PM, Maszlee Say His Resignation Nothing to Do with King Salman Centre

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Maszlee cries slander in claim that bid to reopen King Salman Centre cost him Cabinet job.

Maszlee Malik did not resign as Education Minister because he committed errors.

In stating this, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad today made it clear that there were other reasons that led to the resignation of the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) minister.

“By now, the letter I wrote to him (Maszlee) has been made public by some irresponsible people.

“I am not saying that he did everything wrong. There were some things that he did right.

Kamal Ariffin/TMI

“But, because of the other reasons, I felt it was necessary for him to resign and he agreed. So, he resigned,” Dr Mahathir told reporters today.

The Malaysian Insight (TMI) had reported that a 17-paragraph letter, which it had sighted noted that Maszlee had failed to listen to advice and had on several occasions had gone against Cabinet decisions.

The letter was reportedly sent to Maszlee’s office on Dec 27 and was written by Mahathir.

According to TMI, some of Maszlee’s “failures” were stated in the letter, among them was his failure to follow advice on the Jawi issue, free Internet for schools as well as the free breakfast programme for students.

It was also allegedly mentioned that Maszlee was against splitting the education and higher education portfolios.

TMI said the letter ended with Mahathir requesting Maszlee to “withdraw from the Cabinet”.

Asked if one of the reasons was because Maszlee wanted to restart the King Salman centre, Mahathir, who looked perplexed, denied it.

“No, nothing to do with that,” said the prime minister.

Another news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) had reported that the prime minister was upset when he learned that Maszlee was behind the plan to reopen the King Salman centre, a Saudi Arabian-backed anti-terrorism centre.

To a question, Mahathir said he would choose the right candidate for the now vacant post of Education Minister.

“This will be decided by me because it is my prerogative,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maszlee has denied that his push to reopen the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) led to his removal from the cabinet.

“This is slander,” Maszlee tweeted today of the FMT report, which said his plans to reopen the centre was the “tipping point” that led to Mahathir’s order to quit the cabinet.

The report cited an anonymous source saying the prime minister was infuriated when he heard Maszlee was behind the plan to restart the KSCIP, on the back of a long list of complaints against the former education minister’s handling of his portfolio.

“It was the last straw for Mahathir, and coming as it did on the heels of the Saudis’ snub of the KL Summit earlier in the month, this was a big no-no for him,” the source said, referring to the Kuala Lumpur Summit attended by leaders of Turkey, Iran and Qatar last month, which drew strong opposition from Riyadh.

According to FMT, the prime minister made it clear to Maszlee during a meeting on Dec 31 that he would not tolerate any attempt at reopening the King Salman centre.

The source reportedly said Mahathir was particularly incensed that the Saudis had applied economic pressure on Pakistan which forced its Prime Minister Imran Khan to cancel his attendance at the KL Summit.

FMT’s report also carried a denial by Maszlee’s aide, Zul Fikri Zamir, saying “This is malicious”.

Maszlee in a series of tweets today said there had never been any discussion on reviving the KSCIP while he was education minister and asked what the centre had to do with the education portfolio.

“You can check my work with education ministry staff. All my work, everything is in reports and has been recorded.

“God, give me strength to face such slander. I no longer hold any post. I am no longer a minister. I am an ordinary member of the public now. I urge a stop to such slander by whoever is behind it, and I appeal to the media to check their facts before publishing,” he said.

In 2017, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced plans for the centre on a 16-ha plot of land in Putrajaya during Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz’s visit to Malaysia in 2017.

The formation of the centre was purportedly aimed at checking extremism and terrorism but came under criticism from Pakatan Harapan leaders who questioned Saudi Arabia’s credentials due to its doctrine of Wahhabism.

Following Pakatan’s victory in the May 9 general election, the plan to build the Saudi-backed centre was cancelled.