“Ong said given the more serious nature of the
revelation, Najib must ask the two ministers to quit to reflect his
seriousness in upholding accountability.” - Malay Mail, June 26, 2013
COMMENT | I really did not want to get into this whole “fake degree” fiasco but then I read Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming’s piece
about not needing a degree to be an effective politician and realised
how much trouble we are in. Ong couldn’t even bring himself to name the
minister in question, and chose instead to backtrack on earlier
positions he held while maintaining he has been consistent.
piece is politics at its most craven. Ong is half-right. You do not
need professional qualifications to be an effective politician. However,
professional qualifications most times add a veneer of legitimacy to
mendacious politics because people are conditioned to think that
professional degrees add an element of credibility to political
But it adds very little to actual governing and
policy-making which entails a different set of skill sets, most
importantly political will. Ong says that a professional
qualification is not needed to be an effective politician. This is true.
A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and
enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do
not need a professional qualification to do this.
Do all politicians do this? Maybe not, but mainstream political parties are filled with elected politicians who do this. Furthermore,
Ong now claims that when being part of the government or a ministry,
“it is more important for you to know your scope of work and your policy
responsibilities. Having done a degree may be helpful in training you
to think more broadly and critically and hence, better equip you to
govern. But it is not guaranteed.”
With regards to “degree mills”,
Ong said: “My stand on this issue is clear and has not changed. It is
not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and then
try to pass these off as being genuine academic degrees.” On this issue, Ong's stand is not clear. I would argue his stand on this issue was
clear but since coming to federal power his stand has been reversed.
What Ong says now is radically different from what he said back in the
day. The justification he is making now is a mockery of what this
Pakatan Harapan reform government is supposed to be about. It does,
however, demonstrate that Harapan operatives are excelling in
In 2013, Ong had askedthen
prime minister Najib Abdul Razak to sack two ministers who Ong claimed
had fake degrees. If anything, his stand then was clear. Two
points need to be understood when considering Ong's change of position.
And this is so funny because the headline for the report blares out
“Sack ministers with dubious degrees, DAP MP tells PM”.
The first, Ong has a clear position on this issue and demanded the resignation of ministers with fake degrees. “It
is truly disappointing that on the first day for ministerial replies in
the first parliamentary sitting since the 13th general election,
Malaysians have to accept the reality that Prime Minister Najib Razak
has appointed two ministers with two dodgy degrees each from
institutions which are degree mills.”
The second, Ong shifts the
goal posts. In his piece yesterday, he claimed that not having a degree
does not necessarily impede a politician's ability to carry out his
policy responsibilities but the question here is, does having a fake
degree impede the minster’s ability to carry out his responsibility? We
should refer to what Ong said before Harapan came into federal power:
to entrust two ministers with fake degrees with the serious
responsibilities of human capital development and the management of
certifications and standards is not only a gross embarrassment but also
most ironic for a prime minister who has made transformation his clarion
Bending over backwards
Should the police
investigate someone for having a degree from a degree mill or a fake
degree? Probably not. But if having a fake degree is part of the
systemic corruption that someone like Ong used to rail against, then why
is Ong now making all these justifications for a member of his
Ong asked then prime minister Najib for the resignation
of the two ministers in 2013 and asked for the ministers to resign to
prove their commitment to reform. Why is Ong not asking the current
prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the resignation of Deputy Foreign
Minister Marzuki Yahya (photo)? Why is he not asking Marzuki to
resign? Why is he not asking for the Harapan political elite to
demonstrate they are committed to reforms?
2013, Ong made the case that fake degrees hamper the ability of
ministers to effectively carry out their policy responsibilities. He
called it an embarrassment for the reform agenda of the Najib regime.
Now when a deputy minister who has to be a credible spokesperson for
Malaysia has been caught with a fake degree, why isn’t Ong applying the
Does Ong really believe that his position has not
changed? Does Ong really believe that his muted goal posts-shifting
piece about fake degrees is really the way how to reform the system? I
mean, does anyone else realise how funny this is?
Bersatu deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir said that Marzuki was not appointed
for his academic credentials and here we have Ong telling people that
academic qualifications do not necessarily mean a minister would be good
at his job, which directly contradicts what he said back in the day
when he was going after the Umno regime. Is there some sort of
collaboration when it comes to shovelling the horse manure or do Harapan
political operatives all think the same way?
Now people may say
this is not a big issue. Truth be told, I am not really bothered by
politicians who go around carrying fake degrees. As far as I am
concerned, all the ministerial appointments have been a dodgy affair and
it would not matter if the appointees had sterling academic
qualifications. The reality is that most of them are not really
interested in reform or do not have any ideas for reforming the system.
is alarming is the way how politicians who used to claim to want to
reform the system and hold the government accountable are now bending
over backwards to defend issues which before they came into power they
claimed were indefensible.
The question is not how Marzuki can be a
credible deputy minister but how those who backtrack on their positions
just to defend Marzuki be credible reformers?