The other side of Maszlee Malik

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Opinion is heavily polarised between those who wanted Maszlee Malik out as education minister out and those who want him to remain.

A recent Malaysiakini survey put him among the lowest-rated ministers in the cabinet, probably because of the black shoes, the Jawi controversy and a few of his statements that were perceived to be religiously tinged. Some of the criticism was valid, as he seemed impervious to the insecurities and alarm felt by many non-Muslims about creeping Islamisation.

On the other hand, a Change.org petition calling for Maszlee to be reinstated has collected a staggering 370,000 signature in just over a day. This is phenomenol for an online petition in Malaysia – or anywhere else for that matter. And it is not all down to religious support.

The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) has highlighted some of Maszlee’s quiet initiatives over the last couple of years. Do check out the Gerak statement here, which highlights three of Maszlee’s achievements:

  • moves to repeal the Universities and University Colleges Act to give students more freedom to express themselves
  • the setting up of an independent Integrity Committee to investigate cases of fraud and malpractices within universities
  • the setting up of a new independent committee for the selection of public university vice-chancellors

Under Maszlee, the ministry also did not renew YTL’s Bestari seven-year contract, which ended on 30 June 2019. Instead, it has replaced Bestari’s virtual learning environment called Frog VLE with Google Classroom.

As for me, I will remember Maszlee for his firm support over social media for the Sungai Ara Tamil School, at a time when the school had come under criticism for allowing its schoolchildren to take part in a climate change/environmental protest in Penang.

Gerak now proposes Jomo or former UKM vice-chancellor Sham Sani to replace Maszlee. I don’t know much about Sham Sani (though I know the academics in Gerak would not recommend him without good reason) while Jomo would of course be an excellent choice.

Serious reforms must be made to raise the standard of education. We need to get it right.

Finally, here is PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan’s contrarion view on Maszlee:

Maszlee – behind the black shoes

I am inspired to write this article after reading all the comments in Malaysiakini; bashing Maszlee Malik and I am sure, this piece will end up in the same tone.

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Maszlee Malik’s sudden resignation took many people and me by surprise. It seems that he was forced into the resignation by the prime ,inister. One wonders what the plan is since until Maszlee was appointed; the only other person who was interested in the job was Mahathir himself. Maszlee’s resignation speech – reading between the lines – would confirm that Mahathir wanted him out.

Maszlee has definitely been made a scapegoat here. He has been always made to look like a dumb minister who doesn’t know his job. Sensational media reporting and often unfair titles put him always in the defensive mode.

He was polled as the second lowest – 27 out 28 in Malaysiakini’s poll on ministers’ performance. This is understandable because most Malaysiakini readers are middle class, mostly non-Malay and have a definite bias against him. They fear that Maszlee with his Islamic credentials was going to turn our education system into an Islamic one. Most DAP leaders scored high points. Now imagine if Harakah conducted a similar poll and you will know how the outcome would be.

The black shoe labelling never left him, and it was always used to ridicule and undermine him. I am sure if we took a vote among students, they would prefer black shoes to white. Anyway that is not the point here.

Mahathir has decided to replace him and therefore it would be easy now to put all the blame on the Jawi issue, matriculation and other controversial stuff on him. Two of Mahathir’s staunch supporters Daim and Rafidah Aziz have constantly taken swipes at him and that is further indication that he has fallen out of favour with the Mighty M.

Let me share a personal experience and tell you why some of us have a soft spot for him. JPKK, which is a network of contract workers in government departments, has been campaigning over the years to improve the plight of contract workers mainly cleaners and security guards in schools. We have previously tried in vain to meet with the previous education minister. The only people who met us were some officers and department heads, who were not in a position to make decisions.

But the PH Education Minister Maszlee quite readily gave us an appointment to meet and have a dialogue with us. I was very sceptical before the meeting based on the bad image formed in my mind about him. Before the meeting, his office asked for our memorandum and proposal, which was itself quite out of the ordinary.

READ MORE:  Who should replace Maszlee as education minister?

At the meeting, we were pleasantly surprised to note that he had actually read our memorandum beforehand. He was not pretending as if he knew everything, which most ministers try to do. He addressed each of our proposals and directed his officials to act on them.

He then told us that he would bring up our proposals in the cabinet meeting the next day. I thought he was pulling a fast one because that is what most ministers tell you. True to his promise, he issued a media statement after the cabinet meeting, saying that he raised the issue of parasitic and under-performing crony contractors would be blacklisted and replaced. He also said that the whole system needed to be relooked at and agreed to look into our proposal to employ workers directly and not through a middleperson, who in many instances ended up taking a portion of the salary of the workers. This was the first minister who actually looked at the fundamental issue rather than give the usual excuses.

Since then, we had the pleasure of working with some of his officers, specifically Shaza, who used to update us on a weekly basis, working past office hours, listening to the many complaints we raised about the problematic contract system in school. This attitude changed our view that most of those working in government ‘makan gaji buta’ and just work nine to five. For that, let me salute them.

Now let me touch on other issues not raised in the current petition going around supporting him. For example, under Maszlee, student activists were more protected; he prevented university authorities from taking action on students each time they expressed themselves through protests and other actions. (During previous administration, the minister always stood with the establishment and not the students.) That is something which helped students to express themselves knowing very well that they had protection from disciplinary action.

I was also told by many teachers that Maszlee made many reforms in the school system but many of his reforms did not go well on the ground because the bureaucracy was not assisting. It is not surprising that the teachers union, NUTP, speaks so highly of him. Many teachers too have since expressed how Maszlee did actually addresses some of the main issues raised by teachers.

READ MORE:  Five reasons to appreciate Sungai Ara Primary School’s holistic approach to education

He made many U-turns after bringing matters to the cabinet. This can be seen with the matriculation issue and Jawi. It may be that he is inexperienced, as he has always stated himself, or maybe he should have talked less, like the many PH ministers who don’t say much, preferring to be silent in order to survive.

Most of these issues were tough issues like Jawi, matriculation and the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) are difficult issues. These are issues which has been there for six decades which PH as a team have been unable to address since they end up playing the same racial game like the BN. Therefore it is unfair that Maszlee is blamed when on all occasions, the cabinet took the decision with of course ayahanda Mahathir sitting at the helm.

On other issues – free quality breakfast, opening up hotel swimming pools to students, doing away with streaming and exams, making education accessible to OKUs and undocumented children. These are huge achievements (compared to the ‘black shoes’) which hardly got mentioned. It was reported that he opened 10,200 classes to cater for 24,998 OKU special children. On all these initiatives, I am with him because he has contributed towards creating a more caring society and opening up public spaces for the commons.

Since coming to power, he has resigned twice. Once, after being appointed as the president of the International Islamic University Malaysia, when students and many spoke about conflict of interest, and now. On the first occasion, even Mahathir supported his appointment but he took the right decision to resign – but this time it is a no-choice situation Mahathir [apparently] called for his resignation and it could be part of a likely cabinet reshuffle.

Maszlee should feel happy that he was not removed due to corruption or other scandals. He went in without a datukship and came out without one. To Maszlee all the best.

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Kuill
Kuill
5 Jan 2020 10.28am

Still no sign from tunglang?

Has he retreated to Belum Forest (No Wifi) like Luke Skywalker disillusioned recluse in a remode island as The Last Jedi, after the sith Force Reawakened bullying him into submission?

Bayi Yoda
Bayi Yoda
7 Jan 2020 12.22pm
Reply to  Kuill

Only Anil can shed light on tunglang whereabout?
May the force be with Anil to establish equilibrium in forces so that we are not being consumed by dark sides that shriek us into madness.

Don Anamalai
Don Anamalai
10 Jan 2020 4.36pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Strange that Anil has no concern at all losing his ardent reader Tunglang!

If only Anil could defend him against the onslaught attack from shriek and wei tag team, tunglang will not quit here!

Wei
Wei
10 Jan 2020 9.56pm
Reply to  Don Anamalai

prove that one can not win over argument base on falsehood, manipulation and distortion… don’t play victim here, very shameful ….

glissantia
glissantia
8 Jan 2020 1.46pm
Reply to  Kuill

Perhaps he realised that there is no need to reply to every jab. Keep in mind that he could still be right here under a different incarnation. One relevant approach is for Anil to update the comments less often, say max. once a day.

Jordan
Jordan
4 Jan 2020 7.39pm

Government via Accounting Minister kept saying that finance is tight yet Maszlee contradicted by offering free breakfast to school children?

He wanted Hotels to open their swimming pools for students’ swimming lesson.

Obviously he is an idealist (academician?) with little knowledge of how plans could be implemented. Lack of business acumen.

glissantia
glissantia
4 Jan 2020 1.21pm

I simply do not see anything wrong with black shoes, except perhaps its implementation schedule. There are so many other major physical problems, without even going into “education” proper. E.g. colonial ties, long pants for primary school, heavy bags (What happened to a former minister’s order to reduce workbooks?), barbaric parents who block roads, cost of transport, after-school care (where the parents work till much later), apartheid (in so many ways, e.g. canteen during “fasting” month), bullying, drug pushers.

The religious thugs are pushing their agenda year by year. Now, they can even misuse public wealth to brainwash your children.

Jordan
Jordan
13 Jan 2020 4.28pm

What is education?
A rebuttal to a misguided priority
by Siti Kasim
https://m.malaysiakini.com/news/506945

Siti’s suggestion: if we reduce the amount of hours used to teach religious subjects, we can free up resources and use that money to hire good science teachers and to equip the schools’ basic laboratory facilities, if that is lacking. Killing two birds with one stone. No need for Internet mumbo jumbo purportedly needed.

Maroon
Maroon
16 Jan 2020 3.07pm
Reply to  Jordan

Siri must write in Malay or Jawi to get her message to the right audience! No point syok sendiri like G25 folks whom the Malay community cannot associate as their own race!

MusaCheek
MusaCheek
17 Jan 2020 12.14pm
Reply to  Jordan

Help the weak students by giving extra help ie extra classes, tuitions, attention and environment. Not by lowering the standards, as in the case of UiTM, producing graduates of inferior quality. Unfortunately, it was the political agenda on how many Bumi graduates are churned out every year. It was turned into a volume game. Quantity at the expense of quality, yet demand private sector to hire them.

Jordan
Jordan
17 Jan 2020 7.54pm

If Maszlee had more time as minister of education, according to the source, both the ministry and almost every top position in Malaysia’s public universities would have been filled with members of an Islamic NGO dedicated to enhancing Islamic teachings and practices in daily life.
https://www.asiasentinel.com/society/islamic-assault-malaysia-higher-education/

As a result, according to several sources in the country’s public higher education system, the ministry became insular in its outlook to education and dedicated to implementing an agenda that would hinder any diverse outlook from educational perspectives.

Jordan
Jordan
14 Jan 2020 5.23pm

Dr Mahathir said the aim of the Education Ministry is to educate students so that they could live a perfect life.

“Our aim is to educate children so that when they grow up, they can live a good life, able to earn a living, become a productive person and not one who is solely dependent on assistance,” he added.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/14/dr-m-says-has-inkling-what-needs-to-be-done-to-enhance-countrys-education-s/1827899

glissantia
glissantia
10 Jan 2020 12.59pm

You may remember the cows-in-condo scandal. It was a good distraction from the far bigger plunder elsewhere. Nobody went to jail, unlike the destitute who steal food for their children. Similarly, Mazlee’s frequent outrageous moves havee helped to distract — from the current and planned transfer to valuable govt. assets to cronies. If the Finance Minister, Kazanah, EPF, etc. are overruled, they should resign rather that participate in this piracy.

Chandraraj
Chandraraj
4 Jan 2020 11.13am

Dr Mazslee is a good man but not education minister. Nevertheless he has been made a scapegoat by Dr M, a poor man and very poor leader.

Jordan
Jordan
5 Jan 2020 1.27pm
Reply to  Chandraraj

Mazslee was asked to resigned for not following cabinet’s order, so reported.

Anyway, time to highlight good chinese food in Penang, non-halal but better than those serve in malls:

Tunglang, any comment?

Bayi Yoda
Bayi Yoda
7 Jan 2020 12.16pm
Reply to  Jordan

US$1.09 for One Tonne Mee no wonder Bolehland cheap heaven for foreigners with stronger currencies.
They should not complaint too much as tbey can fill the stomachs with a mere US$1.09.
2020 Visit Yours Truly Asia Malaysia and helpthe economy of local hawkers, who can save up to buy condos if no waste away in betting 4Ds.

Don Anamalai
Don Anamalai
10 Jan 2020 4.39pm
Reply to  Bayi Yoda

Cheap for foreigners because our Ringgit is really low in value!

All because our nation never focus on value add and productivity!

Now min wage is RM1200, wonder for how long our local shops and restaurants can hire many workers instead of improving productivity!

Don Anamalai
Don Anamalai
10 Jan 2020 4.40pm
Reply to  Jordan

Yes, tunglang where art thou?

Please come back to redeem yourself in 2020. At least give face time Anil!

Jordan
Jordan
6 Jan 2020 8.12pm
Reply to  Chandraraj

Another new youtube clip on Penang food:

Time to savour with kopi kaw kaw, tunglang-style!

glissantia
glissantia
11 Jan 2020 2.59pm

Stand by for the announcement of some mega IT “education” project, as the PM hinted when he took in 2018 office. Things are going according to plan. PM will not step down until he “saves” Bodohland.

Nirmala
Nirmala
4 Jan 2020 7.51pm

Thanks for this article. Mazlee is clean n not corrupted and that’s a good place to start since the majority of our politicians are corrupted. It’s sad that he did not get the backing n support he needed as Education Minister. Mazlee is a technocrat first and politician second. It appears that it is difficult for technocrats to survive amidst politicians. There is one less clean person in our cabinet now n we have far too few. God bless Malaysia.

Bayi Yoda
Bayi Yoda
7 Jan 2020 12.19pm
Reply to  Nirmala

When being publicly perceived to be controversial better go whether clean or not. Malaysia to much scandals and we want less mind boggling educational policies detrimental to healthy functioning of grey cells in brains.