The blame game after a failed by-election
Published on: Sunday, December 01, 2019
By: Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
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You don’t need a soothsayer or bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin wielding coconuts and looking through his trademark bamboo binoculars to predict the outcome of the Tanjong Pilai by-election. 

While PH leaders feigned surprise on the landslide victory by the BN candidate, many writers rained scathing remarks on the PH government performance and rationalised the reasons for their continued failure in by-elections after by-elections.

The blame game has started and Tun Mahathir has become the target and the scapegoat for PH failures. To be fair to Tun Mahathir, he broke BN’s stranglehold in GE14 and without his leadership we will still be under BN and Anwar Ibrahim will still be languishing in jail. 

To run a country needs a collective effort on everybody’s part including a strong and decisive Cabinet. If you want to apportion blame, I would say our Education Minister Maszlee Malik should shoulder a greater part of the blame. His Ministry has been the No.1 public displeasure since the PH government came to power.

Having attended many NGO gatherings post Maruah Melayu congress, what is in the uppermost minds of the participating audience were matters related to education. 

At these forums, I counted that at least 70pc of the questions from the floor were related to the concerns and future direction of the Malaysian education system.

The Maruah Melayu has exposed the state of our education system and alarmed many who are involved in education in Malaysia, most of all parents of schoolgoing children. 

The Maruah Melayu showed how the highest echelons in the academic world has succumbed to the politics of the BN era where race, religion and Malay rights are used to control the minds of the majority race.

The lack of clear directions in education policies may have hurt the government in the Tanjong Pilai by-election. Tun Mahathir himself realised the importance of education by wanting to take on the education portfolio himself in the early days of the new government. 

He had to drop the idea as members of the public pointed out that his coalition's manifesto had pledged that there would be no double portfolios for the premier. 

Maszlee Malik is a lightning rod for controversies. Many are hoping he will be dropped or change portfolio in a rumoured cabinet reshuffle. The Cabinet reshuffle has not happened and we are still stuck with the controversial Education Minister . 

People were disappointed when the Education Ministry did not reprimand the Malay academics for their display of bigotry at the Maruah Melayu congress. According to a debate in Pearson College London, the purpose of a university is to be the guardian of reason, inquiry and philosophical openness, preserving pure inquiry from dominant public opinions. 

This is a difficult reach for our public universities going by the display at the Maruah Melayu congress. The language used at the congress defiles what a University is supposed to be. 

The PH government has forgotten that people are taxpayers and they have the right to protest when their contributions goes to pay for an education system plagued by academic misfits that do not uphold the ideals of an excellent education institution or proud of its history.

Maszlee started with the ministry of education with questions about his religious leanings. Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa said one of the main concerns regarding Maszlee’s appointment is his purported Salafist leanings and his support of Zakir Naik. 

In 2018, Siti Kassim wrote that we have yet to hear anything substantive from Maszlee with respect to the overt and overbearing religious-centric character of our current education system, curriculum and teachers.  

In another incident Maszlee Malik said his remarks in parliament that religious teachers should make Sabah and Sarawak their medan dakwah (proselytisation field) has been misconstrued to mean promoting Islam to non-Muslims. 

The call for proselytisation received a lot of flak from East Malaysians leaders fearing the kind of race and religious preoccupations of Muslims in West Malaysia will come to the Borneo states.

It was reported in May, a petition calling for Maszlee Malik to be replaced has garnered more than 110,000 signatories, as he continued to face pressure over controversial remarks linking pre-university entry to job discrimination against bumiputras. 

Tun Mahathir has defended Maszlee Malik for linking the matriculation quota intake issue with that of language requirements for jobs.

Tun Mahathir said he has no problem with Maszlee since the latter took over the education portfolio last year except for the controversial ‘black shoes’ ruling for schoolchildren.

The khat issue which was not well thought off created a raging debate and heightened racial emotions. It was a waste of time and energy and the same time and energy expended can be used for nation building. 

The proposed doing away of vernacular schools and non recognition of UEC despite PH promises earlier have created more disenchantments with the Chinese voters. 

All these could have added to the resounding rejection of of PH government by Chinese voters in Tanjong Pilai.

Whatever, the reason we opined for the PH failure at the hands of Tanjong Pilai voters, we have to remember sometimes change has to be transactional and not transformational as we would have liked. PH has inherited of the ills and failure of the BN to build a just and fair society. 

Patience is a virtue they say and we got another 3 years before we can see the fruit of our labour. In the meantime we hope people like Maszlee would make amends and don’t make the same mistakes that would push people further away from the PH government.

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