Forever pendatang, forever dhimmi, forever grateful


Forever pendatang, forever dhimmi, forever grateful

 

 

multiracial-malaysia

None of us can change the past; we can only try to make the most of our diversity and endeavour to forge a better future. And that journey can only truly begin when we confront the Ketuanan Melayu ideology and expose it for what it is – a sinister and contemptible racist creed that has no place in a multicultural constitutional democracy like ours.”-–Dennis Ignatius

Over the past few weeks, as the competition between Pakatan Harapan and the UMNO-PAS alliance for the Malay vote has heated up, we’ve been given stark reminders of how the UMNO-PAS leadership views non-Malays and what we can expect should the Ketuanan Melayu ideology they espouse dominate Malaysian politics.

Their view of non-Malays, put simply, is forever pendatang, forever dhimmi and forever grateful.

Pendatang forever

The concept of the non-Malay as pendatang (or “penumpang”, a similar term that acting UMNO president Mohamad Hasan recently used to describe non-Malays), is of course, intrinsic to the Ketuanan Melayu ideology and is central to the thinking of UMNO and PAS leaders.

Whether pendatang or penumpang, the idea is the same: non-Malays are interlopers, without commitment or loyalty to the nation and, therefore, undeserving of equal treatment or constitutional protection. It is intended to strip them of their very identity as Malaysians and suggests that they have no inherent right to be here.

In their view, non-Malays, no matter how long they have lived here, are pendatangs and penumpangs and will always remain so. Others – Muslims from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Middle East – can migrate to Malaysia and quickly become proud Malays but Malaysian-born non-Malays are doomed to remain pendatangs and penumpangs in perpetuity unless they convert.

Dhimmi forever

This racial division is further reinforced by a religious worldview that segregates Malaysians according to their faith into Muslim and dhimmi. In historical Islam, the ‘dhimmi’ were conquered people who had submitted to Islamic rule. They had few rights, had to pay a special tax and be forever subservient to Muslim authority in exchange for protection. Some Islamic scholars have also argued that dhimmis are automatically excluded from all participation in the political process.

No surprise then that men like Hadi Awang are constantly complaining that there are too many non-Muslims in parliament or that key positions like the chief justice and attorney-general are held by non-Muslims. In their twisted theocratic version of Malaysia, non-Malays, as dhimmis, have no business being in parliament or holding important positions.

The religious establishment is, of course, largely supportive of this religious division; in recent discussions on the issue, the muftis of Pahang and Perak, for example, insisted that there was nothing wrong in viewing non-Muslims as dhimmis.

Forever grateful

And for this privilege – the privilege of being pendatang and dhimmi forever, non-Malays are expected to remain forever grateful. As Hadi Awang likes to constantly remind us all, “Other races should appreciate [that] Muslims… accepted them as citizens and allowed them to practise their religion and use their language.”

Citizenship is no longer viewed by Ketuanan Melayu ideologues as part of the Merdeka agreement between all Malaysia’s ethnic communities but as an act of unilateral generosity for which eternal gratitude must be given. For Hadi, such gratitude must be manifested by perpetual submission, docility, and servility especially involving anything PAS says or does. To do otherwise is to be ungrateful and unmindful of Malay sensitivities.

An existential threat

Of course, UMNO and PAS leaders insist that all this does not amount to discrimination against non-Malays. Mohamad Hasan, for example, insisted that he was not trying to sideline non-Malays, that he wanted every community to “feel comfortable” while PAS vice-president Iskandar Abdul Samad reiterated that PAS-UMNO cooperation would not give rise to an extremist government.

It is a sign of how delusional, irrational, even duplicitous UMNO and PAS have become to expect non-Malays to be comfortable with such a racist system or that non-Malays will see such policies as anything but extremist.

As well, dividing the nation into Muslims and dhimmis might be acceptable in a theocratic Islamic state like Saudi Arabia but it can never be acceptable in a secular democratic state like Malaysia. Far from bestowing a divine right to rule on anyone, the Federal Constitution bestows upon all citizens – Muslim and non-Muslim – certain inalienable rights, rights that may not be unilaterally abrogated by muftis or anyone else.

It goes without saying that the Ketuanan Melayu vision of Malaysia is at variance with the Federal Constitution. It threatens to strip non-Malays of their constitutional rights, privileges and protections. Clearly, it is not the Malays and the position of Islam that are under threat; it is the non-Malays who now face an existential threat from the Ketuanan Melayu ideologues and their followers.

Given this situation, it is hard to fathom how the MCA and MIC can continue to remain unperturbed by UMNO-PAS cooperation or how they can continue to work with the very groups that are out to disenfranchise the minority communities they claim to represent. Are they so devoid of principle that they would minimize the very real dangers that the Ketuanan Melayu ideology of UMNO and PAS now poses to non-Malays just for the sake of a few crumbs from UMNO’s table?

Confronting Ketuanan Melayu

The Federal Constitution indisputably acknowledges Islam as the official religion of the Federation and confers special rights on the Malays but that can never be used to justify an ethno-religious apartheid state or legitimize a system of discrimination against any citizen. Like it or not, Malaysia is by constitutional mandate a secular democracy that makes no distinction between Muslim and dhimmi or Malay and pendatang. And, like it or not, we are all Malaysia’s sons and daughters.

None of us can change the past; we can only try to make the most of our diversity and endeavour to forge a better future. And that journey can only truly begin when we confront the Ketuanan Melayu ideology and expose it for what it is – a sinister and contemptible racist creed that has no place in a multicultural constitutional democracy like ours.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 13th March 2019]

 

 

 

 

Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics


March 14, 2019

Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics

By  Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/03/12/politics-of-identity-is-ruining-democracy/

Image result for MALAYSIA

We live in an era of jittery politics. Established democracies like Britain, France and the US are facing historic political crises.

Image result for Malaysian cabinet 2019

Malaysia has hopped onto the same bandwagon. The essence of the crisis in Malaysia’s democracy today is the inability of the government to address deep divisions in society. These divisions are exacerbated by the digital revolution. Information is dispersed at lightning speed, and the mix of verifiable and fake news has already become destructive.

Across class and geographical divisions, emotions are stirred, negative feelings are amplified and disdain simmers. The people are frustrated. A discerning electorate is healthy for democracy, but our brand of democracy has become a runaway train.

Since May 9, 2018, Malaysians have been coping with inertia, mixed signals and policy retractions (U-turns) from Putrajaya.

The failures of Pakatan Harapan (PH) seem to outweigh its successes. For these successes, however, we should actively highlight, and applaud them.

First, more space has opened up for public expression and assembly. The mood here is less of self-censorship, and more towards speaking one’s mind. This is a significant achievement for Malaysians in general, and democracy in particular.

Second, , as a Malaysian who believes in justice and inclusivity, I am happy that PH acceded to the Rome Statute. As expected, there are trouble-makers who feel otherwise. They are convinced that PH is out to undermine the “relevance” of the Malay race and royalty. It is obvious these critics feel it is their right to “be above the law”.

Image result for Liew Chin tong deputy minister of defense

Deputy Defense Minister Liew Chin Tong

Third, there is the emergence of a new “brand” of ministers, specifically those who are putting their tertiary education to productive use. A very good example is Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong (a graduate from the Australian National University).

Liew recently wrote a column in a mainstream newspaper, but it was unlike anything I regularly read from our political leaders.

His conceptualisation of the UMNO-PAS realignment and a possible breakup of Barisan Nasional (BN) had a creative intellectual twist to it.

Liew was also pragmatic in his thoughts. Very few would dismiss him as a “cloudy mind in an ivory tower”. Liew’s application of the “scorched earth policy” to current Malaysian opposition politics demonstrates critical thinking, which Malaysian society hungers for in our leadership.

It is clear that there is a glimmer of hope in a few of our new generation of leaders. Most of what we are used to are rhetorical, rambling politicians who want to be heard for the sound of their voice, and not the quality of their minds.

We need more leaders like Liew who will continue to nurture a sense of pride among the public. This is necessary for a healthy, functioning democracy.

However, Malaysia’s democracy is skewed. A conceptual contradiction exists in the structure of Malaysian politics.

On the one hand, the system champions political parties which represent the peoples’ aspirations. Our wishes are exercised through fair and frequent elections. The ordinary citizen feels empowered. We are able to elect who we think are committed and dedicated to speak on our behalf. Our requests are often presented in parliamentary sittings.

On the other hand, the parties that these elected individuals belong to have platforms that are premised on undemocratic values. Many of these values are neither inclusive nor pluralistic.

There are two important characteristics of democracy. One, elections provide an opportunity to the people to change the present government. Two, it is based on the principle that the people have a say in who governs, with the objective of serving them.

It is the second characteristic that has exposed contradictions in the post-GE 14 political development. There is a fatal misfiring of what we believe democracy should be and what it actually is, Malaysian-style.

The contradictions exist because of the scourge of identity politics. It is fuelled by an ideology of religious and racial supremacy. Nobody is to blame for this but our political and intellectual leadership.

PH’s loss in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih demonstrates how Malaysians are easily manipulated. It also reveals that our political and intellectual intelligentsia permitted it to happen.

Notwithstanding that economic conditions form the basis of all other grievances harboured by Malaysians today, the Semenyih by-election exposed a stark reality. It proved that race, religion and nepotism serve as our ultimate value system.

We are used to BN’s identity politics, and I do not wish to elaborate on it. However, the choice of the PH candidate in Semenyih was shocking, to say the least. Aiman Zainali was unsuitable. The excuse for why he lost was that he is inexperienced. It may be a “kind” way to accept defeat, but it is not the democratic way. The choice of Aiman lacked vision, and was totally dismissive of what the people wanted. This is undemocratic.

Semenyih residents are plagued with traffic congestion, narrow roads, flash floods, a lack of efficient public transport, inept government doctors and overcrowded government clinics. There are too many eating stalls indiscriminately set up everywhere, blocking traffic, not to mention the perpetual stench of rotting wasted food in the drains.

During the campaign period, Aiman spoke to reporters a few times and his statements were flashed on many occasions. He spewed the usual rhetoric, that he would “focus on local issues”, he has “local links” and that the “Semenyih residents here are my friends”. He even said that he has no problem interacting with them.

Again, skewed democracy. Aiman did not interact with Semenyih residents at all. Before his candidacy, we knew nothing of him. Semenyih residents like me are totally ignorant of this young man. This is the main reason voters were ticked off.

The more serious question is, why pretend to be a democratic country if basic democratic values are not upheld?

Aiman was not picked because of his tight bond with “the locals”. Neither was he chosen because of his knowledge of what his constituents required.

Most, if not all voters who abstained on March 2 were convinced he was chosen because he was “the son-in-law”. Nepotism is certainly not a democratic value. This form of identity politics dismisses meritocracy from the equation.

Instead racism, bigotry, cronyism and gender-insensitivity are upheld. Exclusive political alliances on both sides of Malaysia’s political divide will lead to backwardness. The seeds of this have already been sown.

What I have written here is neither a doomsday analysis nor peachy optimism. We have to give the PH government more time.

But, I hope we are not giving them more time to hang themselves. In all societies, education is the screw that will either make or break a civilisation. More Malaysians have to keep harping on this like a broken record.

Where are the voices of academics in our universities? There are so many of us, yet we race to dabble in ranking exercises, useless research and robotic teaching methods.

Minister Maszlee Malik’s task is gargantuan, but he must start making drastic policy reforms. These reforms should be couched in a new ideological narrative.

First and foremost, we need to re-learn what democracy really is. We are no longer in a transitional period from colonialism to independence. The democratic discourse then was alive and fiery.

It seems we have forgotten the true democracy that is embodied in the Rukun Negara. Instead, we focus on “ketuanan Melayu”, Bumiputera rights and protection of Islam as our democratic values.

From kindergarten right up till tertiary education, our youth must be indoctrinated with the values enshrined in the Rukun Negara.

Only then will they understand the true nature of multi-culturalism and living in peace amidst diversity. They will not succumb to rhetoric.

This reformed ideological narrative should condemn racial, religious and sectarian discourse. Reforms should be implemented, that are bold enough to upset racial supremacists.

The government should not be afraid to “rock the boat” if they believe it is the morally sincere and socially-beneficial thing to do. Make a decisive policy change with respect to vernacular schools, for instance.

The bold ban on smoking is one such policy move that society will learn to appreciate in time. Make a decisive policy decision on the UEC. Stop wasting time and resources on discussions in new committees. A wealth of information already exists in books, researched articles and social media.

Malaysians will value less a “Hari Akademia”, and more promotion criteria for university lecturers, based on intellectual merit. Show the public that the government has guts to take a definite stand.

Ultimately, Malaysians need to see that PH is ashamed of the poor quality of our educators. After all, scholars are significant movers of societal change.

Political leaders can learn a lot from these intellectuals. Our education ministry should revamp its policy, with the goal of producing future intellectuals.

In 20 years, we could strive to produce 5. In the last 60 years, can we currently boast of 5?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Marzuki’s scroll, small minds and big mouths


February 17,2018

Marzuki’s scroll, small minds and big mouths

by Abdar Rahman Koya

Image result for abdar rahman koya

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/02/10/marzukis-scroll-small-minds-and-big-mouths/?fbclid=IwAR2YWRR

Marzuki And The Prophet pbuh- one is a Politician chosen by Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the other is a great Prophet of Islam pbuh. What are you suggesting Mr. Koya?

Our mailbox has been recently flooded with statements and letters on Marzuki Yahya, the deputy foreign minister whose decision to pursue a lowly, unrecognised and undignified course from a “degree mill” caught up with him rather wickedly some 17 years later.

Degree-laden politicians, heavily titled academicians and activists leading fancy research houses that churn out useless data are all calling for Marzuki’s resignation.

They say he has misled the public about his degree because, according to the gospel called Wikipedia which they think is carved in stone, he falsely claimed that he received his education from Cambridge, that hallowed institution that some of us think of as the ultimate giver of academic recognition in our lifelong and increasingly mindless paper chase.

Then there are also those who say it is embarrassing that a senior government official put in charge of international relations holds a degree from some unknown institution that is labelled a fake university.

 

A true leader is one who is humble and honest. One can even say that great men in history succeeded because of these two traits. The Prophet Muhammad, a mere trader, was not chosen by God for his expertise in cosmology or prowess in quoting Plato. The fact is that the person tasked with leading the Arab society, known for its intellectual sophistication, was a man who could neither read nor write.

Never mind that a college dropout turned cooking buff is in charge of our sovereignty, nay our very existence, or someone trained in literature was once tasked with managing the country’s finances, and soon would lead all 32 million of us into this unknown new era that some of us have styled as Malaysia Baru.

Regular FMT readers will notice that our coverage of Marzuki’s paper qualification has not been as vigorous as has been our coverage on many other issues that have put the government side on the defensive.

We have sometimes – and this we admit – been less than complimentary in our coverage of government leaders. Some say we give too much space to that kleptocratic former leader whom a certain veteran MP has made a key ingredient in his daily regurgitations.

So why this omission of the Marzuki affair, when it is a chance to expose and shame the current government further?

It is because the media too are bound by the saying that great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people.

Instead of beating the deputy minister’s pinata to a pulp, we sought out the opinion of a mortal who, like Marzuki, did not have the privilege of attending an ivy league university in some snowy land, subsidised of course by the Malaysian taxpayers back home.

Marzuki and many others with lowly degrees have nothing to be ashamed of. A person’s integrity is judged through his current actions in his adult self-made life. It does not matter whether he answered a set of questions when he was going through a confusing period of adolescence.

A university education does not guarantee integrity. At best, it provides some kind of discipline in the pursuit of knowledge, plus of course a scroll that attempts to hoodwink prospective employers.

Having said that, even that discipline may be absent in the tens of thousands of graduates we produce annually from our accredited and recognised universities.

It is normal these days to find a degree holder, even one with a PhD, struggling to write in English or, for that matter, in Malay, despite decades of emphasis on the national language.

If the basic intellectual act of communicating is lost on our graduates, we cannot hope for more, and certainly not critical thinking, which is at the core of human innovation. The capacity for such thinking is given, as a rule, to those who love knowledge and exercise humility in its pursuit. It is seldom associated with those in the habit of brandishing their degrees to show they are more qualified than others to undertake certain tasks.

A true leader is one who is humble and honest. One can even say that great men in history succeeded because of these two traits. The Prophet Muhammad, a mere trader, was not chosen by God for his expertise in cosmology or prowess in quoting Plato. The fact is that the person tasked with leading the Arab society, known for its intellectual sophistication, was a man who could neither read nor write.

Abdar Rahman Koya is editor-in-chief of FMT.

 

Change in education will come, but wait


February 15, 2019

Change in education will come, but wait

 

At a recent forum attended by the education minister, I had a unique chance to observe the citizenry in action with regards to the issue of education.

I suppose 30 years of pent-up anger about the issue was suddenly unleashed after May 9 and, with the openness of the new minister, an opportunity was raised to vent out these frustrations.

Everyone has ideas on revamping the education system. I, too, in many ways, have written or voiced out those exact comments in other forums and talks.

But what seems to be missing is patience and appreciation on the part of the citizenry of what has already been done: the planning and complexity of manoeuvring things in order to effect change in education.

The ministry has addressed many housekeeping issues on the provision of basic infrastructure like abandoned projects, broken furniture, inadequate book stocks, teachers’ workloads, and trying to change attitudes towards education management.

But the middle-class elites seem unimpressed with these efforts. They want to see change now.

Image result for malaysian education blueprint 2018

What are we waiting– for the Sun to rise in The West?

We can only expect to see change if we start to think in the right direction. In the case of religious education, it will be a miracle if we see change in the next 30 years.

On the issue of English, on the other hand, I can see change in five years’ time.

Why can’t change occur now? I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

Changing 450,000 teachers is a doable, but Herculean task. Changing the mindset of the academia will not be easy after 30 years of complacency due to the Universities and University Colleges Act.

Changing the curriculum of professional education will be near-impossible if the ministry has no control over the professional bodies who ride roughshod over universities’ professional programmes. But it can still be done.

Fighting off extremist Malay and Islamic groups is like walking on water. We need a miracle! But miracles, too, can be engineered and managed, and change will come eventually.

For me, hearing about “values-driven education” and “humanising education” is already the signal for change.

The ministry has proposed a drastic change from the factory production-oriented school leavers and university graduates to a more tolerant citizenry on differences of faiths and culture. All teachers and academics should answer this call immediately and with utmost urgency.

What we can do now, we should do. What we can plan to change a little later, we put plans in place. The onus is on us not to wait for another education blueprint.

The call for change has already been sounded. The strategies for change have already been placed. The long-term issues of education are already being planned and are undergoing minute scrutiny before implementation.

What is required of the citizenry is their own efforts to understand the vision and change according to their own capacities and abilities.

What is needed are new ideas and suggestions to strengthen the framework that is already in existence. What is desired most of the citizenry is an open mind to the various sensitivities and time bombs of socio-political constructs surrounding the issue of education.

At the end of the day, we must understand that the minister concerned has no magic wand to conjure miracles.

As long as the objectives of change are clear and some small change has occurred, we should accept patience as an investment in life.

The battle to put in place the right people and perspective of change has already been won. The question for the citizenry now is: can we accept what has come and endure with patience for what is promised?

Can we look at change as a continuing process and not as a singular momentous event?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Lessons from the Marzuki scandal


February 12, 2019

Lessons from the Marzuki scandal

Opinion  |by   Nathaniel Tan

Published:  |  Modified:

  “Don’t assume people are idiots. There are probably some merchants in Petaling Street who can produce a Rolex watch lookalike that 95 percent of people couldn’t tell was a fake. The remaining five percent are likely to have emailed a “Nigerian prince” at some point in their lives”.–Nathaniel Tan

COMMENT | Perhaps this Lunar New Year, we can start a communications workshop series, to assess and make recommendations with regards to political communication.

In keeping with the spirit of the times, I should state up front that I don’t have a degree in communications, but sometimes an outside perspective on the brutal truth might be helpful.

So, let’s come back to Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Marzuki Yahya’s current imbroglio regarding his degree.

How we deal with a scandal (semi-fashionable terms for this may include “crisis management”, “damage control” or “firefighting”) goes a long way in determining how much damage said scandal will cause, to whom, and for how long.

These three factors are important in the world of public perception – the degree of damage, how many parties it spreads to, and how long the problem is in the public eye.

A savvy communications team should understand how to navigate the scandal.

In this case, the communications team would not be limited to Marzuki’s communication team (or lack thereof), but also that of his bosses, as they are the ones who may well bear the brunt of things turning ugly.

We will assess the responses to this scandal in a mostly chronological manner (saving Marzuki himself for last), and give letter grades to each comment, followed by (where applicable) what the commentator should have done or said instead.

Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.

It is important to note that these grades are in no way an assessment of the commentator as a whole – only an assessment of the particular comment.

At the very end, I will also present some of my research regarding the legitimacy of Cambridge International University.

First shots

Exhibit A is Bersatu supreme council member Tariq Ismail Mustaffa, grandson to the late Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

“From his humility and hard work, I would hire the one from the fake Cambridge. The real Cambridge, I would throw them into the river because they think they own the world and the world has to continuously chase them.

“People should look for dedication and teamwork.

“Having a dubious degree or not having graduated can be a stigma, but as long as people don’t rape or steal, it is fine,” he added.

The first grade of the day is an unmitigated F.

Don’t: Make spurious, unintelligible comparisons between apples and oranges. As pointed out with enjoyable sharpness, if being a rapist or thief is the bar to becoming a deputy minister, then we should all be applying for the job.

Don’t: Throw people into the river. This is illegal and very rude.

Do: take heed of the old saying – if you have nothing good to say, do not say anything at all.

In the same Malaysiakini article, we have comments from Bersatu Deputy President Mukhriz Mahathir: “I’m sure he was not picked to be a deputy minister on the supposed merit of his brandishing a Cambridge University degree.”

I will give this a C.

Tariq Ismail Mustaffa

“Don’t feel like you always need to defend someone, just because he is a friend or ally. Loyalty is all good and well, but if someone has done something wrong, blindly defending that person can bring down not only yourself but your organisation as well.–Nathaniel  Tan

Do: Stick to the facts, or take an angle that is not illogical or offends sensibilities. Mukhriz’s comment here in and of itself is fair, in this regard.

Next is a comment by another Bersatu supreme council member, Rais Hussin:

“We had this nonsense before in the previous BN government and if it is true Marzuki has misrepresented himself academically, he should apologise and move on.

“I would not defend anyone who lacks integrity if indeed he has misrepresented himself.”

I must be transparent and state that Rais is the boss of my company so readers are free to read the following as apple-polishing if they like.

There are a few valid points here: Admitting this is the same as what BN did, advising Marzuki to apologise if in the wrong, and maintaining a commitment to integrity.

Perhaps most importantly, there is an acknowledgement that an apology would allow everyone to move on.

Tiny window of opportunity

Next is Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad: “We have not really found out what happened.”

I would give this C.

Don’t: Avoid the truth for too long.

Do: At the very least, avoid saying things that may make things worse, or commit oneself too early one way or another. Here, Mahathir did alright.

The same can be said for Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian:

Osman Sapian

“Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian reportedly ignored media questions today regarding allegations that he had lied about having an accounting degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

“The New Straits Times (NST) reported today that Osman merely smiled when asked by reporters about the matter after a Chinese New Year function in Kulai today.”

Same grade, same do’s and don’t’s as Mahathir. One big difference for Osman however: He is facing a small window of opportunity to learn from Marzuki’s mistakes, avoid them, and do the right thing instead.

Osman should just own up to whatever he has or hasn’t done or faked, apologise contritely, and take the full brunt of responsibility. As I mentioned previously, Chua Soi Lek is a good example of how doing this may be the only way to survive with a semblance of political credibility.

If he takes Marzuki’s path instead, then like Marzuki, he may be in danger of losing his job.

Ministerial responses

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu: “Some people say I have a degree in culinary arts. I never said that. Truth is, I never completed my studies at ITM (Mara Institute of Technology). They kicked me out.

“Maybe it’s because I am good at cooking, so people think it’s something I learnt in college,” Mohamad was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.”

Mohamad Sabu

Grade: B+

Do: State the truth simply and straightforwardly. The B+ instead of a B is for the touch of humour.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik:

“Personally I feel we need to have integrity and not be ashamed. Follow the footsteps of Ghafar Baba. He was just a regular teacher with no academic degree,” he told reporters after the Penang PKR Chinese New Year celebration in Georgetown today.’

Grade: A-

Do: Avoid being overly critical of your allies, but advise the correct course of action.

The man himself

And now, for the pièce de résistance, a chronology of Marzuki’s own responses. There are four news articles I will quote from:

Feb 5: “I regard this as a political game. I don’t feel like commenting much about this. Let’s leave it to the police. The important thing is for me to discharge my duty well without any problem. It is important that we give preference to our duty, responsibility and country.

InsyaAllah (God willing), I will produce the proof, but not report to him. I will prove it, no problem,”’

Feb 6: “Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya has decried a flurry of edits made to his academic credentials on his Wikipedia page.

“Anyone can edit. Someone has evil intentions. I don’t even know what happened,” he told Malaysiakini.”

Feb 6: “I think they (my critics) misunderstood (my credentials). I (studied) at the Cambridge International University in the US.

“I was doing logistics (before joining politics). So I just took that certificate for my knowledge to expand my business.

“As CEO of the company, I want to expand my knowledge and my business,” he told Malaysiakini.”

Marzuki Yahya

Feb 8: “Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya has defended his degree from the US-based Cambridge International University (CIU), pointing out that it took him three years to complete the distance-learning business administration programme.

“The Bersatu Secretary-General also furnished PDF copies of his degree and university transcript. The CIU, which has no relation to the UK’s University of Cambridge, has been alleged to be a degree mill.

“In a statement this evening, Marzuki revealed that he started the course at CIU in 2002, and completed it in 2005.

“The Deputy Minister said that at the time, university accreditation was not something widely discussed and there was no list of bogus universities either.

“Therefore, when I learned about the course offered by CIU which was related to the business I was in, I enrolled without placing importance on accreditation for the course offered,” he explained.”

Grade: F/Z.

Defence of the indefensible

There are no do’s here. Only don’t’s. We don’t want to make this a seven-part article, so let’s only go through the highlight lessons.

First and foremost: Don’t assume people are idiots. There are probably some merchants in Petaling Street who can produce a Rolex watch lookalike that 95 percent of people couldn’t tell was a fake.

 

Ninety-five percent of people who glance at the Cambridge International University (CIU) website will know that it is a fake. The remaining five percent are likely to have emailed a “Nigerian prince” at some point in their lives.

This is the original predicate on which all other actions should be based.

Marzuki erred in this regard, and every other mistake and political point lost – for Marzuki, Bersatu and Harapan – flows from the stupid assumption that people might believe that CIU was the real deal.

Secondly: Stop reacting in panic mode. Reading Marzuki’s tone, it is easy to detect an agitated state of mind that we associate with guilt and panic.

The third lesson is as simple as it is important: don’t dig yourself further into your grave.

A look at CIU’s ‘campus’

If Marzuki had not produced his “transcript”, I may not have bothered to write this article. It was the facepalm to end all facepalms.

There is no shadow of a doubt that this transcript was a fake, as it matched the CIU “draft transcript” a hundred percent, right down to the decimal points.

If it were real, Marzuki took ten of the same subjects as one “Abraham Kensington” (whose transcript is available online as well) and scored exactly the same grades – right down to the decimal points.

It’s not easy for me to agree with MCA politicians, but Wee Ka Siong said it right – you have better odds of hitting the lottery. If anyone would like any further nail in the coffin, observe the address given in the transcript: Suite #1702, 14781 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas.

Firstly, this is a suite, giving the impression that it is a one office institution.

Secondly, have a look at what Google Maps Street View shows for that address.

That my friends is a low-rent strip mall in some Houston suburb, not a university campus – maybe putting “CIU” between the West Memorial Barber Shop and Saeed’s Mediterranean Grill.

Ultimately, the scandal hinges on whether or not CIU is a legitimate institution, regardless of its accreditation. Given all of the above, you would need the “faith” of a hardcore Donald Trump supporter to believe that it was.

Indeed, Trump was the master of distraction. We can learn from his experience how scandals like this can distract from bigger things such as the RM90 million scandal between PAS and UMNO.

Marzuki can apologise with sincere contriteness, take responsibility, and hope that he can keep his job, as well as minimise fallout to Bersatu and Harapan – ideally making this story fall out of the news within days.

Or he can persist with his incredulous claims that his degree is genuine, risk losing his job and drag down Bersatu and Harapan with him in a scandal that has no end in sight.


NATHANIEL TAN is director of media and communications at Emir Research a think tank focused on data-driven policy research.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Fake degrees and fake reforms


February 9,2019

Fake degrees and fake reforms

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

Ong said given the more serious nature of the revelation, Najib must ask the two ministers to quit to reflect his seriousness in upholding accountability.”

Malay Mail, June 26, 2013

DAP’s Dr. ONG  Kian Ming

A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.–S. Thayaparan

 Note. Dr. Ong Kian Ming (Chinese: 王建民; pinyin: Wángjiànmín; born 12 September 1975), is a Malaysian politician from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a component of Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. He is the incumbent Member of Parliament for Bangi since 2018 and also when the constituency was still named as Serdang earlier since 2013. Ong was picked as the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry by the new PH government in 2018.[1]

Ong was formerly an academic and a prominent political analyst in the Malaysian political scene before he turned Election Strategist for the DAP.[2][3][4] His articles were widely published in popular news portals such as Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and The Edge.[5] Prior to that he was a lecturer in Faculty of Economics and Policy Science, UCSI University, also a regional consultant for the Blue Ocean Strategy regional center. His experience includes being a policy analyst for Socio- Economics Development and Research Institute (SEDAR) and Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP). In addition, he was also associate consultant for the Boston Consulting Group Kuala Lumpur.

COMMENT | I really did not want to get into this whole “fake degree” fiasco but then I read Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming’s piece about not needing a degree to be an effective politician and realised how much trouble we are in. Ong couldn’t even bring himself to name the minister in question, and chose instead to backtrack on earlier positions he held while maintaining he has been consistent.

Ong’s piece is politics at its most craven. Ong is half-right. You do not need professional qualifications to be an effective politician. However, professional qualifications most times add a veneer of legitimacy to mendacious politics because people are conditioned to think that professional degrees add an element of credibility to political rhetoric.

But it adds very little to actual governing and policy-making which entails a different set of skill sets, most importantly political will.

Ong says that a professional qualification is not needed to be an effective politician. This is true. A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.

Do all politicians do this? Maybe not, but mainstream political parties are filled with elected politicians who do this.

Furthermore, Ong now claims that when being part of the government or a ministry, “it is more important for you to know your scope of work and your policy responsibilities. Having done a degree may be helpful in training you to think more broadly and critically and hence, better equip you to govern. But it is not guaranteed.”

With regards to “degree mills”, Ong said: “My stand on this issue is clear and has not changed. It is not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and then try to pass these off as being genuine academic degrees.”

On this issue, Ong’s stand is not clear. I would argue his stand on this issue was clear but since coming to federal power his stand has been reversed. What Ong says now is radically different from what he said back in the day. The justification he is making now is a mockery of what this Pakatan Harapan reform government is supposed to be about. It does, however, demonstrate that Harapan operatives are excelling in back-pedalling.

In 2013, Ong had asked then Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to sack two ministers who Ong claimed had fake degrees. If anything, his stand then was clear.

Two points need to be understood when considering Ong’s change of position. And this is so funny because the headline for the report blares out “Sack ministers with dubious degrees, DAP MP tells PM”.

The first, Ong has a clear position on this issue and demanded the resignation of ministers with fake degrees.

“It is truly disappointing that on the first day for ministerial replies in the first parliamentary sitting since the 13th general election, Malaysians have to accept the reality that Prime Minister Najib Razak has appointed two ministers with two dodgy degrees each from institutions which are degree mills.”

The second, Ong shifts the goal posts. In his piece yesterday, he claimed that not having a degree does not necessarily impede a politician’s ability to carry out his policy responsibilities but the question here is, does having a fake degree impede the minster’s ability to carry out his responsibility? We should refer to what Ong said before Harapan came into federal power:

“Therefore, to entrust two ministers with fake degrees with the serious responsibilities of human capital development and the management of certifications and standards is not only a gross embarrassment but also most ironic for a prime minister who has made transformation his clarion call.”

Bending over backwards

Should the police investigate someone for having a degree from a degree mill or a fake degree? Probably not. But if having a fake degree is part of the systemic corruption that someone like Ong used to rail against, then why is Ong now making all these justifications for a member of his coalition?

Ong asked then Prime Minister Najib for the resignation of the two ministers in 2013 and asked for the ministers to resign to prove their commitment to reform. Why is Ong not asking the current Prime Mminister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the resignation of Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya (photo)? Why is he not asking Marzuki to resign? Why is he not asking for the Harapan political elite to demonstrate they are committed to reforms?

In 2013, Ong made the case that fake degrees hamper the ability of ministers to effectively carry out their policy responsibilities. He called it an embarrassment for the reform agenda of the Najib regime. Now when a deputy minister who has to be a credible spokesperson for Malaysia has been caught with a fake degree, why isn’t Ong applying the same standards?

Does Ong really believe that his position has not changed? Does Ong really believe that his muted goal posts-shifting piece about fake degrees is really the way how to reform the system? I mean, does anyone else realise how funny this is?

Bersatu Deputy President Mukhriz Mahathir said that Marzuki was not appointed for his academic credentials and here we have Ong telling people that academic qualifications do not necessarily mean a minister would be good at his job, which directly contradicts what he said back in the day when he was going after the UMNO regime. Is there some sort of collaboration when it comes to shovelling the horse manure or do Harapan political operatives all think the same way?

Now people may say this is not a big issue. Truth be told, I am not really bothered by politicians who go around carrying fake degrees. As far as I am concerned, all the ministerial appointments have been a dodgy affair and it would not matter if the appointees had sterling academic qualifications. The reality is that most of them are not really interested in reform or do not have any ideas for reforming the system.

What is alarming is the way how politicians who used to claim to want to reform the system and hold the government accountable are now bending over backwards to defend issues which before they came into power they claimed were indefensible.

The question is not how Marzuki can be a credible Deputy Minister but how those who backtrack on their positions just to defend Marzuki be credible reformers?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.