No choice? Maszlee could have nipped khat controversy in the bud

One of the reasons why Pakatan Harapan suffered a humiliating defeat in the Tanjung Piai by-election and for its eventual loss of federal power is the issue concerning khat.

The education minister then had created an unnecessary controversy that alienated the Malays and the Chinese.

All this while, I thought the teaching of Jawi in vernacular schools was the decision of the Pakatan Harapan Cabinet. Apparently, this was not the case as disclosed by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his recent interview with Sinar Harian.

Khat was, in fact, the creation of the education ministry during Barisan Nasional’s era which former PH education minister Maszlee Malik claimed he had no choice but to implement. What nonsense, really.

Mahathir was correct in saying that khat was an unnecessary controversy. There was no cogent reason to ask pupils from vernacular schools to learn Jawi. I guess PH did not even realise that asking pupils in vernacular schools to learn Jawi was similar to other instigations using race and religion from the opposition then.

To me, Maszlee should have backed down quickly. Instead, he let the controversy linger and until today, he is defending it based on his nonsensical arguments.

To him, learning Jawi is a heritage that has nothing to do with any religion. But as a minister and politician, did he consider the perception of non-Malays and non-Muslims? Why add another controversy when the nation had already gone “haywire” and was constantly under siege by the opposition?

He was the education minister, yet he said he had no choice but to implement the programme because the previous government had decided way back in 2014 or 2015. Is this a cruel joke or what?

Did the people elect a new government and support new ministers for nothing? I thought the whole purpose of a new government is to review and revamp policies and decisions that are deemed illogical and unnecessary.

Why should a minister follow or be bound by the decisions made by his ministry under the previous administration? Surely, reviewing policies and changing controversial decisions were within his purview. Even more puzzling is why the Cabinet was supportive of his initiative.

On hindsight, the khat issue should have been nipped in the bud. Instead, it was allowed to fester, leading to irreparable damage within PH. I blame Maszlee for being insular and parochial.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.