The Marzuki incident has grabbed headlines worldwide, especially given that as deputy foreign minister, he represents the country in the global arena, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
In defence of Bersatu’s Marzuki Yahya, who recently received flak over his academic degree imbroglio, the party’s supreme council member, Tariq Ismail, implied that faking one’s academic qualifications is not as serious as committing theft or rape.
While the gravity of such misdeeds indeed varies in degree, it remains unethical to misrepresent one’s academic background to the public, especially when the individual implicated holds public office. Marzuki, to be sure, is the deputy foreign minister.
Professional integrity is of utmost importance; it even overrides one’s academic credentials. After all, what matters at the end of the day is the professional competence and rectitude of an individual.
Pakatan Harapan was voted into power by Malaysians who have higher standards for the pact than its predecessor, Barisan Nasional. This was mainly because the electorate wanted real change in Malaysia.
Thus, excusing Marzuki from such a misdemeanour is a throwback to the BN days of less transparency and accountability. It does not provide a good example to other politicians and concerned Malaysians because academic irregularities are not something you simply sweep under the proverbial rug.
Furthermore, taking shortcuts in anyacademic endeavour should not be rewarded because there are no shortcuts to academic success.
It is already bad enough for someone to be associated with a dubious entity called Cambridge International University (CIU), which apparently attempts to profit from the good standing of the world-renowned Cambridge University. This is apart from CIU parading pictures on its website (before it got hacked) of supposed faculty members seemingly culled from an online dating site or fashion photo shoots.
Equally troubling is the act of knowingly signing up with a suspicious establishment that easily rolls out diplomas and degrees for a fee – without much or any academic input from paying “students”.
Imitation, it is said, is the highest form of flattery. But, this flattery has not only benefited the imitator (ie CIU), but also has the effect of smudging the reputation of Cambridge University through the antics of the diploma mill’s “graduates”.
Academic dishonesty is much frowned upon, nay, condemned, at established universities that jealously guard their reputation. This is why academics are sacked and students thrown out if they are found to be involved in academic fraud, such as plagiarism.
Similarly, politicians of dubious academic achievements – at least elsewhere in the world – have tendered their resignations to salvage their dignity and the reputation of the parties they represent.
In Spain last year, for instance, then Health Minister Carmen Monton resigned due to discrepancies in her master’s degree work, including plagiarism.
Top South African politician and anti-apartheid activist Pallo Jordan resigned as MP in 2014 after the authorities found that his academic qualifications were fake. He did not have a doctorate as claimed. Jordan eventually apologised for “deceiving the government and the people of South Africa for many years”.
The Marzuki incident has grabbed headlines worldwide, especially given the fact that as deputy foreign minister, his face and position represent the country in the global arena. The Bersatu secretary-general will have to answer to his conscience, and subsequently, do what he thinks is right.