Klang MP Charles Santiago has fired a fresh salvo in the skirmish over whether Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad makes unilateral decisions on sensitive issues.
According to a report by Free Malaysia Today, Santiago told Education Minister Maszlee Malik off after the latter leapt to the defence of his Bersatu chief and said that "linking Mahathir to unilateral decisions is baseless and a blatant lie".
“Calling me a liar is a serious accusation. Maszlee should watch his words and, more importantly, focus on his job.”
“He has to prove me wrong because being defensive is the easier option," he said.
Defending his right to speak up, Santiago told Maszlee: “We are a new Malaysia, one which was voted in by the people on the premise of reforms and inclusivity. It is therefore pertinent that the voices of the people are reflected in policy decisions."
Not mincing his words, he took a shot at Maszlee's handling of his portfolio.
“The education system is in shambles and much work needs to be done to get it back on track. It’s been 13 months ... and about time that Maszlee started work,” the MP said.
Maszlee's defence of Mahathir came after Santiago criticised Pakatan Harapan's decision-making process following the proposed introduction of khat lessons into the Bahasa Malaysia syllabus for Standard Four students.
"He calls the shots despite coming from a minority party," Santiago had said, in urging that controversial issues in government involving race and religion be decided by the Harapan presidential council.
Santiago highlighted U-turns over ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) and Rome Statute, as well as policy decisions over the controversial Lynas rare earth processing plant in Pahang, and the presence in Malaysia of preacher Zakir Naik who is wanted by the Indian government.
The Prime Minister did not take the criticism by Santiago and DAP's Sungai Pelek assemblyperson Ronnie Liu well.
In a sarcastic jibe, Mahathir had said, “I will ask for Santiago’s permission. I will get his views, he is the same level as me."
Santiago also went on to ask Maszlee to state whether the Cabinet had approved Zakir's stay in the country and, if so, when the decision was made.