As we usher in 2020, we are already seeing major political moves being made. Earlier today, news broke that Education Minister Maszlee Malik had resigned based on the advice of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The announcement was welcome and did not come as a huge surprise. Maszlee has been mired in controversy and criticism for months now.
There was his questionable decision to make school shoes black by 2021, the decision to introduce Jawi for Standard Four pupils of vernacular schools (which has been a major source of racial tension), and his recent handling of the Zakir Naik examination question set by Universiti Malaysia Perlis.
Mahathir issued a statement following the resignation, thanking Maszlee for his service and claiming 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 general election in 2018, 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 he was forced to abort his plan as the PH manifesto forbids the prime minister from holding other ministerial positions, we know now that the PH 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 PH manifesto and appoint a new education minister, Malaysians are also concerned that rather than it be given to a non-political and experienced educator, the position will once again be politicised like so many other vital positions in the PH government.
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.
Lim Chin is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.