PM: Maszlee’s exit not linked to purported King Salman Centre revival bid

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad addresses a press conference in Putrajaya January 7, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 7 — Maszlee Malik was not asked to resign as education minister over a purported attempt to relaunch the Saudi-backed King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP), the prime minister said today.

Rebutting a news report claiming this, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he already explained why Maszlee needed to resign in a letter to the latter, which he also authenticated today.

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“By now, I think the letter I wrote to him has been made public by some irresponsible people. As you can see, there are many reasons.

“I’m not saying that he did everything wrong. There are some of the things that he did that were right, but because of these other reasons, I felt that it was necessary for him to resign and he agreed,” Dr Mahathir told reporters.

When pressed to say if this involved the KSCIP, Dr Mahathir said no.

Earlier today, news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported an anonymous source as claiming that the Simpang Renggam MP’s resignation was to do with a purported plan to reopen the KSCIP.

Maszlee has also responded to the claim and denied it, going on to label the assertion as slanderous.

The controversial centre was launched here during the previous Barisan Nasional administration and discontinued after Pakatan Harapan came to power.

Maszlee had also refuted FMT’s report that claimed he was forced to resign after angering the prime minister with an alleged attempt to reopen KSCIP.

Taking to Twitter, Maszlee called the report quoting an anonymous source as “defamation”.

He linked his post to a news report by the portal this morning that alleged “the prime minister was angered when he heard the former education minister was attempting to resuscitate the King Salman Centre for International Peace”, tagging Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s official Twitter account as well as his own.

Maszlee was a former lecturer with the International Islamic University of Malaysia before being taking up the education portfolio in 2018, lasting 20 months in that role.

He abruptly resigned on January 2, saying he was “returning” the position to Dr Mahathir.

Maszlee’s brief tenure was dogged by a number of controversies, including switching out white shoes for black as part of school uniforms, the implementation of khat and jawi lessons in national schools, and a free breakfast programme though he had a significant number of supporters for the same policies.

The KSCIP was announced by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during Hari Raya in July 2017 after a visit from envoys to the Saudi kingdom. He added that the centre would be built on a 16-acre plot in Putrajaya.

However, the plan was cancelled a year later after Pakatan Harapan defeated Barisan Nasional and took over the government.

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