KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 — Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member S. Arutchelvan said former education minister Maszlee Malik was the first minister who actually looked into fundamental issues plaguing the country’s education system.
Arutchelvan said Maszlee had kept his promise to look into issues related to the Government Contract Workers Network (JPKK) which is a network of contract workers in government departments.
“The JPKK is a network of contract workers in government departments that have been campaigning over the years to improve the plight of contract workers, mainly cleaners and security guards in schools.
“We have previously tried in vain to meet the previous education minister but the only people who met us were some officers and department heads, who were not in a position to make decisions.
“But the Pakatan Harapan (PH) education minister Maszlee quite readily gave us an appointment to meet and had a dialogue with us,” he said in a statement today.
Arutchelvan said prior to the meeting, Maszlee had asked for their memorandum and proposal.
“(This in) itself (was) quite out of the ordinary. At the meeting, we were pleasantly surprised to note that he had actually read our memorandum beforehand.
“He was not pretending as if he knew everything, which most ministers try to do. He addressed each of our proposals and directed his officials to act on them.
“He then told us that he will bring up our proposals in the Cabinet meeting the next day,” he said.
While Arutchelvan was unsure if Maszlee would keep his promise, the latter issued a statement the following day after the Cabinet meeting, saying that parasitic and underperforming crony contractors would be blacklisted and replaced.
“He also said that the whole system needed to be re-looked at and agreed to look into our proposal to employ workers directly and not through a middle-person who in many instances ended up taking a portion of the salary of the workers.
“Since then, we had the pleasure of working with some of his officers who provided us with updates on a weekly basis and past office hours.
Backing the current petition in support of Maszlee, Arutchelvan said there were many other examples of good work by the former minister.
“Under Maszlee, student activists were more protected; he prevented university authorities from taking action on students each time they expressed themselves through protests and other actions.
“During the previous administration, the ministers had always stood with the establishment and not the students. That is something which helped students to express themselves knowing very well that they had protection from disciplinary action,” he said.
He said many teachers had told him that Maszlee introduced numerous reforms to the school system but many of them did not go well on the ground because the bureaucracy did not provide any assistance.
“It is not surprising that the Teachers Union (NUTP) speaks so highly of him.
“Many teachers too have since expressed how Maszlee did actually address some of the main issues raised by teachers,” he said.
In addition, Arutchelvan said while Maszlee made many U-turns after bringing matters to the Cabinet, most of which involved tough issues like the teaching of jawi in vernacular schools, matriculation and Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).
“These are issues which have been there for six decades which PH as a team has been unable to address since it ended up playing the same racial game like the Barisan Nasional (BN),” he said.