PETALING JAYA • Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has, in a surprising turn of events, emerged as a candidate to fill the vacant education minister's post.
A member of the supreme council of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) said the party's leadership was made to understand that its chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir, may take over the post in an acting capacity before handing it later to his permanent choice.
Former Umno Cabinet minister Mustapa Mohamed, 69, who has joined PPBM, was earlier speculated to be the front runner for the post vacated by Dr Maszlee Malik.
Dr Maszlee, 45, last week stepped down from the post 20 months after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won power in the May 2018 General Election.
Dr Mahathir, 94, who has long envisaged meaningful reform in the country's education system, held a special meeting with the management-level staff of the Education Ministry last Friday, a day after Dr Maszlee stepped down.
Details remained unclear, but political insiders said he would have used the meeting to stress the urgent need for educational reforms to prepare the workforce for the new technological age.
Said the supreme council member: "The Education Ministry has always been a messy job, with so many issues that few politicians can solve. If anyone can do it, it is Dr Mahathir."
Many had expected a minor Cabinet reshuffle to be made last Thursday. Instead, the spotlight was on Dr Maszlee, a former academic, who announced his resignation.
Political insiders saw Dr Maszlee's parting words of "handing back the post" to the Prime Minister, whom he referred to as "ayahanda" (father), as a hint of things to come.
The long-overdue Cabinet reshuffle is expected to be announced any day after the weekly Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
According to the PPBM leader, Datuk Seri Mustapa is still in the running despite some apprehension within PPBM and among PH partners because of his defection from Umno only after the coalition won power.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK