Following the unsurprising exit of former education minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) the supreme council members have affirmed their intention of having their chairman, Dr. Mahathir Mohammad the current prime minister to take over the vacant post of the Education Minister temporarily.
Party insiders say that Dr Maszlee Malik had been aware of this transfer of power and therefore used selected of words and phrases such as “returning the post to” and referring to the Prime Minister as “ayahanda” or father.
UMNO fallout MP and current Bersatu member, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed was widely thought to be the front runner for the post of Education Minister . Another contender would be the Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah. However, in terms of experience, by popular choice, President of the Justice Party, (PKR) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, could fill in the vacancy.
In an excellence award presentation ceremony at a Tamil school, Datuk Seri Anwar scoffed off suggestions by reporters on his elevation to the post by him saying, “I am not on the list”.
Datuk Anwar added, “It is up to the Prime Minister and the Pakatan leadership if the matter needs to be discussed. But in my opinion (ministerial) vacancies are always filled based on the wisdom of the PM,”
However, to observers this is not surprising as the Prime Minister had always envisioned an entire reformation of Malaysia’s education system.
Following Dr. Maszlee’s departure, the Prime Minister held a special meeting with the top management of the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Specifics of what transpired in the meeting is sketchy. However, there is speculation that measures would be undertaken to redesign curriculum for the implementation of IR 4.0.
A formal announcement is expected to be made soon after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. And this would also entail whether the partitioning of MOE into two ministries would be undertaken.
“The Education Ministry has always been a messy job, with so many issues that few politicians can solve. If anyone can do it, it is Dr Mahathir,” says a PPBM supreme council member.
The suggested arrangement is for Dr.Mahathir to fill in the post temporarily with the hope that he would be able draw in the cooperation of public civil servants to come on board in order to lay the platform for the implementation of his bold visionary ideas.
But this is not a standalone exercise. There is expected to be a minor reshuffle of the cabinet involving other component party members. To date there are seven drafts to be discussed at the Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council.
The PH cabinet reshuffle is expected to be a power play between the coalition members.
To reporters who approached the Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, his reply on this “It is best for us to discuss the matter in Pakatan Harapan”.
Meanwhile, miles away in Mecca, Bersatu Information Chief, Dr Radzi Jidin in an attempt to thwart any plot by component parties to bargain for the post, pitched in a strong statement that the post is prerogative of the Prime Minister and there is no need to discuss the specifics of it with anyone. Accordingly, the post should remain with Bersatu itself.
Having been the Education Minister once before (1974-1978), Dr Mahathir had wanted the education portfolio under his wings. Even when Pakatan Harapan (PH) cabinet was being designed, Dr Mahathir had expressed interest in having the MOE post together with his prime minister’s portfolio.
But given his age and the burden of his premiership position, other PH leaders have dissuaded him from taking on the extra portfolio and suggested that it be given to another person.
However, with the current situation, the post may return to Dr Mahathir as he had wished for earlier.