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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Several Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have chided Education Minister Maszlee Malik today for instituting the same restrictions on politicians entering schools that the coalition itself had implemented when it was in power.
But Maszlee also received flak from polls watchdog Bersih 2.0 that demanded he revoke his “partisan” instruction, and instead implement a blanket policy barring all politicians from entering schools regardless of affiliation.
Umno’s Kepala Batas MP Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said Maszlee’s ruling will prevent lawmakers from serving their respective constituencies efficiently.
“Schools have always been my top priority in my constituency. Voters expect me to serve and assist them in various issues, such as infrastructure development, budget provisions for school programmes, extracurricular activities and so on.
“Denying or restricting MPs’ access to schools is the equivalent of taking away from voters their right to MPs’ services. This is truly not what the people would expect of the new administration,” said the Umno supreme council member.
Meanwhile, his fellow council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam accused the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership of allegedly having an “excellent record in denying the rights of others”.
He pointed out the difficulties encountered by Selangor Umno and BN politicians when renting public amenities, including assembly halls and stadiums.
MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker also lambasted Maszlee, saying the decision goes against PH’s advocacy of a two-party system, which allows the public the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument, while at the same time, allowing all political parties equal access to public spaces.
“If we want to talk about what he is doing, it is authoritarianism — a dominance of the ruling party instead of encouraging differing opinions and dissent,” said Ti.
“The people elected the government with a very high expectation of a more level playing field, where the spirit of a two-party system allows everyone equal and fair access to the Opposition and the government.
“Instead, it is no longer the level playing field that they promised,” the newly elected MCA vice-president said.
Bersih 2.0’s Steering Committee had in a press statement said that it is not questioning the Education Ministry on its policies, but rather the partisan implementation of policies.
“Minister Maszlee is reminded that discriminating against democratically-elected Opposition MPs is simply disrespecting the will of the voters in their constituencies,” it said.
“In a multi-party democracy, voters have the right to choose from various contending parties and they should not be deprived of the service of their representatives if they turn out to be on the Opposition bench after the election.
“A frequent complaint of Opposition representatives during BN’s rule was the fact that they were not allowed to enter public schools while BN representatives were. Is the new PH government doing to the Opposition what they themselves objected to when they were in Opposition?” it asked.
Furthermore, the group pointed out that it was normal for schools to invite local MPs to grace their events and concerns of political messages being disseminated should be addressed via party-blind guidelines and standard operating procedures on violations for all visiting politicians.