Pakatan reps butt heads with Maszlee over Opposition ban in schools

Azril Annuar
Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s instructions for Opposition lawmakers to obtain permission from state education directors before they can enter schools has divided opinion among his peers.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Several Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians have voiced their disagreement with Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s instructions for Opposition lawmakers to obtain permission from state education directors before they can enter schools.

Many said the new administration must be better than their predecessor Barisan Nasional (BN), and should not repeat the mistakes of the past, especially since PH lawmakers were the ones at the receiving end prior to the change of government.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil told Malay Mail there should not be any kind of restriction on elected representatives from visiting schools in their constituencies.

“How are we supposed to talk about schools if we can’t see the schools? I think it’s punitive to bar elected representatives from entering schools, regardless if they are from PH or BN,” he said.

“I think in New Malaysia, we have a great opportunity to do things the right way, but it requires political will. I hope [Maszlee] will reconsider the status quo and we need to have the political fortitude to do what is morally right.

“It should not be tit for tat,” said Fahmi, also referring to the instructions from Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah to ban the state’s community leaders from attending PH’s official functions.

The PKR MP pointed out that this was something that Umno had done to PH representatives in the past and that PH should not be doing the same.

He added that in Lembah Pantai, he allowed anyone to use any of the civic halls and government facilities as long as no defamatory or seditious statements are issued, saying that any elected representative should be welcomed in government facilities.

His party colleague Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad also disagreed in a press statement, pointing out that MPs and assemblymen are often invited to schools, and that these are important places in the civic life of Malaysia.

“Barring Opposition figures from schools and other institutions of learning was one of the worst abuses under the previous Barisan Nasional government. Many Pakatan Harapan legislators — myself included — fell victim to it.

“Despite serving as Selangor state exco for education from 2014 to 2018, I was constantly barred from visiting schools there. I was even prevented from speaking at my alma mater, KYUEM, allegedly due to political pressure on the school authorities,” he said, using the initials for Kolej Yayasan UEM.

“On another occasion, I was forced to pretend to be a student, including riding into campus on a motorbike, in order to fulfil an invitation at University of Malaya. Now that Pakatan Harapan is in power federally, it must continue to take the moral high ground,” said Nik Nazmi.

He added that there is no reason for the new government to adopt the “repressive practices and pettiness” of the previous administration.

The Setiawangsa MP reminded Maszlee that he should trust all legislators regardless of their political affiliation to behave responsibly when carrying out public engagement and action can be taken if lawmakers are found to abuse the platforms by inciting racial or religious hatred or pushing a partisan agenda.

Their DAP counterpart Kasthuri Patto agreed that under New Malaysia, the government should not be practising politics of hatred and vengeance.

“Even in Penang, the chief minister’s photo wasn’t even allowed to be hung in schools, just because we were the federal Opposition party but the ruling government in Penang,” she said, referring to the BN administration era.

“New Malaysia means new politics. We cannot hold down this sort of vengeful politics. Even though, sometimes, the public wants us to play to the gallery, which is politics of hatred and revenge, but six months into the new government we should show BN how it is done.”

She hoped that the minister will reconsider and echoed Nik Nazmi’s perspective that if any MPs or assemblymen have violated the guidelines, action should be taken against them on a case-by-case basis.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) strategic director Datuk Rais Hussin, on the other hand, believed that Maszlee should have adopted a blanket policy where no politicians can enter schools unless it is for formal occasions where no political agenda can be pursued.

He pointed out that a school should be a centre of education and learning which is untainted by politics.

“I think my view is schools should be left alone from politics whether it is from the Opposition or government and let it be a centre for education excellence. The students there are very young, they are still learning what knowledge is supposed to be,” he said.

“Schools should not be intoxicated by politics. It should be a place of knowledge. Universities are different as the students can already form their own opinions. The only exception should be school days.

“These are just a matter of formality where the lawmakers are there to hand out school accolades or awards,” said Rais.

Related Articles PAS MP: Maszlee says Opposition can’t enter schools, but Pakatan whip said OK? BN reps, Bersih slam Maszlee for not ‘walking the talk’ after Opposition ban in schools Tahfiz students to receive certificates from Education Ministry, says minister