KUALA LUMPUR: Senior figures from the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) on Thursday (Feb 7) defended Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya, after a police report was filed against him over "fake" academic qualifications.
It comes after political activist Muhsin Abdul Latheef lodged a police report against Mr Marzuki for giving the impression that he graduated from the prestigious University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
The deputy minister later clarified that his degree was from the US-based Cambridge International University, sparking calls from the opposition for his resignation.
On Thursday, PPBM supreme council member Tariq Ismail said the deputy minister should not be judged solely on his degree.
“From his humility and hard work, I’d hire the one from fake Cambridge. The real Cambridge, I'd throw them in the river because they think they own the world and the world has to continuously chase them,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.
“A degree is just a piece of paper that gets you into the workplace. The rest is up to you,” he added.
“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.”
The activist said on Monday he came across a Facebook post which raised questions about Mr Marzuki’s academic credentials.
He lodged a police report after verifying with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom that it did not offer any degree courses through long-distance programmes.
The politician from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s PPBM had said he would produce proof that he had pursued a course at Cambridge.
Mr Marzuki said on Tuesday that he would leave it to the police to investigate claims that he had deceived the people.
“I regard this as a political game. I don't feel like commenting much about this. Let’s leave it to the police ... I will prove it, no problem.”
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A day later, Mr Marzuki was quoted as saying by Malaysiankini that his degree in business administration is actually from the United States-based Cambridge International University.
"I think they (my critics) misunderstood (my credentials). I (studied) at the Cambridge International University in the United States," he said.
"I was doing logistics (before joining politics). So I just took that certificate for my knowledge to expand my business. As CEO (chief executive officer) of the company, I wanted to expand my knowledge and my business," he added, according to Malaysiakini.
The deputy minister’s Wikipedia page was later edited to omit references to his educational qualifications, according to political blogger “Aisehman”.
On Thursday, Mr Muhsin lodged a second police report. He submitted several documents, including those casting doubt over Cambridge International University as a legitimate institution.
“On the website itself, it was mentioned that the degrees are sold. For PhD degree people can buy it for US$9,000. So he (Mr Marzuki) must answer, is this a bogus degree or not?” the activist was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times during a press conference.
QUESTIONS OVER US-BASED CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY
According to a report by The Star, there are questions over the legitimacy of the Cambridge International University in the USA.
The university has no physical address listed on its website. Checks on the faculty members listed on the website found one academic, Dr Patricia Powell's profile picture bearing the watermark of an online dating site.
The Star emailed multiple faculty members for clarification, only to encounter email delivery failure.
Mr Mohamad Hassan, the deputy vice president of United Malays National Organisation, said: “If he (Mr Marzuki) has any dignity, he should resign.”
Meanwhile, PPBM deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir added that Mr Marzuki was not chosen to serve as a deputy minister because of the degree.
“As far as I know, he never declared that he was supposedly a Cambridge University graduate. That only came out in Wikipedia.”
“I’m sure he was not picked to be a deputy minister on the supposed merit of his brandishing a Cambridge University degree,” said Mr Mukhriz, according to The Star.
Malaysia does not have a law to penalise those with fake degrees.
Former Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem, as well as other government officials, have previously been accused of obtaining questionable qualifications.