A question of credibility

10 Feb 2019 / 19:35 H.

YET another deputy minister is now in the news regarding academic credentials. Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya has been accused of lying about his degree. It was initially reported that he had graduated through a distance learning programme from Cambridge University.

Marzuki later clarified that he was not a graduate from the UK-based university, but Cambridge “International” University in the United States.

There should be no lying about one’s credentials. In the private sector, this would lead to immediate dismissal. In politics, it leads to questions of credibility.

In 2013, Ong Kian Ming, Zairil Khir Johari and even Julian Tan Kok Ping of the DAP said that having two ministers with fake degrees brought into question the “transformation” plan of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government.

Now, the question to the Pakatan Harapan government – do fake degrees held by members of their cabinet bear the same questions, or is there some leeway?

If academic credentials were not a big issue, why was the former Kedah mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah mocked for only being an SPM graduate?

A few questions need to be considered.

Is it all right for someone to not have a degree, or a tertiary education of any kind, to go into politics?

And secondly, what if the person decided to bolster his or her credentials with a “bought” degree? Would that make their appointments more credible?

Some have argued that integrity matters more than academic degrees. I agree. However, it would be hypocritical to say this and then mock others like Ahmad Bashah.

Similarly, we do need to consider why there is a need to have fake academic credentials in the first place.

At the same time, I think this needs to be said often – a degree is only as good as what you learn in the process, and becomes worthless over time when you start working. You will definitely hold on to the basics learned in pursuing the piece of paper, but what matters more is what you do after that.

Do you hold on to the critical thinking, practical and technical skills you learned during the degree, or is that pretty much wasted on the get go after the first few years on the job that had nothing to do with what you studied?

Of course, I even go further to ask whether what you learned was what you wanted or what your parents decided for you. In fact, did you even enjoy learning it?

And this is from someone with an Information Technology degree now doing public relations and communications.

Malaysians should not have to lie about their academic credentials.

Some do, of course, particularly when they have something to sell – like makeup or cheap housing programmes to the masses, thinking that these will make them seem more credible when marketing mercury and scams. And some do because they want to show they have some brains to handle political appointments.

For those in politics going for fake credentials and degrees, I recommend the similar actions stated by Ong, Zairil and Julian in 2013:

“In February earlier this year, German Education Minister Annette Schavan had to resign because it was discovered that part of her doctoral thesis had been plagiarised. Given the much more serious nature of this discovery, we call upon Prime Minister Najib to immediately ask these two ministers to resign if he is serious about protecting the integrity and credibility of his Cabinet”.

I look forward to the same people who in the past raised the issue of fake degrees, to do so now. There should be no hypocrisy in dealing with such matters, particularly when you are on record voicing your disgust over this issue.

If the “transformation” agenda in 2013 was at stake with two questionable degree holders in Cabinet, I would think the credibility of the Malaysia Baru agenda is at stake with even one.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments; letters@thesundaily.com


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