Santiago Tells Dr M That We Are All Equal Malaysian Citizens

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Klang MP seeks a ceasefire in war of words with several government leaders, but to Maszlee, he says, “Watch your words, do your job.”

Pakatan Harapan backbencher Charles Santiago has brushed off an apparent jibe at him by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He has also maintained his stance that Mahathir ought to stop making unilateral decisions, and instead discuss controversial issues in the Harapan presidential council before bringing them to the cabinet.

The premier recently joked that he would consult Santiago before making decisions in the future as they were “equals”.

Asked about this today, Santiago said he welcomed any consultations with Mahathir.

“We are Malaysians, we are all of the same status.

[…] Of course, I will be happy to (meet and discuss issues with the prime minister).

“I will wait for the phone call (from him),” he told the press on the sidelines of the National Water Services Commission (Span) seminar on river pollution in Petaling Jaya this morning.

Santiago, who is the Span chairperson, then reiterated his proposal.

“What I proposed was a way to reduce problems among the people.

“[…] All other countries have internal discussions. After these internal discussions and after everyone can accept the views brought forward, and after there is an understanding, then they bring the issue to the cabinet.

“I’m not talking about all issues, only the ones which are controversial,” he added.

The Harapan administration has in recent weeks been rocked by the public uproar over controversial issues like the implementation of khat (Jawi calligraphy) in schools and whether to allow Lynas to continue operating in Malaysia.

Speaking to reporters, Santiago said he had no wish to prolong the issue, adding that he had merely suggested a measure that could help reduce problems in the country.

“The prime minister has already responded, so let’s leave it at that. I think that’s the best way forward,” he said.

Santiago recently said the power to make decisions at the executive level should be shared equally among PH component parties, especially on controversial issues involving race and religion.

He said there seemed to be too much power in the hands of the prime minister, claiming that Dr Mahathir Mohamad was making unilateral decisions for the people at a troubling frequency.

This sparked a reaction from Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who said Mahathir had always made decisions through Cabinet consensus.

Maszlee also called Santiago’s claim “an utter lie”, earning a backlash from the Klang MP who told him yesterday to “watch his words and focus on his job”.

“Calling me a liar is a serious accusation. Maszlee should watch his words and, more importantly, focus on his job.”

“He has to prove me wrong because being defensive is the easier option,” he said.

Defending his right to speak up, Santiago told Maszlee: “We are a new Malaysia, one which was voted in by the people on the premise of reforms and inclusivity. It is therefore pertinent that the voices of the people are reflected in policy decisions.”

Not mincing his words, he took a shot at Maszlee’s handling of his portfolio.

“The education system is in shambles and much work needs to be done to get it back on track. It’s been 13 months…and about time that Maszlee started work,” the MP said.