PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will take on a second Cabinet portfolio as Education Minister.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will serve as Women’s Affairs and Welfare Minister.
“I took over the education portfolio because I think so many people are uneducated in this country,” he said, tongue-in-cheek, at a press conference yesterday after a Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting.
“I thought I would give my attention to that.”
He said Malaysia’s way of teaching is “outdated” and hoped more Malaysians will be computer-savvy.
“We should devise new ways of teaching,” said Dr Mahathir, adding that he will introduce an online system to teach students in schools.
He added that there will only be one ministry in charge of all matters regarding education, unlike the previous administration which had a Higher Education Ministry on top of the Education Ministry.
Dr Mahathir’s ministerial post was seen by some as contrary to a promise in Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto that says the Prime Minister should not hold any other positions, especially Finance Minister.
To a question about the Sabah chief minister holding the state’s finance portfolio, Dr Mahathir simply said: “The Sabah chief minister is not the Prime Minister.”
When asked what role newly-released Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would hold in the Pakatan government, Dr Mahathir said Anwar would be in the “top six” in the presidential council.
It was explained that the council will consist of six top leaders.
“The top six meet when there are problems or important decisions to make,” said Dr Mahathir, adding the council will meet every month.
On Anwar’s absence from the event, Dr Wan Azizah said: “He will join in the next meeting.”
Anwar had earlier said he will not make an immediate return to politics, and plans to give a series of talks overseas.
Asked why there was a delay in naming the Cabinet, Dr Mahathir said there were four parties in the coalition, each with their demands and he had to ensure each candidate is suitable.
“We will announce it tomorrow (Friday) if I can do things in time. If not, I have to delay it,” he said.
Dr Mahathir had announced three ministerial positions filled by Pakatan’s top leadership.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be Home Minister, while DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng will helm the Finance Ministry and Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu is Defence Minister.
Dr Mahathir said he aims to get all the ministers sworn in by Monday.
He also announced the setting up of a special task force to safeguard the interests of the Indian community, women, youth and orang asli.
Its aim is to give attention to minority groups, with the Indian community being the priority.
Dr Mahathir also said Opposition leaders who were in the previous government cannot be accepted by any Pakatan Harapan parties.
He said parties like Umno are facing “migration problems” with many members leaving.
“We have also set a principle that will be enforced now, that any members of the Opposition have to become Independents first and then declare their support for the Pakatan government.
“Those formerly part of the government cannot join Pakatan or its parties. This is our decision as of now but we might revise it in the future,” he said.
On 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) handouts, Dr Mahathir maintained that the Government will continue with the financial aid but will take another look at who gets it.
“BR1M is not to be seen as rasuah (bribery) or corrupting the people into supporting the Government.
“It should be regarded as a way of mitigating social problems,” he said.