LETTER | As we usher in the year 2020, we are already seeing major political moves being made. News broke yesterday that Education Minister Maszlee Malik has officially resigned from his post, on the advice of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The announcement was welcome and did not come as a huge surprise. Maszlee has been marred in controversy and criticism for months now.
There was his questionable decision to make school shoes black by 2021, the decision of introducing Jawi khat for Standard Four pupils (which has been a major source of racial tension), and his recent handling of the Zakir Naik examination question.
Prime Minister Mahathir gave out a statement following the resignation thanking Maszlee for his service and saying that he would determine Maszlee’s successor in a “short time”.
While many are elated by signs of a cabinet reshuffle after a year of disappointment with the Pakatan Harapan government, questions and concerns remain.
Firstly, we have learned from Mahathir’s seemingly endless delaying of his power transition and refusal to commit to a certain date, that a “short time” for him does not hold much weight.
We also know that after the May 9, 2018, general election, Mahathir wanted to helm the education portfolio himself. When he was asked why, he said: “I took on the post because there are so many people who are uneducated”, employing his ‘Mahathir knows best’ attitude that we have become so used to.
Although Mahathir was forced to abort his plan, since the Harapan manifesto forbids the prime minister from holding other ministerial positions, we know now that this election manifesto is not worth all that much.
The possibility of Mahathir using Maszlee’s resignation as a way to take on the education minister’s position himself is a real concern.
If he does decide to honour the Harapan manifesto and appoint a new education minister, Malaysians are also concerned that, rather than be awarded to a non-political and experienced educator, the position will once again be politicised, like so many other vital positions in the Harapan government.
All being well, the job should be handed to someone worthy. Suggestions from citizens across the country have already come flying in, with names like Azly Rahman and Nurul Izzah Anwar being put forward.
Let us hope that this is only the beginning of a cabinet reshuffle and an introduction of fresh blood and fresh ideas into our government.
While the ultimate news would be the stepping down of our 94-year-old ‘interim’ prime minister, let’s not hold our breath.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.