I would like to provide an objective academic view with respect to the most important issue of the appointment of the Minister of Education. Netizens are passionately split between the personalities of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Dr Maszlee Malik.
I have been an avid reader of Mahathir’s speeches and books ever since he came to power. I scrutinised his speeches and thoughts, more so after the Anwar Ibrahim saga of 1998.
I find Mahathir a hardworking politician (working non-stop before and after the election), a straight-talking, educated personality but not an idealogue who holds to certain definable political idealism.
His ability to leave Umno willingly and have no qualms in destroying the party in a single death blow is testament to this. I consider him a “clinical” politician who identifies what works. And whatever does not, he removes like a cancerous growth.
My acquaintance with Dr Maszlee only spans a few years when we meet at a civil society dialogue and as panelists. I have read a few of his writings and I have come to know him as a person who speaks his mind. I know his idealism as a scholar, as a concerned human being and more so as a citizen of this country.
In the present public university tradition, the people of Malaysia must know that being truthful, direct and compassionate will not get you promoted in your career.
Public university leadership in Malaysia is filled with professors who subscribe to nothing more than what I term as academic ‘bodek-ism’.
Now that Anwar is out of prison, I bet these same professors will be the first to wash his feet the first chance they get, after closing gates and turning off electricity to the very same person or those who supported the Reformasi Agenda.
However, with Dr Maszlee, I was not aware of his leanings in religion as pointed out by Dr Farouk Musa. From my conversations with Dr Farouk, Dr Maszlee’s leanings in his support for Zakir Naik and his opposition to Shi’a communities is highly disturbing indeed.
As a concerned follower of the Reformasi era, I have watched from the sidelines, helped a little, wrote about society and values of simple justice and encouraged my students to be more aware of their responsibilities to the nation in order to formulate a new society as well as to innovate better architecture and urban planning solutions.
I have participated in forums, and been a panelist in a few but I was never a party man. I have never subscribed to party politics and I believe that every Wakil Rakyat should speak his or her mind even if it is against their party.
After the surprise win of the recent general election, my first thought was who would helm the Ministry of Education? Yes, there was corruption and economic fallout but to me money is just pieces of paper with a perceived worth and can be recovered. But educating the young in schools and the youth in universities can make or break this nation. Many parents just think about the jobs and earnings of their children but what kind of citizenry would education produce is never much of an issue.
And yet, although almost everyone we know has one or two cars and can afford to go on holidays at least to Phuket (which I have never been to myself), we are stuck in a “I am Muslim and you are not” predicament, even after 60 years.
We have only succeeded in providing jobs for our children in education as an architect, engineer, doctor. We have simply failed to produce decent human beings that respect other faiths and cultures. Itu saja.
It was my hope before GE14 that Saifuddin Abdullah would be made Minister of Education if he won his seat. I cannot claim to know him very well. I have read his writings when he was Deputy Minister of Higher Education and thought he made good sense.
I know he strives his best to meet with students and academics and that he is a good Malay Muslim. I know he has no political Islamic ideology tacked to his CV but can speak about the issues in a nation-building construct.
He was the one I had dubbed “the last honest Umno” man. Before that Nur Jazlan was also on my list but after his arrogance as deputy minister, I knew he was just a normal Umno chameleon.
There is really no other personality I can think of to helm the Ministry of Education. Most PKR politicians are… well, politicians. I could see a few non-Malay names that could do the job in DAP but then Umno and PAS would wrestle the country back in two weeks.
Much as I respect my Amanah friends, I am always wary of their “Islamic” ideology (though I trust them more than those PAS ustaz).
When PPBM was formed, my trust went as far as Mahathir and Syed Saddiq. When Dr Maszlee joined PPBM instead of DAP, I gave him some funding and said, “Maszlee, I trust you and you alone… not your party.” At that time I thought if he won, he would get the Deputy Minister of Education post or at least be Jakim’s Director.
Although the dust is still settling after the general election, I think that Mahathir has been nothing short of stellar in the days after that. The way he handled Pakatan Harapan and the Najib corruption case is most admirable.
Although there are so-called voices of “democracy” trying to be back-seat drivers, what these people do not know is that Mahathir’s management is “crisis mode” management.
Mahathir had “bulldozed” a few decisions while playing the diplomatic role of managing the four political parties. I would not second guess him for the next 50 days at least.
So when he nominated himself as Minister of Education, I thought that was okay because we are in crisis mode. Mahathir did say that he would just helm the ministry for only a year or two. My guess is six months.
So let him helm whatever ministry he thinks is important and needs a quick but temporary fix. I saw Mahathir become a most magnanimous leader when he relinquished his intention and named Dr Maszlee as the Minister of Education instead.
He surely didn’t know Maszlee would face such a backlash from netizens because of his background. But as with any leadership role, he made his call and cannot turn back.
I ask the people of Malaysia to respect Mahathir’s choice. As much as I was an enemy of Mahathir from 1998 until 2016, I would trust my children and grandchildren to the old man.
If he says he can helm the education portfolio, so be it. But now he says that Maszlee should be given a chance, so be it.
Maszlee knows he is in for a rough ride and he needs to transform himself from being an academic and an activist speaking at forums to a politician and manager of the country’s young. Perhaps a deputy minister not of his race and religion might appease the situation. We have 100 days to find out.
Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is a professor at UCSI University.
Source : FMT