The issue of black school shoes and stockings plunged the Dewan Rakyat into chaos today, with the Education Minister being dubbed “Yang Berhormat Kasut” (shoe minister).
Disgruntled murmurs among Barisan Nasional (BN) members of parliament were already in the air when Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said the previous administration failed to engage stakeholders to resolve the long-standing issue of recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).
The situation became volatile when he further alleged that the BN lawmakers were only capable of raising the issue of the black school shoes and stockings rather than resolve the UEC issue.
“The UEC issue arose as there was no engagement with all stakeholders to discuss the matter rationally.
“The present government focuses on consultation to arrive at a decision that is bottom-up (approach), not top-down as what was done by BN previously.
“BN only knows how to raise the issue of (school) shoes and stockings. That is the level of BN MPs,” he said to loud jeers from multiple BN lawmakers.
In retaliation, Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak) loudly proclaimed Maszlee as “Shoe Minister.”
To back his BN colleague, Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (BN-Lenggong) described Maszlee as “Yang Berhormat Kasut” (shoe minister).
Shamsul and Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kulau Krau) were heard saying they did not want to talk about shoes and socks.
To the lawmakers who criticised him today, Maszlee said: “The Barisan Nasional MPs are only keen on shoes and socks. That is their level.”
The situation got so heated that deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Nga Kor Ming had to mute the sound system to prevent escalation of the heated exchange of words.
Previously, BN MPs like former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had taken aim at Maszlee’s seeming preoccupation with the colour of school shoes and stockings rather than more pressing matters with the nation’s education system.
This followed his announcement on July 20 that students would switch from white shoes to black, with a one-year grace period to make the transition.
In his earlier discussion on UEC recognition, Maszlee said a special committee had been set up to look into the matter.
He said the study was expected to be completed next year, after which it would be brought to the Cabinet.
He gave his assurance that the committee would examine the issue from all angles to prevent any politicising.
“This will be done through discussions with stakeholders,” he said. “It is to bring those who are for the UEC, against it, and neutral in the matter, to discuss the issue openly.
“This needs to be done. The previous government never did this,” he said, adding that there had been a lot of misunderstanding on the topic due to the lack of open discussion.