In the face of continuing questions about the authenticity of his academic qualifications, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) presidential candidate Irfaan Ali yesterday said that he has made all his transcripts and certificates public on his Facebook page and had no further comments on the matter.
“If you go on my Facebook page, I don’t know if it is still there, I shared, as I said, all my certificates. There are many, many certificates …they all have credits for them. What is out there, I stand by and this is all I have to say on the matter,” Ali yesterday said at the first press conference he has held since his election as the opposition party’s candidate in January.
“I am very humbled by my achievement over the years. I am very confident about who I am. I have made my certificates public, I released them publicly, I stand by all my certificates,” Ali added.
The press conference was held at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Church Street, in Georgetown, where Ali was flanked by PPP member Kwame McCoy and PPP/C Member of Parliament Joseph Hamilton.
On Ali’s Facebook page, no photographs, documents or any other material related to his qualifications were found by this newspaper.
Stabroek News was shown four certificates by Ali on Wednesday but is still seeking to independently verify their authenticity.
One is from City Unity College, based in Athens, Greece, for which he says he earned a Diploma in Business Administra-tion, by completing an online professional course in 2002. He also produced a letter from the College which said, “We hereby verify that Mohamed Irfaan Ali was a registered student with the City Unity College during the period 16th October 2000 to 29th July 2002 through online distance learning.
“In 2002, Mohamed Irfaan Ali completed a Higher Diploma in Business Administration graduating with grade point 82/100,” it added.
A Master’s Degree in Human Resource Planning and Development was attained, according to Ali, in January of 2003 from the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, India.
A third certificate, Ali said, from the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom, was awarded to him in September of 2006. That certificate states that “Mohammed Ali” was awarded with a Bachelor of Arts Second Class Honours (Second Division) in Business Manage-ment.
The fourth certificate, a Postgraduate Certificate in Finance, from the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), was awarded to Ali, he explained, in February of 2018.
Ali pointed out that he was simultaneously pursing a Doctorate from the University of the West Indies (UWI), which he started “around five years ago” at the same time he studied for the Finance degree from ARU.
He said he had completed his research for the doctorate programme but is awaiting word from UWI to defend it.
In the meantime, he said that he is currently studying at the University of Salford, Manchester, to earn an LLM Degree in International Commercial Law.
Master’s programme entry
However, still not clear is how Ali gained entry into the Master’s programme. There have been allegations that a transcript issued by a school, named the Chamber Business School, that Ali says he attended at Ruimzigt, on the West Bank of Demerara, was used for his entry.
He was asked about this and would only say that he “stands by” all of his qualifications.
Pressed to answer what was the baseline qualification he had used for entry, he refused to answer and became flustered, repeating that he has made all his qualifications public.
McCoy, who was the moderator of the press conference, interjected, saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Ali has answered the question in the way he wishes to answer. I will now ask us to move on.”
He was also asked if the Chamber Business School was an accredited one but he would not say.
Ali told this newspaper that he wished not to “dwell” on the allegations and noted that all of the courses he did were done online.
“I come from a family that views education very seriously. I am fully qualified. I am confident about myself. I know what my accomplishments are. I released my certificates publicly. I stand by every one of those certificates… My main focus is to work towards winning the presidency,” he said.
“This was an issue that was contrived somewhere. One day we will know where but I am very confident with what I have released. I am looking forward to my PhD and my LLM in International Commercial Law. For me, I wanted to gain experience while qualifying myself academically. Distance education, online education, brings that opportunity where you can pursue your career while you achieve academic excellence. It has worked for me…it is convenient, it is flexible and it allows you the latitude to work within the timeframe suitable to you,” he added.
He said that he would encourage anyone to use online schooling as opposed to a classroom setting as it allows the flexibility to earn while qualifying one’s self. “I would say is better to get experience and academically qualified at the same time.”
Ali has been dogged by questions about his academic qualifications since the announcement of his candidacy to lead the opposition into the next elections.
In the days leading up to the PPP leadership’s election of him as its presidential candidate, documents that suggested that Ali’s qualifications were not authentic were released to the press. He had said that he would provide details to refute all the allegations against him
The one time Minister of Housing, who served under former presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, stated that he is an “ honest candidate,” who is “very comfortable” with his qualifications.
Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive Dr David Hinds this week said that Ali should urgently address the concerns about the authenticity of his academic qualifications since his integrity is on the line.
Hinds, a political analyst and Professor of Politics at Arizona State University, explained that he does not believe that academic qualifications should be a criterion for running for office but noted that the public should know about the honesty and integrity of those lobbying for their support.
“He should address and settle this matter once and for all. He is running for the highest office of the land and could become the next president. It is, therefore, incumbent upon him to remove any doubts about his integrity,” Hinds said.
“We have to insist on the highest standards. I don’t think academic qualifications should be a prerequisite for office. But this is not an issue of his qualifications. It is about whether he is telling the truth about those qualifications. So this is a case of integrity,” he added.
Hinds said that Ali may believe that some of his supporters would back him regardless of the authenticity of the documents, but he has to remember that one running for presidential office is representative of all the people.
“He may think that this issue would not affect his support among the PPP/C base. But as president he has to be the president of all of Guyana and be the face of the country. So he must come clean on this issue,” he emphasised.
“I think it would reduce his standing in the regional and international communities. At that level, the bar is higher. It would be uncomfortable sitting among leaders who are aware that there are doubts about your qualifications. It reduces the legitimacy of the office holder,” he added.
Hinds also believes that the PPP itself should ensure that Ali addresses all issues that could pose a threat to his remaining in office, should he be elected, soonest.