Winning with a degree of honour

With determination and heroism: We should emulate Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila who was the only athlete ever to win the 42km race in two consecutive Olympics – Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.

Malaysians who want to see changes implemented overnight by the Pakatan Harapan government need to remember that it’s not a 100m sprint but a 42km marathon. 

POP quiz – can you name any world marathon champions?

I am sure most of you, if not all, will not be able to name anyone off the top of your head.

Okay, next question. What about world 100m sprint champions?

Yes, Usain Bolt! Most of you have this name at your fingertips. Then probably Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson?

This, my friends, seems to be the Malaysian culture today. People only remember what you have now, not how you obtained it. Or where you obtained it from.

This may be an indicator of why many Malaysians, including some politicians, opt to sprint to get their degrees or rush to acquire riches. Perhaps it won’t be wrong to say that this is a result of our undue reverence to paper qualifications and honorifics. There is this strong urge by many Malaysians to be in this so-called “elite” league as it opens, rightly or wrongly, some important doors.

Let me not go down the path of how some people have paid for their honorific titles because I may face the wrath of the Sedition Act, something that we thought would be a thing of the past when we voted in a new government last year. But no, it still hangs like the Sword of Damocles over our heads.

I have come across many masters and PhD holders, mainly with online qualifications, who can’t even write a simple paragraph in English without errors. But sadly, many in the Malaysian society revere these pretenders, including the authorities.

I am not going to judge Deputy Foreign Minister and Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya based on the current imbroglio involving his online degree from the US-based Cambridge International University.

He may or may not have worked for it but some of the reasons cited by his party members in his defence were pathetic indeed.

Not having a degree is fine, but lying about it is not.

It is pretty obvious that there are many degree mills out there which award first degrees, master’s, PhDs, professorships freely in return for certain fees or donations as they may want to call it.

On a personal note, I was offered an online master’s degree for a fee of about RM12,000 within six months by Nestor University in the US. They called me twice a day, pestering me to sign up.

I did my checks with our Public Services Department, which pointed me to a website in the US that had names of universities and colleges which are recognised locally. Nestor was nowhere to be found.

I then checked with several authorities there and none of them had this university on their list. So I opted for the marathon, not the 100m sprint.

This whole episode of rushing for paper qualifications brings me to the issue of overly expectant Malaysians wanting to see changes implemented overnight by the Pakatan Harapan government, thinking that it is a 100m race. The fact is, Malaysians, we are in for the long haul. Or putting it in an athletic term, we are in a full marathon race, which is 42km.

Sprints are akin to populist approaches where money is handed out to all, not to only those deserving. This is an art which the Barisan government mastered but resulted in the government being in a dire debt predicament.

But heck, many of us do not seem to understand or care what could happen to the nation if Pakatan continued with the old Barisan policies with little regard to the national debt piling up.

The heavy leakage caused by blatant corrupt practices of the past also does not seem to be of much concern to many.

The biggest culprit here is PAS head Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, who has been peddling a narrow and ridiculous interpretation that Muslims must support and continue trusting Muslim leaders regardless of the crimes they have committed. In a recent lengthy opinion piece titled “Rule of Law: Where is Allah?” on Facebook where he has thousands of followers, he said: “If the one leading is a Muslim, even if he were cruel, at least [others] can become cattle herders.”

He was, apparently, referring to a quote attributed to a medieval Muslim Ruler following the fall of his kingdom that he often cited to justify Islamic governance. I believe his post appeared weeks before settling his case against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown, who had alleged that PAS received RM90mil of 1MDB money.

Was he trying to convince members that the party leaders must be trusted despite the allegations? It does appear so, at least to me.

Not appreciating Pakatan’s serious efforts to fight corruption, many Malaysians seem to want the coalition to sprint ahead and breast the tape, never mind that this will be a populist approach taken by the previous government which did not practise prudence in giving out cash handouts.

Having been used to this form of easy cash, Malaysians keep expecting for more, closing an eye to corruption.

We have, after a long political marathon, managed to triumph over the evil. An evil that we all knew was plundering the nation in a situation that we could only watch as the Prime Minister then was too powerful.

Having said that, the victors are all not angels either but they must be given the space and time. However, we have to plod along with the victors as they try and clean up the mess while being at the helm.

One runner once said it is important to remember that when you run the marathon, you are against the distance and not against others or the time.

Malaysians and the Pakatan leaders are in this predicament right now. In order to last the race, they have to run the distance together and bring glory to the nation.

I recall vividly the Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila, who was the only athlete ever to win the 42km race in two consecutive Olympics – first in Rome in 1960 and then in Tokyo in 1964 – both in record times.

What he said after his second victory still rings in my ear: “I wanted the world to know that my country Ethiopia has always won with determination and heroism.”

Such a joy to hear these words coming from the heart of someone simple with no fake degree or Royal awards. His is a benchmark of true victory.

Can we emulate his determination or have all the racism and religious bigotry being spewed render us beyond redemption?

We have our very own Abebe in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who holds the two records of being the world’s oldest Prime Minister and holding the post twice.

Let’s run the race with the good doctor as he attempts to bring the lost honour back to Malaysia, the only land we call our home.


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