Paper chase or paper purchase?

  • One Man's Meat
  • Saturday, 16 Feb 2019

IRREGULARITIES in a minister’s master’s degree were exposed.

She insisted that she has been “transparent and honest”. But an investigation by an online newspaper unearthed discrepancies relating to her attendance and marks.

It was also found that she plagiarised passages from Wikipedia and other websites for her final project.

The politician insisted that she had done nothing wrong. The Prime Minister backed her, saying, “She’s doing a great job and will carry on doing so.”

The next day, the minister quit. She said she did not want her situation to affect the government.

This was in September 2018. She was Carmen Montón, Spain’s health minister, who had been at the helm of the ministry for 100 days.

Her master’s degree was in interdisciplinary gender studies and was awarded by King Juan Carlos Univer­sity in Madrid seven years ago.

In Malaysia, do you think a minister or deputy minister will do the honourable thing and resign if caught with a fake or non-existent degree?

Since some Malaysians mudah lupa (easily forget), here’s how Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya (pic) dealt with his degree scandal.

On Feb 5, when asked about a Facebook post that questioned whether he had deceived the people by claiming he had a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Cambridge, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia secretary-general said he would leave it to the police to investigate the matter.

Marzuki also said he would produce proof he had pursued a course in the field at the university.

Three days later, the deputy minister claimed that his critics misunderstood his credentials.

Actually, he did not have a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Cambridge. Instead, he studied at the Cambridge International University in the United States.

From the name of the universities, it is quite obvious how critics and Marzuki could confuse the University of Cambridge and Cambridge International University.

It is prestigious to get a degree from an institution with “Cambridge” in its name, regardless of whether it is in the United Kingdom or the United States.

Checks by The Star Online found that Cambridge International University was a dubious institution. And it looks like Marzuki possesses a dubious academic qualification.

There were calls – even from Pakatan Harapan politicians – for Marzuki to resign. However, to borrow a phrase by US president Harry Truman, the buck does not stop with him; he passed it to his bossku, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

On Feb 9, the Prime Minister said no decision had been made on the future of the deputy foreign minister. On Feb 12, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Marzuki would remain as party secretary-general as his explanation on his “Cambridge” degree was sufficient.

Looks like Marzuki survived his Cambridge scandal. Unless he is axed in the next Cabinet reshuffle.

Looks like some Malaysian politicians will cling to their positions come what may.

Looks like Pakatan, which claims to be a government of high integrity, is not embarrassed by the scandal.

There were also politicians who defended Marzuki.

The worst defence came from Bersatu supreme council member Tariq Ismail.

He said the deputy minister should not be judged solely on his allegedly fake degree, and while this was a stigma, at least he did not rape or steal.

That’s a new low.

As long as you don’t rape and steal, it is okay. Using that reason, the Spanish health minister should have refused to resign from her post.

When Barisan Nasional was in power, some opposition politicians had demanded the resignation of ministers and deputy ministers for allegedly holding fake degrees or qualifications from dubious institutes.

They were like overbearing rams. Now that Pakatan is in power, they are as silent as meek lamb.

Looks like being in a position of power can change a man of integrity.

Some politicians tried to muddle the discussion on politicians and fake degrees by saying one does not need a degree to be a good politician.

I agree that you do not need a degree to be a politician or an assemblyman or MP. But, in Marzuki’s case, that is not the issue.

The issue is whether he lied about his degree. And if he did lie, isn’t resigning the most honourable thing to do?

Marzuki’s case opened up a can of worms.

There were other Pakatan leaders who were found to have possessed dubious qualifications or claiming to have non-existent degrees.

The best (or worst, depending on your sense of humour) response when asked about education credentials was from Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian.

On Feb 9, he smiled when the media asked him. Five days later, Osman who is with Bersatu, admitted that he did not have a degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

It seems that several websites, without his knowledge, claimed that he graduated from UPM with a diploma and a degree in accounts.

If I were a politician who desperately wanted a degree, I’d get – and this is an idea from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – one from Wakanda.

Wouldn’t it be great to claim that the Black Panther was my classmate? Better than saying I studied in Oxford, Harvard or Western Michigan University.

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Opinion , Philip Golingai , One Man's Meat


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