Maszlee: Photos of Teo accepting comic book don’t mean ministry endorsement

“Regardless of whose picture – the picture of the deputy minister, secretary-general or MPs – the most important thing is that the Education Minister does not allow this.

(The Star) – The Education Ministry has never endorsed the banned comic book “Belt and Road Initiative for Win Winism” despite photos being shared of Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching accepting a copy.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (pic) said to be photographed accepting a book was not an “isolated incident”, adding that other ministers or lawmakers had previously been given items or books by authors and had their photos taken together.

He said such photos could not be used as a form of endorsement, adding that his deputy had not issued any written recognition of the comic book.

“The same incident even happened with the Prime Minister when the book was handed over to him and his photos were taken.

“The decision is in my hands,” he said in reply to a supplementary question from Datin Mastura Mohd Yazid, during the Minister’s Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday (Oct 29).

Mastura had asked for an explanation of the photos of Teo accepting the banned comic book at her office, which were being shared on social media.

Maszlee said schools were a neutral education institution, based on the National Education Philosophy and the principles of Rukunegara.

“I would like to stress that the Ministry supports the freedom to share knowledge but it must be based on concrete facts and responsibility.

“Therefore, schools should not be a platform for political propaganda,” he said.

He also noted that the Ministry on Oct 17 had issued a statement to stress it never issued any permission or approval for the distribution of the comic to any education institutions including schools.

“The state and district education departments have been ordered to ensure that all schools will not accept or distribute the comic from any parties or distributors,” added Maszlee.

He said the Education Ministry had seek guidance from the Home Ministry on matters involving public sensitivity, politics and international relations.

He also pointed out that the Home Ministry on Oct 18 had warned that stern action would be taken against responsible parties behind the publication and distribution of the book.

“The Home Ministry has found that the content of the book was problematic and not suitable to be distributed in schools,” added Maszlee.

The Home Ministry had on Oct 23 also gazetted the prohibition order based on the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, he said.

“The Education Ministry will continue to work with the Home Ministry to monitor the issue via all of its mechanism at the state, district and school level in order for the book not to be allowed at any education premises and give a negative impact to any schools,” he said.

In the past week, the comic book produced by former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau in collaboration with local artist Chong Po Ling had created a political furore among Pakatan Harapan leaders.

The book, which was subsequently banned by the Home Ministry, supports the Belt and Road Initiative (or the New Silk Road), talking about the vision behind the initiative and its benefits, as narrated by two cat characters, Aisha and Komie.

It also ridicules former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the RM2.6bil found in his personal bank account.

It was reportedly distributed to the libraries of some schools without the knowledge of the authorities, sparking controversy for bringing politics into the classroom.