A FEW years ago, several Pakatan Harapan leaders were called out for having falsified or questionable academic qualifications.
Former Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya, for instance, claimed to have a bachelor’s degree from UK-based Cambridge University via a distance learning programme.
It wasn’t until an activist had lodged a police report that Marzuki changed his tune and admitted that his degree was actually from Cambridge International University, a suspected degree mill in the United States.
Similarly, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin’s academic credentials came under scrutiny whereby the university where he claimed to have obtained his MBA from has been linked to a bogus university degree scam in Indonesia back in 2005.
The insufficient demand for these allegations to be looked into had led both scandals to be conveniently ‘forgotten’ and wiped from the parties’ collective memories to make room for other greater, more titillating scandals.
This has given rise to the impression that wrongdoings, be they accidental or deliberate, seem to get a free pass in the country, and this can spell disaster for the current Government whose commitment to high performance and good governance towards the people have been put through intense debate in the recent months.
In fact, it isn’t too far-fetched to say that the absence of consequences in the light of wrongful or misleading action becomes a reward.
This is certainly clear in the case of Zahidi, who had gotten to keep his job as Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister despite ‘lying’ about his qualifications.
What’s so worrying about this is the fact that both these instances can embolden further malpractice if not kept in check by members of the party or the public and can give way to acts far more disingenuous, such as corruption and other crimes.
But alas, in a previous article published in FocusM back in 2019, Kingsley Research Institute research director Voon Zhen Yi suggested that resignation from prominent and top positions of the public service after being caught for wrongdoings is something that does not happen often enough.
Though sackings for less prominent positions have been more consistent, it is the top, symbolic positions of power which have not come under sufficient scrutiny, wrote Voon.
“For Malaysia to move forward, it must rid itself of this toxic practice. It is important for the Government to not give the perception of immunity for apparent incompetence or malpractice.
“Perhaps politically, a kneejerk reaction would be to deny any wrongdoing so as to preserve a near-perfect image of the elected government, that any admission of guilt is seen as a weakness.
“Upon more thorough consideration, there is in fact greater damage inflicted upon the coalition if it does not show a genuine commitment towards seeking the truth and, worse yet, if it shows no desire to take colleagues to task for possible wrongdoings.
“As such individuals are public figures, how the party manages its members over allegations of misconduct comes under scrutiny,” he added.
Frankly, the solution is rather simple: if there is truth to the falsified degrees or misrepresentation of credentials, then swift action must be taken, taking into consideration the strategic and long-term ill-effects of inaction.
In an era where social media enables the public to cast scrutiny on the Government’s every move, they can ill-afford to sweep this matter under a rug or feign ignorance and must reach a convincing and conclusive result.
No doubt, the rakyat deserves better than this. – Sept 6, 2021