relinquish the post of education minister in adherence to Pakatan Harapan’s GE 14 manifesto.

This was a politically astute, and more importantly, morally sound decision.

The journey to this decision however, was fraught with a number of statements and turns that raised serious warning flags regarding the habits and integrity of this new era of leadership.

These were especially worrying because they came from two of the understandably most beloved and highly regarded leaders of the new political order.

While the point is now moot, the path we nearly went down was alarming enough to warrant some attention.

A close look

In the wake of accusations that Harapan was not abiding by its manifesto when it was announced that Mahathir was to become education minister, both PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang released statements.

Let’s take a close look at these statements, as reported in the press.

The Star quoted Anwar as saying yesterday, “I think that doesn’t go contrary (to the manifesto). To my understanding, the prime minister is not a portfolio.

“The prime minister manages the country generally, so does the deputy prime minister (Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail). These are not portfolios.”

He reportedly emphasised that the main point was that the prime minister does not also assume the post of finance minister.

Meanwhile, Lim said in a statement: “What was made very clear at the various Pakatan Harapan ceramah throughout the country was the institutional reforms on term limit for the Prime Minister and to ensure that the Prime Minister cannot hold the Finance Minister portfolio.

“The Pakatan Harapan Manifesto’s ‘Promise 12: Limit the prime minister’s term of office and restructure the Prime Minister’s Department’ states: ‘The prime minister will not simultaneously hold other ministerial posts, especially the post of minister of finance.’

“This is not very happily worded, open to different construction. There is an absolute prohibition on the Prime Minister holding the post of Ministry of Finance, which is not applicable to other ministries.

“For this reason, Mahathir’s helming of education ministry does not violate the letter and spirit of Pakatan Harapan manifesto.”

How do we measure these two statements?...

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