KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Deputy Foreign Minister was urged to resign yesterday following allegations that he lied about having a degree from Cambridge University, with an opposition lawmaker accusing him of "deceiving the people".
Datuk Marzuki Yahya's educational background came under scrutiny after doubts were raised on social media that he had a distance-learning degree in business administration from the prestigious British institution, which was previously listed on his Wikipedia profile.
After initially insisting he would prove he had the degree, Mr Marzuki said late on Wednesday that he had in fact not studied at the British university, but at Cambridge International University in the United States. "I think they misunderstood (my credentials). I (studied) at the Cambridge International University in the US," Mr Marzuki - a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), a party in the ruling alliance - told news site Malaysiakini.
"I was doing logistics (before joining politics). So I just took that certificate for my knowledge to expand my business."
One of the programmes listed on the US institution's website is logistics.
The claim sparked mocking comments in Malaysia, with many questioning the institution's credibility.
"Why did Marzuki make a U-turn from the United Kingdom to the US? Perhaps this is not a mere U-turn, but more likely a somersault," said Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, president of the opposition Malaysian Chinese Association.
Cambridge International University says on its website that it is not accredited with the US education authorities and that it offers 150 programmes - including casino management - yet lists only 25 faculty members.
Checks by The Star on the faculty member list on the website found one "associate professor" Patricia Powell whose profile picture bears the watermark of an international online dating site that predominantly features Eastern European women.
Attempts to e-mail faculty and adjunct faculty members of the institution for clarification failed, with the mail delivery subsystem noting that these e-mail addresses could not be found or that the server was unable to receive mail.
Main opposition party Umno has called on Mr Marzuki to quit.
"How do you (Marzuki) deceive the people with a fake degree and then claim you are fighting against corruption and propagating good governance and ethics?" Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki told The Star newspaper.
Some of Mr Marzuki's comrades have come to his defence.
PPBM supreme council member Tariq Ismail said Mr Marzuki should not be judged solely on his allegedly fake degree. "A degree is just a piece of paper that gets you into the workplace. The rest is up to you. 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," said Mr Tariq.
"People should look for dedication and teamwork. He's not going to be CEO of Goldman Sachs, BP or Felda, or resuscitate Enron. All those people who headed those companies had degrees but were crooks who stole," he added.
PPBM deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir said Mr Marzuki was not appointed because of his paper qualifications.
"I'm sure he was not picked to be a deputy minister on the supposed merit of his brandishing a Cambridge University degree," Datuk Seri Mukhriz told The Star.
The controversy will be a blow to the administration of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which has pledged to fight corruption and improve the government's integrity.
The previous Barisan Nasional government of Najib Razak became embroiled in a multibillion-dollar scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, which played a large part in its shock election defeat last May.
Said PPBM strategist and supreme council member Rais Hussin: "One should have high integrity (when holding office), as one thing (for which) we fought against Barisan was the lack of integrity. Integrity is everything and everything."
He added: "If indeed Marzuki had misrepresented himself academically, then he should apologise and move on."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK