From Lim Yi Wei via e-mail
Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid has once again proven that he is unfit to occupy his current position by saying that teachers actively promoting the opposition or “discrediting the government” should resign from the civil service.
His remarks bring to mind Chief Secretary to the Government Dr Ali Hamsa who, in November 2016, said that disciplinary action may be taken against civil servants who join the Bersih 5 rally. He said civil servants identified from photos and complaints would be targeted for pay cuts or even possibly face sacking, in a move that wouldn’t be out of place in George Orwell’s 1984.
Coming from a family of teachers, I take offence that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is threatening my family members and their colleagues who serve faithfully in the education field for daring to exercise their democratic rights to support and choose the government they want, in their private capacities.
While there is much to be said and improved in our education system – ranging from the curriculum, the training of teachers, and the dismal state of national schools, it still stands that teachers and civil servants alike are not beholden to the BN.
Teachers are not bound to sycophantically praise any government. They are bound to serve the country. Teachers are there to educate students, to broaden their minds and equip them with skills and knowledge to face the world and become better, kinder human beings.
Besides that, how does the minister define “defaming”? Is saying that we should arrest and charge corrupt officials who create slush funds to rob our nation’s coffers defamatory? Is saying that free and fair elections are a hallmark of a democracy equivalent to slamming the government?
I am all for keeping partisan politics out of our schools if the minister can address the hypocrisy of barring opposition politicians from federal schools. When the opposition swept to power in Penang and Selangor in 2008, schools in these states were directed not to invite state government leaders, including chief ministers and exco members, to grace school functions or initiate non-partisan, community programmes, such as educating schoolchildren about recycling. Even I, as a local councillor representing the DAP, encounter a good degree of trepidation when I want to help resolve, say, a mosquito problem in schools.
A narrow-minded Education Minister does not bode well for our collective national intellect. If BN is so confident that it is the best choice for governing Malaysia, I challenge them to stop intimidating civil servants and allow them to vote whichever way their conscience dictates.
Lim Yi Wei is Special Assistant to Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, and a Petaling Jaya City Council councillor.
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