One year on, Dr M for education minister and Nobel Prize petitions still getting support

A screengrab of the Change.org petition that was started by user Alexandria Abishegam.
A screengrab of the Change.org petition that was started by user Alexandria Abishegam.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — One year later, Malaysians are still signing on to two online petitions started in 2018 for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be the education minister and to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite Maszlee Malik having helmed the post of education minister for a year now, Malaysians appeared to have not given up on having Dr Mahathir spearhead “much-needed reforms” to the country’s education system.

The online petition to ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan for Dr Mahathir as education minister was started by Raveen Dev on Change.org on May 18, 2018, and had chalked up over 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours after it was launched.

Hundreds of signatures continued to pour this morning for the petition, which has now reached 120,837 signatures at the time of writing.

On May 17, 2018, Dr Mahathir who had served as education minister in the 1970s said he is taking on the post again with plans to revamp the education module and introduce new technology to the outdated education system.

But Dr Mahathir dropped the education portfolio on May 18, 2018 in order to honour the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto, which had in its 12th promise said that the prime minister “will not hold the positions of other ministers, especially the position of finance minister”.

Despite acknowledging the demand for him to take on the education portfolio, Dr Mahathir had then said he cannot break the position in the manifesto. Maszlee was later named education minister.

Maszlee, who was formerly an assistant professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia and is a first-term Simpang Renggam MP from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, had announced various initiatives and plans for changes in the education system.

Maszlee had also recently outlined achievements by his ministry in Pakatan Harapan’s first year of administration, such as a 60 per cent admission rate in fully residential schools for students from the low-income B40 group and a zero reject policy for students with disabilities.

As for the other petition seeking to have Dr Mahathir nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the petition launched on May 26, 2018 currently has 193,318 signatures at the time of writing — with some added on as recently as yesterday and last week.

Yesterday, the petition’s founder Alexandria Abishegam posted an update to thank those who have supported the campaign, adding: “We are still looking to nominate Tun for upcoming prize but will be doing so once we reach around 250k”.

Crediting Dr Mahathir with inspiring Malaysians to a non-violent change of government by using the ballot box, the petition had also described him as being akin to Nelson Mandela for leading a peaceful transfer of power and for saying that the new administration is not out to “seek revenge”.

The team behind the petition had last May explained to Malay Mail that it recognised Dr Mahathir’s chequered past in his first stint as prime minister spanning 22 years, but said that it wanted to change the international dialogue on Malaysia.

Upon hearing of the signature drive for him to be a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr Mahathir had in a witty and cheeky response last year said: “I’m not so noble”.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 has been jointly awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”, according to the Nobel Prize’s website.

Getting Dr Mahathir nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 may also be out of reach if it has yet to be done, as nominations for this year’s edition has already closed on February 1 with a record high of 301 candidates.

These two petitions are currently the ones with the highest number of supporters out of 105 petitions found on Change.org that are either petitions to Dr Mahathir or relating to him.

That is apart from a petition started by Marie Claire Malaysia last month to Dr Mahathir as part of its campaign to seek for the release of Iranian women’s rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh from Iranian jail, which has garnered over 158,000 signatures so far.

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