Should someone who lied about his degree remain in the cabinet?


Should someone who lied about his degree remain in the cabinet?
By Zan Azlee

I started work as a journalist two decades ago at a local English newspaper (it was The Sun, if you were wondering).

My first editor, Yeoh Guan Jin, along with my hiring editor, Oon Yeoh, had hired me knowing full well that I didn’t have a degree in journalism or mass communications. But they really didn’t care about that.

In fact, they hired me at the end of my last semester of studying for a degree in accountancy.

On the day my results were released, I requested for a day off and Guan Jin approved it and jokingly uttered, “you already have a job that you like. Why even bother about your degree? It’s not like you’re going to be balancing out any financial statements”.

It is true. I really didn’t bother much about my degree. I mean, going to university was a very valuable experience, but a degree is just that – a degree.

For the record, I did graduate, by the way, and with honours. Although all that degree is good for now is that I can complete my income tax declaration efficiently every year!

Many people in the world do not have degrees and many have never been defined by it.

There are countless degree-less people who are very financially successful, have satisfying careers and, most importantly, are good human beings.

There are also countless of degree holders who are not financially successful, don’t have satisfying careers, and most unfortunately, are not good human beings.

So to me, it doesn’t matter if a person has a university degree or not. What is important is that the person has all the positive qualities that a person should have instead of negative ones.

If you are a politician and a cabinet member, for sure I would expect you to not be a rapist or thief. So that pretty much helps filter out a lot already, doesn’t it?

Now I am not undermining people who worked hard, studied and earned their degrees legitimately.

After working as a journalist at The Sun, I found it very enjoyable that I furthered my studies and earned a masters degree in journalism. You can check with my alma mater, Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, if you doubt what I say. I am sure they will confirm it, but they do charge £12 for each enquiry.

If you are so inclined, you can also check if I actually do have a bachelors degree in accountancy. I earned that one at UiTM, Shah Alam. However, their online verification check for graduates only go back as far as 2003. I am slightly older, so you might have to actually pay the university a visit, call or write in if you wanted to do so.

However, I do strongly agree with so many colleagues and peers of Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Marzuki Yahya who came to his defence saying that a university degree is not essential to be a good leader.

If Marzuki can do his job well, with full professionalism, serving the Malaysian people the way they should be served, and with full integrity and honour, then good for him.

Shockingly, here is one issue that not a single one of his colleagues and peers even mentioned – the fact that Marzuki deceived people.

It is reported that he had led people to believe that he earned a degree from the prestigious Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, when in fact, it has been uncovered that he actually obtained his degree from an unaccredited Cambridge International University based somewhere in America, and might even be a degree-mill.

Where is the integrity of this deputy minister who is a member of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which so dramatically took over the government of Malaysia because they are supposedly a coalition that is fueled by honesty, transparency and integrity?

What happened to being the saviours of a country that has been led for the past sixty years by a coalition that is ‘corrupt’ and ‘lacks integrity’?

Marzuki lied and deceived the people. That is the main issue here.

Everybody needs to be discussing the fact that this one simple act is an indicator that if he can lie on something as petty as having a degree (since they all believe that having a degree or not isn’t important), what are the risks that he can lie and deceive about anything else?

What does this tell us about his character? Don’t we as voters have a right to now determine if he still deserves our vote?

It seems like the (not so) new Harapan government is being pretty serious about fighting corruption. Lying and deceit is a form of corruption too, right?

We have the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) that has just launched the National Anti-Corruption Plan, which is suppose to replace the National Integrity Plan. Shouldn’t this issue be something of interest to them?

It is quite simple for me. I’ve stated my case from the beginning.

Lying about a degree may seem petty for many people but the fact that this individual thought that he could get away with it is what’s worrying for me.

I think that Malaysians have gone through too much in wanting to change the country that something like this is just too frustrating and cannot be tolerated.

So, Marzuki may not be a rapist or a thief, and that’s quite a relief. But he was also reported to have said that he had a business degree from UK’s Cambridge University and then changed his story after he was called out on it.

It just doesn’t seem like something someone with integrity would do. I would just call a spade a spade.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s best-selling book ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian‘ today!

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