Politicising Politics, Teachers And Rulers
The education minister, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, wants a primary school teacher investigated for asking pupils whether their parents  supported the government or the opposition.  A senior state exco members tells civil servants attending a course at the Institute of Public Administration (Intan), responding to a question, said they must resign if they wanted to support the opposition.  Yet, school teachers remain an important, though dwindling, pressure group within UMNO, the dominant partner in the governing National Front coalition.  The minister himself now allow undergraduates to be in politics so long as they back the National Front:  that is the import of his remarks last week after addressing undergraduates recently. In Kelantan, after the Prime Minister accused the Sultan of involvement in local politics for backing the party in power in the state, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the sultan's uncle and the recently-appointed UMNO strongman in the state, takes him to see the sultan in what is clearly a political gesture.

     The high level of UMNO politicisation of the government continued unabated throughout the past 44 years.  But it did not rate any concern so long as the Malay opposition was weak and disorganised.  When Tengku Razaleigh, yes the current Kelantan strongman, raised his banner of revolt after he challenged the Prime Minister for the UMNO presidency in 1987, this was, briefly, an issue.  It is now questioned virulently by an energized opposition, with a defensive UMNO attacking any who goes against what it considers fair, and absorbs any who agrees with it.  So, a routine query from one of those present in a closed-door discussion with an UMNO supreme council member, albeit a cabinet minister, is proof that primary school teachers are politicised!  But if Datin Rafidah Aziz thought the remark serious enough, should she not have brought it to the
cabinet's, and the education minister's, attention, instead of trying to make political capital out of it?  Why did she not do that?  Why is UMNO so ready to assume that this practice is widespread when, on what we know, only one primary school teacher is involved?  If the problem is serious, what steps does the education ministry take besides politicising the issue?

     The UMNO, and National Front, high command is caught in a web of its own making.  When civil servants cannot exercise their political rights except to support the government, the political debate becomes a mockery;  when the government encourages teachers and others to be active in politics, it has always penalised those who back the opposition;  but with the Malay ground fractured and uncertain, this view is challenged.  It would continue to be, so long as the National Front grasp at straws to beat the opposition with.  But if the National Front is serious about reducing the politics in the administrative and
public service, then it should categorically reprimand any, including its own ministers, when they stray from the line.  The education minister is a regular culprit, but just about every member of th cabinet, from the prime minister down, is guilt of this.  If it does not, then expect the politics to intensify.

M.G.G. Pillai