Hornbill Unleashed

February 17, 2012

Does Rosmah deserve the Curtin award?

Filed under: Corruption — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Kee Thuan Chye

It must be sad for the prime minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, that for receiving an honorary doctorate from a foreign university, she got so much flak.
The university that awarded it, Curtin University of Western Australia, was hit with brickbats too, judging by the strongly-worded postings on its Facebook page after the award was announced. Curtin was probably astonished by the reception.As one commentor wrote:
“Curtin dear, you didn’t anticipate these at all, did you?”

The postings were so many and so fast and furious that Curtin removed some of them. And justified it thus:

“Thanks for your feedback around one of our recent awards. We are as always supportive of free expression but have removed some postings as they’re repeats.”

NONEWhy is there so much negative reaction to Rosmah’s getting the honorary doctorate?

The answer to that might well lie in the answer to another question: Does she actually deserve the award?

According to the media release sent out by Curtin, it is to recognise her “for her dedication to education and the advancement of women”.

It adds: “She has devoted herself to community life, becoming the driving force behind the Permata project, which focuses on early childhood education and care for Malaysian children aged under five.”

Nowhere in the release, however, is there an example given of how she has contributed to “the advancement of women”.

In any case, the university must have been misinformed or failed to understand the implications of Rosmah’s involvement in Permata.

It’s taxpayers’ money

As the prime minister’s wife, she needed a project to give her a high profile, so she’s latched on to Permata.

NONEBut it has been the people’s money that is giving her this boost. In the 2010 Budget, her husband, the prime minister, allocated RM100 million to Permata, which at the time seemed a huge amount, and bigger in comparison to some other allocations.

Then in the 2011 Budget, her husband increased the allocation to Permata to RM111 million, causing many to wonder if he hadn’t abused his powers.

One commentor on the Curtin Facebook page rubbed it in: “With due respect, the money she is using is taxpayers’ money, not from her own pocket. If she has done a service for ‘early childhood education’, what about the half-dozen other unrecognised Malaysians who have done far more? Sorry, but this award absolutely stinks.”

Another commentor invoked an apt comparison: “I am a Malaysian and I’m incensed by the award. Would any Australian be happy if a foreign university awarded [Australian prime minister] Julia Gillard’s partner for creating day-care centres around Australia with taxpayers’ money?”

The odd thing is, these criticisms are coming from ordinary Malaysians, so Rosmah can’t say that they are politically motivated or generated by people who are jealous of her “achievements”.

Odder still is the vitriol that accompanies many of these criticisms, which shows the level of respect – or is it disrespect? – the critics have for the prime minister’s wife.

Numerous people wanted to know how much she paid for the award.

NONEUnderstandably, the ones who felt most hard done by were alumni of the university. Some said they felt embarrassed. Some said they would not hang their Curtin certificate on the wall any more.

One alumnus lashed out: “Who is Rosmah? After all the three years of hardship I went through to earn a Bachelor of Commerce from CBS [presumably Curtin Business School], now she gets the award just like that? Disgusting Curtin. I will never send my children to Curtin although I graduated from there.”

Another alumnus ran down Rosmah and lambasted his alma mater: “This honorary doctorate for Rosmah is a debacle. Shame on me for holding a Curtin degree. Shame on Curtin for ruining its reputation. As we Malaysians would say, ‘jatuh standard’.”

Someone wrote: “Pity all the hardworking PhDs of Curtin for being ranked with Rosmah now. How do you term it in the property market? … Total market depreciation?”

Why such disrespect for PM’s wife?

Why is Rosmah so lacking in respect? Why are people saying bad things about her?

NONEMalaysians are not noted to say bad things about the wives of past prime ministers – at least not in public. None of her predecessors have been bashed like this. So why Rosmah?

Is it because of her alleged spending sprees? Does Curtin know about the evidence Australian fashion journalist Patty Huntington has provided regarding Rosmah’s alleged purchase of 61 dresses from Australian designer Carl Kapp?

Is it because of her alleged attempt to buy a RM24 million diamond ring last year? Is it because of the thousands of ringgit she allegedly spends buying her range of Hermes handbags?

Is it because of the advertisement that was placed in the New York Times on behalf of the Malaysian government when she and her husband visited the United States in 2010 in which she was congratulated for having won a little-known international award, an advertisement that allegedly cost about three quarters of a million ringgit?

NONEIs it because of her being allegedly involved in government affairs, including allegedly having her own division in the Prime Minister’s Office called FLOM (First Lady of Malaysia)?

And that she even attended the highly confidential meeting between the prime minister and his top aides in the Finance Ministry to discuss the final preparations for the 2012 Budget although she had no business being there?

Is it because of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin’s statutory declaration made in 2008 that he had been “reliably informed” that Rosmah was among a few people present when the Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu’s body was C4ed?

Is it more than all these?

Curtin defends the award

In any case, all these are irrelevant to Curtin. As the university has just clarified (on Feb 15) in a note put out on Facebook in defense of its award:

“In the case of the nomination of Datin Sri (sic) Rosmah, while the university became aware of some critical commentary in relation to the awardee, the allegations against her do not appear to have been substantiated.

“When the nomination was considered, her contribution to early childhood education and the advancement of women was considered worthy of recognition and so the award was approved.”

It also spelt out how the awarding of honorary doctorates is decided.

The first response to that post – from a Malaysian – was: “What a load of crock! There are a lot more worthy candidates out there.”

Others found the explanation vague, disappointing and unsubstantiated. Someone asked who the other candidates were and who nominated Rosmah as one.

So there! Curtin University doesn’t mind awarding a doctorate to someone who might be dogged by negative controversy.

Well, that’s its own business. Back home, Rosmah might want to ask herself why so many Malaysians have such a low opinion of her – since these are the people who should matter more to her than any foreign university or organisation giving her awards.

She might want to be honest with herself when she evaluates comments such as these:

“If this lady was well-respected in the country, she would be receiving praise and perceived as deserving of the doctorate. As you can see, there is anger instead.”

“They gave her a doctorate. LOL. Of all the people in Malaysia.”

If she ever figures out why so many Malaysians have such a low opinion of her, she might want to do something to make herself better regarded.

Notice, however, that I did not say “loved”. I did not even say “liked”. And for her sake, I hope it’s not already too late.

KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of the new book ‘No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians’.


  1. Different world but same culture: “You scratch my back. I scratch your back”. Increase intake of students sponsored by Malaysia.

    Comment by CHEW EL — February 22, 2012 @ 7:47 PM | Reply

  2. This kind of award is called “Dogtoress” for female and “Dogtor” for man

    Comment by Tiger YK — February 20, 2012 @ 1:09 PM | Reply

  3. Is UMNO BN so powerful that foreign universities coming to Malaysia also acquire the Bolehland traits? I thought they are more dignified, honorable, credible, intellectual and respectable knowing what UMNO BN had done to our local public universities.

    It baffles me beyond belief that a university in the stature of Curtin University can’t distinguished between glass and diamond. Why do you come to add to the numbers of the failed universities in Malaysia?

    Comment by Heart Ache — February 17, 2012 @ 9:21 PM | Reply

  4. Rafida…the AP Queen. Shahrizat….the Condo Queen and Rosmah…the glamour Queen!

    Comment by Mata Kuching — February 17, 2012 @ 6:48 PM | Reply

  5. Curtin needs to operate in Malaysia. Simple as that. So not surprising.

    I will not enrol my kids to Curtin in Johor.

    Comment by Shah — February 17, 2012 @ 1:46 PM | Reply

  6. Curtin must have thought that they found a generous benefactor who will donate millions of Malaysians hard earned money to the university.

    Comment by apaijabu — February 17, 2012 @ 12:34 PM | Reply

  7. 3rd. para should read:

    “RM100 MILLION pumped into her Permata outfit in 2010, RM111m in 2011 and she still asked for “more allocations” shortly before Najib presented the 2012 Budget?”

    Comment by Leithaisor — February 17, 2012 @ 11:12 AM | Reply

  8. I don’t know if it, was “Dave” suggested, Rosmah falling into a trap which some had laid for her. certainly though, it was her own weaknesses which predisposed her falling into such a trap.

    Rosmah is a pompous glory-seeker. Which other PM’s wife has ever been so vain and haughty?

    RM100 pumped into her Permata outfit in 2010, RM111m in 2011 and she still asked for “more allocations” shortly before Najib presented the 2012 Budget?

    Who can forget the massively wasteful “First Ladies Summit” she dreamt up in 2010? 12 from Africa and one from Sri Lanka attended, happily showing off their “First Lady” status together with the FLOM.

    Was that in aid of the young children’s nuturing? Or was that to feed the ego of Rosmah and her cohorts? Not to mention the juicy “door gifts”…

    My child is going to university in about a year’s time. And thanks to this ridiculous honorary D.Litt it conferred on the ‘FLOM”, Curtin is NOT going to be even on the list of universitiues I am considering.

    Comment by Leithaisor — February 17, 2012 @ 11:09 AM | Reply

  9. A Conspiracy Theory only.

    She did not deserved it. Nor did she paid for it. It’s a bait and some party knew for the way she is, will take the bait. A conspiracy theory only. She looked(in the interview) very tired utterly astounded and equally unprepared and gibberish, gauging by the mambo jumbo of her speech.

    Normally all the comedy errors of Najib and Rosmah can be explained away(even the deadly scorpene scandal) with solid proof and concrete evidence but not this one.

    Comment by Dave — February 17, 2012 @ 10:39 AM | Reply

  10. She could have called for the masseur to “URUT” her wrinkles away!

    That’s waht Curtin is – a massage parlor !

    Adelaide U is Taib’s facial specialist!

    Anybody wants a rub down?

    Comment by Monsieur masseur — February 17, 2012 @ 10:16 AM | Reply


    Comment by anon — February 17, 2012 @ 8:27 AM | Reply

  12. I wonder how much this has cost her. On the other hand, how much it will cost Curtin, not in terms of money BUT reputation.

    Comment by kancilmelaka — February 17, 2012 @ 1:54 AM | Reply

    • Curtin has given a doctorate to an individual who knows no bounds in spending the rakyat’s money for her own utterly selfish needs.

      Shopping sprees where RM250,000-RM300,000 is splurged in obscene extravagance while her husband, PM Najib Razak, calls on Malaysians to tighten our belts in face of pending withdrawal of subsidies and the introduction of GST (Goods and Services Tax) is disgusting and despicable.

      And to sneer at the rakyat’s call to explain the RM24 million ring with an outrageously ridiculous story of having saved from a tender age is simply a downright insult and a challenge thrown in the face of the rakyat that she is untouchable.

      From now onwards, Curtin can only look forward to students on government scholarships. They fail to understand the extent of hatred the Malaysian people have for Rosmah, and they fail to see that the Malaysian Chinese no longer trust nor respect Najib.

      They must realise Curtin is now sitgmatised – those who graduated from Curtin are made the butt of jokes. Those who are in Curtin cringe in shame. And those who are looking to further their studies will now ask if they should go to Curtin.

      Comment by Hasma — February 19, 2012 @ 1:04 PM | Reply

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