Maszlee out, Dr M’s search for good hands continues

Maszlee Malik and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.


That word summed up Maszlee Malik’s short-lived tenure as Education Minister and spelt relief for those who had been clamouring for his ouster. For Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, however, the resignation is an unwanted headache barely two days into 2020.

As punters lay their bets on who would best replace the controversial Maszlee, the resignation underlines a greater problem faced by Dr Mahathir since he took office on May 9, 2018 – that he can’t seem to rely the fresh faces to get things going.

The good leaders that Dr Mahathir knew are no longer around.

Pakatan Harapan’s journey to Putrajaya was a result of a weirdly matched marriage involving four parties – DAP, Parti Pribumi Malaysia, PKR and Amanah. The leaders of those parties, with the exception of a few, namely Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, have never worked with Dr Mahathir.

The generation gap between the 94-year-old prime minister and his Cabinet ministers is evident. Dr Mahathir had no clue of their true capabilities and relied on the recommendations of party leaders when he named his Cabinet two years ago.

And the likes of Maszlee proved that wrong choices were made.

He may have had scored in certain areas, but failed to educate the masses and poor public relations compounded the blunders.

Maszlee’s parting speech yesterday seemed to suggest he was advised by Dr Mahathir to leave.

Insiders revealed Maszlee had in fact tendered his resignation to the prime minister, believed to be due to “immense pressure” days before Malaysians ushered in the new year.

His policies seemed to have been rushed through without thought. No study was carried out and neither were stakeholders involved in any discussion before the black school shoe directive was issued.

The 1Bestari Internet service in schools was abruptly cut short as Maszlee claimed it was a monopoly, promising fresh tenders would be called before the 2020 school session began. The service was in fact introduced during Muhyiddin’s tenure as Education Minister.

Till today, tenders have not been called, leaving teachers and students in limbo.

But Maszlee went on to highlight his achievements throughout 2019 during his final press conference which saw an unusual display of support as he was flanked by his deputy Teo Nie Ching and other ranking officials from the ministry. This got tongues wagging and there were those who saw it as a subtle message to the premier.

Maszlee Malik resigned as Education Minister on Jan 2, 2020.
Maszlee, accompanied by Teo and ranking officials from the ministry, during the press conference yesterday.

Soon after, a petition calling for the reinstatement of Maszlee made its rounds. Ironically, there was an online petition calling for his removal just months earlier.

Jeli MP Mustapha’s name has been raised as a potential candidate to replace Maszlee but whispers along the corridors of the prime minister’s office suggest that Deputy Finance Minister Amiruddin Hamzah, another Bersatu leader, may play the role as acting Education Minister.

Granted Dr Mahathir’s previous working relationship with Mustapha, and the latter’s experience in government, his inclusion in the Cabinet may just be the aspirin the good doctor needs to soothe his headache.

It’s back to the drawing board for Dr Mahathir as he needs to find Maszlee’s replacement within Bersatu. This has also fuelled talk of a possible Cabinet reshuffle as several other ministers including P. Waytha Moorthy, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Datuk Seri Redzuan Mohd Yusof and Datuk Seri Rina Harun have also failed to impress.

Dr Mahathir needs to ensure members of his Cabinet perform and no longer hog the limelight for the wrong reasons, at least until he hands over the premiership to the next person – now expected after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in November.

It remains unclear when he will pass the baton as Dr Mahathir would not want to be seen as a lame duck Prime Minister and neither would he want to attend Parliament sittings merely as Langkawi MP.

Dr Mahathir has got to come up with the right prescription this time around.

He has been working seven days a week to get the New Malaysia formula right. But he and his team need to put in the extra hours now more than ever to get the right people in the Cabinet.

Malaysia cannot afford to have the wrong leaders in power again.


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