Late bloomers


Last night I arrived late for Caring’s 25th annual dinner celebration at Berjaya Times Square. I did use the excuse of horrendous traffic but it was really my own fault for not starting earlier from home. But I also had the excuse of not being able to wear my bow tie (which took 15 minutes) because the last time I wore one was during my own wedding years ago. As you can guess by now, I am wearing a new tuxedo, recently made and 30 years apart from the first one.

In view of my second son’s wedding next month, my dear wife had insisted that I get a new tux since I could barely put on the old one let alone cover my rotund belly. As my wardrobe consist of a few old jeans and tailored pants that could not fit anymore, I felt rather under-dressed whenever there was an official event that I had to attend. I have left it too late as my fashion sense has completely disappeared, now wearing jeans, t shirts and old shirts wherever I go.

I have always been a “late” person except for business appointments. As a late night person, my earliest appointments are normally fixed for late mornings. I will only wake up early for golf and morning flights. I work best when under time pressure which is actually foolish because I choose to delay, dilly dally and start working only when I put myself under time pressure. Like writing this article which I am horribly late in submission. Hope this article sees the day of light today.

I was a late bloomer in school and coming from a Chinese-speaking family, I had my problems learning and speaking English in school until I took up English Literature in Form 6. I was motivated by my (English Literature) teacher’s stinging remarks - Stop speaking English like a Chinaman!

Standard 1 to Form 5 came and went without any appointments of class Monitor or prefect.

But in Form 6, I suddenly found the confidence to take on projects and leadership roles in clubs, the sport house, fund raising and class monitor. Thirteen years in La Salle PJ and everything came together in the last two years. Better late than never.

It is from such humbling experiences during my school years that I have learnt not to prejudge people, especially people that I work with. There might be a late bloomer somewhere if given the right job, right motivation and supportive encouragement. Confidence and proper attitude trumps paper qualification in most cases.

Perhaps our Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik is a late bloomer. After all he is a late politician, appearing only before the last general election. I have always believe that we should be patient and give time to Dr Maszlee or anybody sufficient time to get used to his job. Yes, he is inexperienced and he got the Minister’s job because Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad denied his own appointment.

From a mere lecturer, Dr Maszlee was suddenly thrust into the limelight. Despite his diminutive size, his ego has grown proportionate to his ministerial role.

His skin has toughened considerably, basic requirements of a politician in power. He has his posse of advisors travelling with him so safety in numbers and shielding him from snappy jealous remarks. He is learning fast and growing into his job both as a politician and a minister. He sounds and act just like any minister from the last administration.

In a commercial enterprise, a new staff member is given six months probation before he or she is employed as permanent staff. I would normally confirm the new staff if he/she shows promise of a late bloomer. What would you do in Dr Maszlee’s case? I know many people have been calling for his removal from the Cabinet citing his introduction of immaterial policies of shoe colours, swimming classes etc. I will put them down as lack of experience or he was ill advised by his advisors. Small issues do not warrant the sacking of a staff or manager.

My patience is tested by his lack of constructive ideas on how he intend to transform the education system in schools and universities.

Dr Mr has given clear instructions of teaching Maths and Science in English in schools, reduction of school hours on religious classes, retraining of the 450, 000 school teachers etc. Everybody and I mean everybody in the country seems to know about these basic instructions from Dr M except him and his posse of advisors.

Now way past his probation period and after 14 months in office, he is still clueless. I doubt he will be a late bloomer. This job is just too big for him. He never gave any excuses for being late with his transformation ideas.

That is because he never started in the first place. Does he listen to advice from his seniors like Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and Tun Daim Zainuddin on the importance of getting our education system to prepare our children to face the future?

The buck stops with the person who employed him in the first place. Tun Mahathir does not need to reshuffle the Cabinet. A straight replacement will do as well. Let Dr Maszlee keep his lecturer’s job and appoint Iron Lady Rafidah to do the job.

Just do it. Before it is too late.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer.


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