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Certain politicians still need to be schooled about democracy

Mahdzir Khalid - Photograph: Saw Siow Feng/Malay Mail Online

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Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid flaunted his ignorance when he threatened teachers and officials with punitive action if they voted for the opposition, observes Mustafa K Anuar.

It is disturbing to learn that after more than 60 years of independence in the peninsula, there are still certain politicians in the ruling coalition who seem to have the urgent need to be schooled again about what democracy really is.

No less than Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid flaunted his ignorance recently when he threatened teachers and officials of the Education Department with punitive action if they voted for the opposition in the forthcoming general election.

The statement insults the intelligence of right-thinking Malaysians as it also denies the freedom of association and conscience that ordinary people are entitled to enjoy.

There are certainly lessons to be learned, especially by the minister himself.

To use the language of the schooling system, Mahdzir certainly got an F grade for the subject of democracy, even after the passing mark was lowered.

Such a dismal academic attainment obviously provides a bad example to students who have all along been desperately searching for an otherwise better role model.

Mahdzir would have been easily reminded even by a slightly intelligent student in the prevailing educational system that it is the nature of democracy for citizens, including civil servants, to have the right to vote for whichever political party they favour or have faith in.

Such a ministerial threat is obviously in violation of the democratic rights of Malaysians to make their own informed choice at the polling station.

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That same moderately enlightened student would also inform the minister that, just as his pay comes from the national coffers, ie taxpayers’ money, those of the teachers and other civil servants are also derived from the same sources.

It follows, therefore, that this money does not come from the ruling Barisan Nasional or Umno, and that these civil servants should not be beholden to the ruling party, or other parties for that matter.

Besides, the minister’s threat also fuels suspicion of a breach of secrecy of electoral votes.

Like the previous student, an average student would argue that, just as index numbers are used in students’ exam papers to ensure objective marking and to avoid discrimination, voting should also be secret to avoid unnecessary intimidation or other negative consequences that might befall voters.

On the other hand, the playground bully in school might be inclined to play footsie with the minister for reasons only best known to the former.

But then, not to be outdone by the rest in the class, a mediocre student would throw caution to the wind and hurriedly volunteer a claim that the ministerial statement was taken out of context!

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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