Marzuki’s Integrity Questioned

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Reactions to 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.

Similar sentiments from various quarters:

  • Not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and try to pass them off as genuine 
  • Degree-buying politicians lose credibility
  • It’s not about whether a degree is required to be a politician, but it is about integrity
  • Marzuki should apologise for misrepresenting himself academically and move on

Politicians having degrees and certificates from questionable higher learning institutions make for bad optics and show poor character, say political analysts.

According to Universiti Malaya law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom, knowingly getting degrees from dubious institutions displayed a lack of confidence in oneself and a lack of good character.

However, 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.

“Maybe the politicians feel the need to justify their intelligence to the public by having some sort of degree,” he added.

Dr Azmi also said 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 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.

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.

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 every day. If he can’t even get the facts right for his degree then he will lose credibility,” said Rahezzal.

Meanwhile, a democracy outreach organisation is holding the prime minister accountable for the appointment of Marzuki as deputy foreign minister after his recent “Cambridge” degree bombshell.

Demanding Marzuki’s resignation, Kuasa chief executive Praba Ganesan said Dr Mahathir as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman, must take responsibility for the issue since Marzuki is the party’s secretary-general.

“Marzuki Yahya must resign as deputy foreign minister, or failing to do so, forced to do so by the prime minister,” he said in a statement today.

“He misled Malaysians when he said he would prove he graduated from Cambridge University, United Kingdom, only to reduce his plea to possessing qualifications from a farcical website-based entity.

“As the number two at Wisma Putra, he is a prominent face of Malaysia to the world and this development sends the wrong message about the state of reform and renewal in the country presently,” Praba said.

Yusof Mat Isa

“Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must assume responsibility regarding this matter especially since Marzuki is from his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM),” he added.

Praba also urged Pakatan Harapan backbenchers to speak up on the matter, reminding them that as Opposition members in the past, they had been relentless with the suspicious qualifications of the ministers and deputy ministers.

“Is it acceptable now, because the subject is from their coalition?” he asked, urging civil society to also demand Marzuki’s resignation.

“Civil society must also join the chorus to admonish Marzuki and ask for his exit. Otherwise, it would suggest a double-standard when it involves Pakatan Harapan. The prime minister must simply act in this matter,” he said.

The opposition also wants Marzuki to resign, with MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong questioning Marzuki’s “somersault from the United King­dom to the United States” on his Cambridge degree fiasco.

He said that if Marzuki’s certificate was found to be fake, Dr Maszlee, who is in charge of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, should also speak up to preserve the academic quality of education in the country.

Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan and Umno Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki stepped up the pressure on Marzuki, who is Bersatu secretary-general, demanding that he resign as deputy minister.

“If he has any dignity, he should resign,” said Mohamad.

Dr Asyraf said the issue was not about the Cambridge degree per se.

“It is not about whether a degree is required to be a politician, but it is about integrity.

“How do you (Marzuki) deceive the people with a fake degree and then claim you are fighting against corruption and propagating good governance and ethics?” asked Dr Asyraf.

Earlier today, DAP political education assistant national director, Ong Kian Ming, who is Bangi MP, urged the Pakatan Harapan government not to sweep Marzuki’s admission on his “Cambridge” degree under the carpet.

He said in a statement that ignoring the issue is what the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration would have done.

“We have to hold ourselves up to higher standards of public accountability and transparency. If not, we would be seen as being no different as the previous BN administration,” he said, urging PPBM to take action.

Ong said that whenever the issue of a politician with dubious academic credentials makes the news, the question one should ask is whether an academic qualification is even necessary for a person to be an effective politician.

“My answer is a definite no! Let me state clearly so that there is no ambiguity whatsoever – you don’t need an academic degree to be an effective politician. Just like you don’t need a degree to be a successful CEO,” said Ong, who is also DAP assistant national director for political education.

He, however, added: “What is not acceptable is to claim that you have a degree when you don’t have one or the one that you have is from a degree mill.”

He said he has blogged about this before and has raised this issue in Parliament many times in the past.

“My stand on this issue is clear and has not changed.

“It is not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and then try to pass these off as being genuine academic degrees,” he said.

“The reason for the public outcry over such cases is not because a politician does not have a degree. It is that the public was misled with regards to his or her academic qualifications,” he added.

Ong said a deputy minister having a degree from a degree mill was a serious accusation.

“Since having a degree from a degree mill is not illegal, there is no point in asking the police to investigate this case.

“If the deputy minister in question feels that he has done no wrong, he should ask for a proper investigation to be conducted by his own party,” he said.

Ong added that the party can call in education experts to verify if the degree is from a degree mill.

“And if this is indeed the case, his party can take disciplinary action as the leadership sees fit,” he said.

In the run-up to the 2013 general election, Ong, who was then DAP’s election strategist, revealed that two deputy ministers at the time had obtained their qualifications from degree mills.

He had called upon then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to take action against the duo for allegedly having fake degrees.

In an April 18, 2013, report in the online edition of The Edge, he was quoted as saying that not having a degree did not disqualify a person from being a candidate.

“But having lied about how one has obtained a degree most certainly disqualifies a person, from an integrity standpoint, from being a candidate.

“I reiterate my call for all these candidates to explain to the public whether their degrees were properly earned or whether they were ‘purchased’.

“If they acknowledge that their degrees were purchased, I call for them to withdraw their candidacy for the upcoming 13th general election,” Ong was quoted as saying in the 2013 report.

While Marzuki’s PPBM colleagues have largely come to his defence, Bersatu strategist Datuk Dr Rais Hussin sang a different tune, adding that the party should not defend anyone who misrepresented their academic credentials.

“One should have high integrity, as one thing we fought against when it came to Barisan was its leaders’ lack of integrity.

“If it is true that Marzuki misrepresented himself academically, he should apologise and move on.

“It is up to him to decide whether he should resign,’’ added Rais.

Related reports:

Feb 8, Website of Dodgy US Cambridge Hacked, Mystery of Ravi Prabakaran in Cambridge-gate

Feb 7, Bersatu Defends Marzuki: He Didn’t Rape or Steal, Not Picked for Academic Credentials

Feb 7, Marzuki’s “Cambridge Degree” Actually from Distance-Learning US Centre