PETALING JAYA - Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Monday (Feb 11) he is considering filing defamatory suits against anyone, including media outlets and politicians, if they continue to question his education credentials, The Star reported.
Reading from a press statement, his political secretary, Mr Tony Pua, said the minister’s lawyers had advised that Mr Lim reserve his rights to file defamatory claims against any newspapers that continued to print lies to diminish and question his position, stature and credibility.
Mr Lim's comments came after his accounting qualification became the latest to be scrutinised following a series of alleged false education credentials involving leaders from the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Wee Ka Siong had on Sunday questioned Mr Lim's credentials as an accountant, citing information from Monash University's website that Mr Lim obtained his Bachelor of Economics in 1984.
"I have no doubt over his degree qualification. However, I wonder how he became a qualified professional accountant in 1983 before he even graduated (in economics)?" Datuk Seri Wee asked in a Facebook posting on Sunday (Feb 10).
On Mr Lim's limguaneng.com website, it is stated in his biodata that he graduated from Monash University, Australia, with a Bachelor of Economics degree and was a qualified professional accountant by 1983.
Mr Pua, in answering Dr Wee, said that Mr Lim had graduated in 1983, adding that the Australian academic calendar ends in November annually. Mr Pua said that universities have their own conventions in naming their degrees, adding that “having a ‘Bachelor of Economics’ degree does not mean that Lim didn’t study accountancy”.
Dr Wee, who is the Ayer Hitam MP, had also wanted to know how Mr Lim's qualification as a "qualified professional accountant" was accredited.
"Was it by a local or foreign institution? Which country accepts an economics graduate to pass as a 'qualified professional accountant'? For a minister who always stresses on the concept of Competency, Accountability and Transparency, please explain and don't keep quiet," he added.
Asked if Mr Lim would consider taking legal action against Dr Wee for attacking him over the matter, Mr Pua said that was a possibility. Mr Pua declined to take further questions during the press conference, saying that Mr Lim’s lawyers had advised him not to do so.
In his comments on Sunday, Dr Wee also described as "suspicious" how Johor Mentri Besar Osman Sapian had avoided questions from the media on his supposed UPM Bachelor in Accounting degree obtained in 1985.
"UPM's official website stated that the course was introduced in 1985. How is it possible that there could be such a super-fast graduate produced in the same year!
"If Osman fails to prove the genuineness of his academic credentials, will he still have the dignity to lead the state? This is a question of integrity among leaders," he said.
Citing examples of several world leaders who resigned or were sacked for having fake academic credentials, Dr Wee questioned if the PH leadership would remain quiet and behave as if nothing had happened. "Or will they respond with the standard Pakatan answer, that a person's academic qualifications have nothing to do with political position?" he added.
Perak executive councillor Paul Yong Choo Kiong has also faced scrutiny over his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree from Akamai University in the United States. Media reports have alleged that Akamai university is a degree mill based in Hawaii.
The state assemblyman from the Democratic Action Party - a member of the PH coalition - had also been questioned by Dr Wee on how he could have done his MBA without having a first degree. In his biodata, Mr Yong had listed his primary and secondary school education, followed by his MBA.
Responding to the controversy, Mr Yong said that the matter had been blown out of proportion. He, however, did not reveal how he obtained his MBA. "What is the relationship between this and politics?" he said.
DAP lawmaker Chong Zhemin has also hit back at Dr Wee's comments. The DAP MP for Ayer Hitam on Monday called on Dr Wee to question former Prime Minister Najib Razak on his University of Nottingham degree, amid a video circulating online that claimed Najib had never completed his university education there.
Najib, however, shrugged off the doubts raised about his degree. "Of course, my degree is legitimate," he told reporters, according to the Malay Mail Online news website.