THAT’S it. I am joining the chorus calling for a new education minister. Dr Maszlee Malik’s latest foot-in-the-mouth is the last straw for me.
Right from the start, there were voices of disquiet when he was appointed because of his credentials as an Islamic scholar and they have been proven right.
Those who questioned whether he was the right man for the job included lawyer-activist and The Star columnist Siti Kasim, who feared he would “impose his religious leanings on the education system”, which she felt was already heavily influenced by religion.
Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa wondered whether this Perlis fatwa committee member had the courage to implement the Bangsa Malaysia concept and withstand the pressures from extremists on the schooling system.
But others came to his defence, saying he was moderate and humble – a nice guy – and hey, his mum is Hakka Chinese and he can speak the dialect and basic Mandarin. Surely, he would have a multiracial outlook.
And I felt that should be the case.
Then came allegations of his support for the detestable Zakir Naik, who is a wanted man in India for preaching extremism and money laundering. That started a niggling doubt about him.
Next came his appointment as International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) president.
Despite the immediate backlash and calls for him to reject the appointment as it was a conflict of interest and went against the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, Mazlee was determined to serve the whole five-year term.
And what did he say he wanted to do? “I want to make it (IIUM) the Oxford of Muslim countries.”
He added: “Once I complete my mission and bring back the glory of IIUM, I will relinquish my position and amend the rules so that no politicians can be appointed as the university’s president.”
That really got my goat. Granted he might have been sentimental about IIUM since he was a senior lecturer there but he was clearly showing his religious bias and double standard.
He as a politician can hold the post but no other after him?
At least on that score, he didn’t get his way and had to give up the post after several months of procrastinating.
In March, he managed to tick off Sarawakians and Sabahans when he told Parliament that religious teachers from Terengganu and Kelantan were encouraged to make Sarawak and Sabah the medan
dakwah (propaganda battleground) for Islamisation.
My unhappiness with Mazlee grew. And it grew some more with his announcement last month that the pre-university matriculation programme would accept more students but the racial quota would remain.
He said this in the face of calls for a single examination to replace the current STPM and matriculation systems for entry into public universities as befitting Malaysia Baharu.
Even though the matriculation programme would be expanded to accommodate 40,000 students, it would still be a 90:10 ratio of bumiputras to non-bumiputras.
It was already bad when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted matriculation was a “back door” access into public universities for Malays but here was Mazlee rubbing salt into the gaping wound by defending the continuation of the matriculation back door on two baseless excuses: Malays face discrimination in the job market because they are not Mandarin-proficient and non-bumiputra students come from rich families who can afford to send them for tuition and ace their exams, unlike bumiputra students.
Wah, how not to get angry?
It is so tragic that Mazlee and many other Malays still believe that they are the only ones who face discrimination in the country where they are the majority and in control of every government institution and government-linked corporation.
No thanks to decades of brainwashing by the previous Umno-led government, the Malays still believe they have to stand up to the non-
Malays, particularly the Chinese, and that they must have protection and crutches to do so.
I often wish the media would stop publishing lists of richest Malaysians, which invariably show Chinese tycoons at the top.
The Malays must be incensed to see that despite decades of the New Economic Policy and its later versions with policies that are pro-bumiputra in just about everything.
This richest list is actually misleading because we all know there are many Malay multimillionaires who benefited from government contracts and prefer not to draw attention to themselves and spend a lot of time in London instead.
Do Mazlee and ilk really believe all Malaysian Chinese families can afford to send their kids for expensive tuition? Do they not know there are Chinese who work as serving staff, handymen and hawkers? Do they not know that not all Malaysian Chinese are Mandarin-proficient?
My children are not and so they cannot apply for positions that require Mandarin. What they do have is a strong command of the English language, which has gotten them good jobs.
The truth is more and more Malay parents are sending their kids to Chinese schools, which will make them more marketable than my kids, if we are to follow Mazlee’s argument. Should my kids feel discriminated and disadvantaged?
What is truly alarming is how Mazlee’s pronouncements have encouraged others to take the same stand.
USM vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail said Mazlee should be praised for exposing what she claimed was taboo.
She issued a statement on Sunday saying there is pressure (on language requirement) that happens in various sectors that “we do not dare expose in order to preserve racial harmony”.
“Why did we never dare to touch on the whole existing education system directly and holistically?” she added.
She went on to say that what is more important now is the reformation of the whole education system but that needed “a mental reformation in the community”.
I absolutely agree the whole education system needs reformation but what community is she referring to?
After 60 years of Malay-controlled government, why are Malays still lagging behind so badly in education and the economy? Shouldn’t this huge failure be tackled “directly and holistically”? Or is this taboo too?
I know of so many smart, talented and capable Malays who surely did not need any back door to continue their studies and get good jobs.
But because of this sneak-in mechanism just for the sake of allowing less qualified students through for the sake of numbers and political expediency, even top-notch Malays will always have to contend with the suspicion that they didn’t do it on their own merit. How long more must they suffer such an indignity?
In any multiracial nation, education is a vital unifying factor, but for too long, ours has become divisive because of the tampering by self-serving politicians who separate our children based on religion and language.
That’s why right-thinking Malaysians desperately want an education system that would no longer divide, discriminate, deny, disillusion and even damage our most precious assets: our children’s hearts and minds.
Granted, to achieve this would take time but as Dr Ahmad Farouk said, what is needed for this to happen is a courageous education minister who believes in meritocracy, inclusiveness and pluralism. I don’t see that in Maszlee.
Yes, time to go, Bro!