Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has, in a surprising turn of events, emerged as a candidate to fill the vacant Education Minister’s post.
A Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member said its leaders were made to understand that their party chairman may take over the post in an acting capacity before handing it over to his permanent choice.
Jeli MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed was earlier speculated to be the front runner for the post vacated by Dr Maszlee Malik.
The Prime Minister, who has long envisaged meaningful reform in the country’s education system, held a special meeting with the management-level staff of the Education Ministry on Friday.
Details of the meeting remained unclear but political insiders said he would have used the occasion to stress the urgent need for educational reforms to prepare the future workforce for the new technological age or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
However, Dr Mahathir did tell the meeting that he would make the announcement soon.
Many had expected the reshuffle to be made last Thursday but instead the spotlight was on Maszlee who announced his resignation in a long, rambling speech before finally driving off in a black Perodua Myvi with a P-plate.
Political insiders saw Maszlee’s parting words of “handing back the post” to the Prime Minister, whom he referred to as “ayahanda” (father), as a hint of things to come.
The much-overdue reshuffle is expected to be announced any day after this Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. Speculation that the ministry may again be split into Higher Education and Education has also been dismissed as unlikely.
The Bersatu supreme council member also said that should Dr Mahathir decide to take on the job, it would be to put in place some bold ideas for reform and to get the civil servants to come on board because the best of policies will not be successful without the cooperation and support of the civil service.
“The Education Ministry has always been a messy job, with so many issues that few politicians can solve. If anyone can do it, it is Dr Mahathir,” said the supreme council member.
According to the supreme council member, Mustapa, who quit Umno for Bersatu, is still in the running despite apprehension from within Bersatu and among Pakatan Harapan partners.
“From what we are hearing, even if Dr Mahathir becomes the acting Education Minister, it will only be until after our party AGM and election in April. After that he can hand over the reins to someone permanent,” said the supreme council member.
Party elections are always sensitive, and it might be easier for Dr Mahathir to rope in Mustapa after the polls are done with.
It is learnt that there have been a total of “seven drafts” at the level of the Pakatan presidential council regarding the Cabinet reshuffle.
Political insiders claimed the presidential council advised that any new face to the Cabinet should not be in an economic capacity.
However, it seems like there is still some power play going on regarding the reshuffle.
On Saturday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when asked about the reshuffle, declined to comment, saying that “it is best for us to discuss the matter in Pakatan Harapan”.
Two hours later, Bersatu information chief Dr Radzi Jidin, who was then in Mecca, shot out a press statement saying it was the “sole prerogative” of the Prime Minister to make a ministerial appointment and there was no need to discuss it in any specific meeting.
Radzi cited Article 43(2) of the Federal Constitution which states that ministers are appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Radzi, who is also Deputy Economic Affairs Minister, said there was no need for Pakatan to meet on the Education Ministry appointment as it should rightfully be filled by Bersatu. – The Star