Malaysia’s education minister resigned on Thursday in a surprise move that analysts said may indicate the start of a shake-up in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad ’s cabinet, even as the government grapples with increasing pressure to deliver on its election promises. Maszlee Malik, a member of Mahathir’s nationalist Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu), said at a press conference that he had been advised by the prime minister to step down, and did so with “a willing yet heavy heart”. He had faced months of resistance and criticism from voters who said he had underperformed, and is the first minister to leave his post since Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition came to power in May 2018. In a statement released immediately after the resignation, Mahathir accepted his former minister’s resignation and thanked him for his service. “I will announce his replacement soon,” the prime minister said. Maszlee’s tenure as education chief was marred by controversy, beginning with a much-derided July 2018 announcement that his ministry would be changing the official colour of shoes to be worn as part of school uniform from white to black, as dirt shows up more on white shoes and they require more cleaning. A few months later, in November that year, he mooted the idea of hotels – under the guise of corporate social responsibility – allowing their pools to be used for swimming lessons by schools that do not have their own facilities. More recently, he was the centre of a furore surrounding the introduction of khat , a form of calligraphy for writing the Malay language using Arabic script, which the government had tried to make mandatory in schools . The Education Ministry later walked back the decision by making it optional for primary schools that teach in Mandarin and Tamil and reducing khat-related content from six pages to just three of a 164-page textbook after widespread complaints of the “Islamisation” of public education in the Muslim-majority nation. During his resignation speech, however, Maszlee chose to focus on his former ministry’s achievements, such as improving the state of impoverished schools, pushing for undocumented children to receive schooling, and tackling internal corruption. Malaysia’s Mahathir hits foreign policy speed bump after KL summit “I am seen not through these achievements. The Education Ministry is often the target of the media and politicians, not because of our achievements and our contributions to society which have significant meaning,” he said, shortly before driving away in his own car, rather than being driven in a government one. The resignation – which comes in the wake of Mahathir mentioning the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle – appeared to cast Maszlee as a scapegoat, according to political scientist Awang Azman Awang Pawi of the University of Malaya’s Institute of Malay Studies. “To be fair, it wasn’t just Maszlee Malik that sparked controversy. There are a number of other issues such as issues of national unity, sluggish economic recovery, severe environmental pollution, poor job opportunities, housing issues not being resolved, cost of living is rising, rural development is slowing down and so on,” he said.