PETALING JAYA: Politicians having degrees and certificates from questionable higher learning institutions make for bad optics and show poor character, say political analysts.
However, many do it to raise social standing or to win over the masses.
Universiti Malaya law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom said that knowingly getting degrees from dubious institutions displayed a lack of confidence in oneself and a lack of good character.
“To actually purchase your degree from these places, then to show off about it, for me it’s not a crime but a sign of poor character.
“Maybe the politicians feel the need to justify their intelligence to the public by having some sort of degree,” said Dr Azmi.
He was commenting on remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya who said his degree was from the Cambridge International University in the United States, after previously saying he had a degree from the University of Cambridge.
Dr Azmi said he did not believe that Marzuki should lose his job over this matter but that it was done in poor form, adding that people cared more about politicians holding public office doing their job well rather than what certificates they possessed.
“It’s not necessary to have a degree to be a politician, but it would inspire confidence in the public if ministers were academically qualified in the field that they were working on.
“For example, the current minister in charge of environment (Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin) is very qualified in her field and it is very reassuring to know that,” he said.
However, Dr Azmi added that having a degree for a minister was not a “be all and end all” as they could still learn on the job.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said politicians buy dubious degrees because they felt that this was important to boost confidence and trust among the masses.
“Some quarters of the public think they will be served better by having lawmakers with education credentials.
“In fact, some who are interested to become politicians feel it’s a disadvantage without a higher education.
“For those who don’t have one, they are willing to go to the extent of finding a dubious degree without realising the consequences in this new information world,” he said.
Prof Sivamurugan believed that politicians with dubious degrees should come clean or voluntarily resign to avoid further damaging the party’s image as the new Malaysia was about integrity.
“However, Marzuki’s case must not be politicised and his party must give him a chance to defend himself,” he added.
In 2017, there were suggestions to the Higher Education Ministry to vet lawmakers with fake credentials, said Prof Sivamurugan, adding that it showed that this was nothing new in Malaysian politics.
UiTM Sabah political science lecturer Mohd Rahezzal Shah said the people will question future decisions made by Marzuki as well as his character and integrity if it was proven that he knowingly bought a certificate from a degree mill.
“If knowing full well that these institutions are degree mills, yet they still get degrees from these places, then it really shows their characters.
“People will judge him (Marzuki) based on that and they will judge his judgment as a leader in the future,” said Rahezzal.
Marzuki, who is also a senator and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s secretary-general, also stood to lose credibility if he claimed that he did not know that the Cambridge International University was a degree mill as a simple Google search would have raised a lot of questions, said Rahezzal.
“As a deputy minister, he is involved in decision-making processes everyday. If he can’t even get the facts right for his degree then he will lose credibility,” said Rahezzal.
He added that many of those who have in the past been caught with dubious degrees were from among prominent businessmen and politicians who wanted to raise their social standing.
“They need to have degrees from foreign countries and the easiest way is to buy them,” he said.