PM Mahathir could be acting education minister up to April, a senior member of his political party revealed on Monday (Jan 6).
The PM is responsible for selecting a replacement for Maszlee Malik, who resigned abruptly on Jan 2, citing advice from Mahathir.
News portal The Malaysian Insight claimed Mahathir had written a letter to Maszlee on Dec 27, allegedly requesting the minister withdraw from the Cabinet.
Observers say Marzuki Yahaya and Mustapa Mohamed are likely replacements, while PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim laughed off suggestions he was in line for the post.
Note: This article was updated on Jan 8.
PM Mahathir Mohamad will likely stand in while selecting a suitable replacement for Malaysia’s newly-vacated education minster post, a member of his political party revealed on Monday (Jan 6).
The Star quoted a supreme council member from the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) – of which Mahathir is chairman – as saying that the party’s leaders understood the PM could be acting education minister as far as the April elections.
The PM has been vocal about his desire to implement bold educational reforms.
According to The Star’s report, Mahathir held a special meeting with management-level staff from the Education Ministry on Friday (Jan 3), telling them he would make the announcement soon.
The education minister’s post has been vacant since former minister Maszlee Malik resigned abruptly on Jan 2 during a press conference at his ministry, citing advice from Mahathir. He held the post for 20 months.
On Jan 5, news portal The Malaysian Insight reported Mahathir had written a letter to Maszlee on Dec 27, allegedly requesting the minister withdraw from the Cabinet.
The supposed letter added that the minister had gone against Cabinet decisions on several highly-criticised matters, including the introduction of Jawi calligaphy in schools and free Internet and breakfast for students.
On Jan 7, Mahathir said at a news conference that he had indeed written Maszlee a letter, which was “made public by some irresponsible people”.
“I’m not saying that he did everything wrong. There are some of the things that he did which are right, but because of all these other reasons I felt that it is necessary for him to resign; he agreed and he resigned,” he said.
— BERNAMA TV 🇲🇾 (@BernamaTV) January 7, 2020
Calling his resignation “a blessing in disguise”, Bernama quoted the 45-year-old former lecturer from International Islamic University Malaysia as saying he was neither sad nor angry.
He also thanked the public for a half a million signatures on a petition calling for him to be reinstated, but made it clear he would not return.
Finance minister Lim Guan Eng told Bernama on Jan 4 that the incoming minister would be chosen from within Pakatan Harapan.
Malay Mail also cited sources that Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahaya and former Umno minister Mustapa Mohamed were likely replacements for Maszlee.
Meanwhile, PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim laughed off suggestions that he was in line for the post when interviewed on January 5, saying he was “not on the list“.