- Facebook / Marzuki Yahya
It began with a deputy minister finding himself in hot water after his academic qualifications were questioned. The controversy then grew to engulf other leading politicians, placing the Malaysian government under scrutiny.
Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya had claimed to have a bachelor’s degree from Britain’s Cambridge University via a distance learning programme. But after an activist lodged a police report, he admitted on Wednesday his degree was actually from Cambridge International University, a suspected degree mill in the United States.
Other leaders from the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition have since been accused of possessing dubious academic qualifications.
These include Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian and Perak executive councillor Paul Yong Choo Kiong.
The scandal is embarrassing for the PH coalition which has always claimed to be a government of high integrity.
Penang Institute political scientist Wong Chin Huat said: “Those in clear-cut cases like Marzuki should resign, others should come clean on their academic qualifications.
“Commendably, Mat Sabu and Zuraida have been upfront that they don’t have the degrees erroneously associated with them by others. 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.
“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.”
Mr Marzuki, who is facing calls by the opposition Umno party for his resignation, said he will leave it to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to decide his fate.
The revelation of Mr Marzuki’s “dubious” academic qualifications led Malaysians to begin independently checking those of other PH leaders.
Madam Zuraida found herself in the spotlight on Saturday after Twitter user Don Juan deRyezal said he was unable to find her name in the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) degree verification portal. She later said she had “never claimed or held myself to be a graduate of NUS”.
Mr Sabu moved to dismiss rumours that he had faked a degree in culinary arts from Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi MARA, saying he had actually been expelled as a student.
Mr Osman refused to address the issue when asked if his degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia was fake.
Mr Yong, who claimed to hold a Master’s in Business Administration from Akamai University, said the issue surrounding him was an attempt by rivals to gain political mileage. However, media reports suggested that Akamai University is an alleged degree mill in Hawaii.
When the PH was in the opposition, it had called out several Barisan Nasional leaders, including former deputy foreign minister A. Kohillan Pillay and deputy foreign minister Richard Riot, for allegedly holding fake degrees or qualifications from dubious institutes.
The scandal surrounding PH leaders could possibly damage the ruling coalition further as there is already widespread unhappiness among the Malays.
A recent survey by pollster Ilham Centre found that 59.5 per cent of 2,614 Malay respondents did not approve of the government’s performance in the first five months after last May’s general election. Malays make up about 50.1 per cent of Malaysia’s population.
Degree of doubt: Five politicians in the spotlight
Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya
He previously said he had a degree from Britain’s Cambridge University. But he later admitted that his degree was actually from Cambridge International University in the United States.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu
He was accused of faking a degree in culinary arts from Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi MARA. But he said yesterday he has never claimed to hold any university qualifications and that he had instead been expelled from the university.
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin
She was alleged to have obtained a social science degree from the National University of Singapore, according to Bernama news agency, but her name could not be found on its online degree verification portal. She later said she had never claimed to be a graduate of the university and that the information had not been verified with her before publication.
Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian
A Facebook page had raised questions whether the state chief minister really did obtain a degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia. He has refused to address the issue when asked by reporters.
Perak executive councillor Paul Yong Choo Kiong
The Democratic Action Party state assemblyman had claimed to hold a Master’s in Business Administration from Akamai University, which media reports allege is a degree mill based in Hawaii.