Bernama’s PR exercise for Maszlee smacks of BN rule

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 – It looks like Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik is having his wish of the media writing only positive things. The only problem is that he has managed to convince only the national news agency Bernama to do it for him.

In what was called a “Year-ender” report headlined “Maszlee promises to improve education system, ease teachers’ burden”, the contents was merely spouting some of the “nice to hear” pledges made at the start of his tenure as education minister as well as his proposals and policies since, one of which his ministry has even decided to put on hold.

On November 29, after coming under a lot of criticism over many months, Maszlee decided to blame the media for all the negative feedback from the people.

He called for the media to focus on creating more educational content that will spread “positive vibes”.

“Journalists should use their writing to educate the public instead of sensationalising news to gain readership.

“Their writing should spread positive vibes that will build and develop a civilised society,” Maszlee said.

Bernama, now a public relations outfit for failing ministers?

The year-ender Bernama report decided to start with the pledge he made after his appointment last May “to improve the country’s education system and to ease the burden of teachers”.

Hence the headline with a positive vibe from Bernama.

It’s puzzling how the same Bernama whom Pakatan Harapan leaders had criticised prior to the 14th general election, now sees it fit to deceive the people.

Perhaps Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh, a prominent DAP leader should state his views on the use of Bernama in such a manner, something that he would not have approved of before, as the Barisan Nasional government had used the agency to the fullest extent to promote its agenda.

The Bernama PR piece for Maszlee also said that despite being the subject of various controversies, “various quarters continue to support him, describing Maszlee as a man with extensive experience in education”.

Foot in mouth disease

However, Maszlee’s record in the first six months speaks otherwise. He seems to have had a bout of foot-in-mouth disease.

From black shoes to black socks to hotel swimming pools, to adding the 1MDB scandal into the history curriculum, to targeting Sabah and Sarawak for a “medan dakwah” with religious teachers from the peninsula, and finally, the latest being the call for Malaysian students to add Arabic to Bahasa Malaysia and English as a third language, Maszlee is the most unpopular minister from a Pakatan Harapan component party, namely Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

There is so much incompetency about this once-respected academic that makes one wonder how much lower can he go in the eyes of the people.

To say that he is clueless, as some officials in government agencies dealing with the education minister have shared, is an understatement.

So what various quarters is Bernama talking about?

Maszlee had only one job to do – put the education system in the country back to its best, when the schools and public universities were well-regarded, more than 30 years ago.

And also to reverse the political interference and the religious indoctrination that had crept into the public school system, as well as tertiary institutions.

Instead, he made it a priority to accept a post as the president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and held on to it despite having said there would be no political appointee in universities.

Student groups, NGOs, activists, the public at large, as well as Pakatan Harapan leaders from PKR and DAP had called for him to resign. The same way that many had asked for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to keep to the promise of not holding the Education Minister post, while being Prime Minister.

Maszlee only decided to step down after Bersatu president, Muhyiddin, order him to do so, last month. A student group also accused him of being on a “power trip“.

Bernama blames netizens

However, as far as Bernama is concerned, the reason Maszlee was forced to quit the post after he “was pressured, especially by netizens, to relinquish the post”.

Bernama, these netizens are not from Europe or the United States. They are all Malaysians and they are concerned over the future of education in the country.

That is the main reason for the discontent over Maszlee’s performance as education minister. With the fate of millions of children, the nation’s future, at stake, he keeps on coming up with weak statements and nothing to build the confidence in his abilities, even after seven months.

Surprisingly, the news agency also decided to highlight a new repayment scheme for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan as being a feather in Maszlee’s cap.

Referring to the Income-Contingent Loan Repayment (ICLR) scheme by the Education Ministry to enforce repayments from all PTPTN borrowers, Bernama said it would start from January next year. But as we all know, this is not true anymore.

The ICLR scheme was announced by PTPTN chairperson Wan Saiful Wan Jan on December 6. It immediately came under fire from PTPTN borrowers as well as politicians from both sides of the divide. Mainly, because it also penalises all the borrowers who have been repaying their loans regularly based on the terms agreed.

The ICLR scheme would have seen PTPTN borrowers earning more than RM2,000 monthly having between 2-15% of their salaries deducted for loan repayments.

Following the widespread uproar, Maszlee announced that the ICLR scheme would be postponed.

Seriously, is Maszlee that desperate for some “positive vibes” that he and his people are willing to highlight something that has since been cancelled?