Happy New Year! Happy new education minister?

We were on our way back to KL yesterday, from our 5-day family holiday in Penang, when our daughter had alerted us to the breaking news on her phone: Malaysia’s education minister had resigned. And this morning, Dr Maszlee Malik’s picture was on the front page of every major newspaper in the country.

Just as the announcement of his appointment as education minister came as a surprise 20 months ago, so was his sudden announcement of his resignation yesterday – the first day of school for thousands of Malaysian students. And the reaction from the general public? From extreme shock and sadness by some, to complete rejuvenation by others. For everyone had an opinion about Dr Maszlee – you either love and adore him as a caring education minister, or you are the biggest critique of his many controversial actions (and inactions), which he had openly admitted and defended:

“I have been seen to be the cause of many crises, including the Jawi calligraphy issue, Internet at schools and the free breakfast programme…….However, I believe I have placed a foundation and a clear framework for the ministry to follow.” (Quotes from The Star, Friday 3 January 2020).

Despite the controversies in Maszlee Malik’s tenure, a large number of Malaysians have banded together to urge Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to reinstate him as education minister.

Maszlee publicly resigned from his post on Thursday (Jan 2), after consultation with the PM.

Just hours after the announcement, an online petition on change.org titled “Keep YB Maszlee Malik as Minister of Education Malaysia”  was started by a netizen identified only as Tuah Kencana.

In less than 24 hours, it had already garnered 297,977 signatures. (Currently the number has exceeded 300k)

“The decision to resign is a huge loss to the nation,” the petitioner wrote. “Representing community groups, we request that YB Prime Minister, as the foremost statesman, to reinstate Maszlee Malik to shoulder responsibilities as Malaysia’s education minister.” (translated by the Malay Mail and reported in the Business Insider).

And those who had wanted him out had started a petition to the prime minister to have the education minister replaced. This one had garnered 160k to date started by one Stephen Ng:

“For the past 11 months, many Malaysians have raised complaints regarding Dr Maszlee Malik over his nonsensical policies such as black shoes and socks, his idea of introducing cashless payment in schools, setting up petrol stations on university ground, and so on.

“One particular policy to introduce swimming as a co-curricular activity in schools is worrying to parents. Recently, a schoolboy died in Sabah during his swimming lessons. Maszlee has failed to understand that schools do not have enough teachers to supervise the children when they are in a swimming pool.

Whether or not these petitions will have any impact on the prime minister’s decision is yet to be seen, but the petition for the removal of the Dr Maszlee appears to be effective (or perhaps it was just a matter of timing). At the time of writing, no decisions have been announced yet by the Prime Minister on who will be replacing Dr Maszlee.

And the nation awaits the announcement with bated breath!

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