KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — The ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition risks damaging its reputation if it does not discard leaders such as Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya after they are shown to possess dubious degrees, said a political scientist.
Wong Chin Huat of the Penang Institute noted that there was a smear campaign being waged using dubious qualifications, “clear-cut cases like Marzuki should resign”.
Others should also be clear about their academic qualifications to avoid being sucked into the controversy.
“It’s okay to not have a degree; we don’t need all politicians to be technocrats. (But) it’s not okay to have fake degrees,” he was quoted saying by Singapore daily Straits Times (ST).
“If those like Marzuki stay on, they will be hurting the reputation of their government, PH and their own party. If they can’t put the country and people first, at least they should put their party first. And if they can’t put their party (first)... their party leaders must put their party before these individuals and have them removed,” he said.
Focus on false academic qualifications began earlier this month after activist Muhsin Abdul Latheef lodged a police report over a Facebook post on February 3 asserting the University of Cambridge did not offer a distance-learning degree that Marzuki supposedly possessed.
Marzuki initially sought to sidestep the issue but sleuthing by Malaysians forced him to clarify later that his Bachelor of Business Administration (Logistics Management) degree was from the US-based Cambridge International University (CIU) rather than the prestigious UK institution.
Checks showing the CIU to be a suspected degree mill cast further doubt on his qualifications.
Marzuki later said he did not think about the accreditation issue or foresee he would in the future be part of the government when he applied for the distance-learning certificate 17 years ago.
He said he will leave it to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) leadership to decide if he should remain as deputy foreign minister.
ST highlighted that four other PH leaders have also had their academic qualifications questioned, including Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin who said she had never claimed to be a graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and that she was not responsible for the Wikipedia entry that had wrongly made the claim.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has dismissed claims of him purporting to have a degree in culinary arts from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), with an aide yesterday publishing excerpts from his biography which explained he was expelled from the MARA Institute of Technology (ITM) due to his participation in student politics.
ST said Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian has refused to comment on allegations of faking a degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia, while ST noted that Perak executive councillor and Tronoh assemblyman Paul Yong Choo Kiong has claimed to have obtained a Master’s in Business Administration from suspected Hawaii-based degree mill Akamai University.
ST said the scandal over PH politicians’ qualifications could potentially hurt the coalition which is already facing unhappiness from the majority Malay community, highlighting research firm Ilham Centre’s recent survey where 59.5 per cent of 2,614 Malay respondents disapprove of the PH government’s performance in its first five months of power.