Penang rep questions federal govt’s silence on EBA awards


GEORGE TOWN: An aide to the Penang chief minister has drawn attention to the silence from federal institutions that received awards from a questionable organisation whose racket was recently exposed in a UK paper.

Wong Hon Wai, political secretary to the Penang chief minister, said that while local councils here had already apologised to the public over the issue, federal agencies had kept mum.

“Zainal Abidin Osman and Muhammad Farid Saad continue to criticise the Penang government but choose to be quiet when federal government agencies are involved in the controversial EBA (Europe Business Assembly) awards.

“Zainal and other Barisan Nasional leaders must be accountable and transparent over the controversial EBA and face the press and public to give out a statement.

“Even the prime minister has congratulated Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia for winning EBA awards as reported on Dec 26, 2013. Why are Zainal and Farid quiet about this?” Wong said in a statement today.

Wong, who is DAP’s Air Itam assemblyman, also questioned the silence from Permodalan Nasional Berhad and the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, both of which had received EBA awards as well.

Farid had been the first to take the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) to task for receiving awards from the EBA.

The councils claimed they were unaware that the awards were fake and had paid nearly RM40,000 in joining fees for the award ceremony. They also denied that public funds were used.

Zainal subsequently said it was “weird and awkward” for the councils to say no public funds had been used, demanding that they reveal how the payment was made.

Based on Malaysian news reports, past winners of the EBA’s awards have included three Malaysian public universities: USIM, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia (UTeM) and Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP).

USIM, UTeM and UniMAP received the “Best Regional University” award from the EBA in 2013, according to a report by Utusan Malaysia on Dec 25 that year.

Their vice-chancellors reportedly won “Best Manager of the Year” that year as well.

One of the vice-chancellors was reported to have won “Best Scientist” separately from the EBA’s “Oxford Summit of Leaders Science & Education”.

Meanwhile, another vice-chancellor was reported to have won “The Name in Science” award as well.

According to UK daily The Times, the EBA advertises itself as an Oxford institution to sell “made-up prizes” such as “The International Socrates Award” and “The Queen Victoria Commemorative Award” for prices reaching £9,300 (RM52,000).

The report claimed the EBA outfit was run by Ukrainian businessmen, targeting areas where people had the financial power to buy such accolades.