February 13, 2019
Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya -It’s not just about the degree.
It’s not the gift but the thought behind it that counts. Similarly, in the recent brouhaha about the veracity of various ministers’ degrees, it is not so much the degree but how it was dished up to obfuscate others that matters.
We can see four things in the discussion about the academic credentials of our government leaders.
1. The rakyat’s frustration
People are fed up with the lies perpetuated during the former UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) administration. When they voted in the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, they did not want their lawmakers to be a carbon copy of the former UMNO-BN ministers.
This wish may take a while to come true. It is disappointing to see PH politicians support their colleagues who mislead the nation about their academic qualifications instead of demanding their resignation.
Instead of demanding truthfulness, honesty and integrity, it appears that PH politicians are falling into the same UMNO-BN trap of defending the indefensible.
If you were promised a gold Rolex watch for 20 years of service to your company, would you be happy with a knock-off from Petaling Street?
If you told your employers in your CV that you were from MIT and they later discovered that you graduated from Menglembu Institute Teknoloji instead of Massachusetts, you would be sacked.
If you are about to be anesthetized for major dental work, wouldn’t you want someone who is qualified to do it instead of someone who picked up their skills from YouTube and then paid for a dud certificate in dentistry from an internet degree mill?
Politicians should learn to tell the truth in Malaysia Baru. The people are not stupid.
2. Lack of shame
Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya may not have said that he graduated from the University of Cambridge, England, instead of an unknown institution in the US. Was it laziness on his part, or did he bank on Malaysians seeing the word “Cambridge” in “Cambridge International University” and jumping to their own conclusions?
He must be aware that a paper qualification from a degree mill is inferior to that gained from a reputable institution. Fake degrees do not require a period of intense study. So what was his intention in this issue?
3. The significance of degrees
When people lie about their degrees, they belittle those who worked hard for theirs. A degree, among other things, shows that you have devoted three or four years of your life to a particular subject. It shows you had the discipline to complete your studies, get out of bed to attend lectures, complete assignments on time and fulfil both course requirements and practical work.
For many people, a degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is a life-changing experience, their ticket to lifting themselves and their families out of poverty. Their parents may have pawned their mother’s and grandmother’s jewellery to pay for their education, or their father may have remortgaged the house. I know of one family which lived on rice and gravy for three years.
“For many people, a degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is a life-changing experience, their ticket to lifting themselves and their families out of poverty. Their parents may have pawned their mother’s and grandmother’s jewellery to pay for their education, or their father may have remortgaged the house. I know of one family which lived on rice and gravy for three years”.–Mariam Mokhtar
4. HIT: Honesty, integrity and truthfulness
If people lie about their degree, what else could they be hiding? Their degree is probably just a small thing in their life. When they enter public office, what sort of big issues would they be prepared to cover up?
It’s not so much the misrepresentation of the degree; it is rather the attempts to mask its quality, i.e. academic content and which university issued it which are unacceptable.
A person who wishes to serve the public and to be a public figure must be accountable and possess integrity. Those who lie have none.
They may claim that they are hardworking people even though they do not have proper qualifications, but would they have gotten their positions if they had not made such false representations? Other, more qualified and more capable, persons could have assumed their role instead. So those who misrepresent their degrees do the public a grave disservice.
In the end, it is the people’s loss as they do not have a person with integrity to lead them.
Think of Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. They did not have degrees but they did not lie about having one, either. They led their nations and companies through their actions.
The problem in Malaysia is that we are seduced by power and position and, it appears, degrees from prestigious universities. Politicians know it, and that is how they pull the wool over our eyes.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.