PETALING JAYA: To quote Dr Lim Teck Ghee of Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI): “Firstly, within academia, there are few worse sins than plagiarism. The term “sin” may appear to be too strong but Ridhuan Tee (Abdullah) who, regularly from his Utusan Malaysia pulpit, dishes out his pseudo-intellectual views on developments in the country from a supposedly Islamic perspective probably will understand better the use of this term in the context of the wrongdoing he is alleged to have committed. Or then again, perhaps he does not.”
It means plagiarism does not only bring shame to an accused but also to his or her institution of higher learning and country.
However, in Bolehland Malaysia, upholding integrity and credibility is almost not always top priority. Unfortunately, it is the political agenda and patronage that matters most.
When accusations of plagiarism arise, the normal course of action by the authorities is to conduct an investigation to clear or punish the academic who allegedly committed the “sin”.
On March 1, 2013, Ridhuan was accused of plagiarising Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UPM) lecturer Dr Airil Yasreen Mohd Yassin’s work.
Ridhuan may be innocent but instead of addressing the issue and clearing his name, the National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM), where Ridhuan is attached to, appeared to have swept the matter under the rug.
Instead, UPNM promoted Ridhuan, much to the chagrin of other lecturers.
Former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said: “It is in the best interest of UPNM to take prompt action and conduct an investigation on the allegations, especially since the matter was raised in Parliament.
“When I was deputy minister, there was one plagiarism case involving one lecturer in another public university.
“When this was highlighted, the university took prompt action and an investigation was conducted. The lecturer was reprimanded and some kind of disciplinary action was taken.
“The best thing to do would be for the particular university (UPNM) to do what this university did. When plagiarism is raised, especially in Parliament, we should take it seriously.”
Saifuddin told theantdaily the whole matter should also be carried out transparently.
“In that university, the fact that action was taken against the lecturer was in the public domain.
“A university’s credibility is at stake. That is why that university did the right thing. They knew their credibility was at stake and that they needed to act quickly to clarify matters,” he said.
In Ridhuan’s case, who is a columnist for Umno’s mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia, he just responded by saying his critics were out to “character assassinate” him.
DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok had alleged that Ridhuan copied almost the whole article by Airil “including the grammar mistakes in the original article, without any attribution to the writer”.
It was reported that a former colleague of Ridhuan’s, Senator Dr Ariffin S M Omar, had claimed that the former was promoted despite being plagued by plagiarism accusations.
“An investigation was launched but the vice-chancellor and the deputy vice-chancellor of academics at that time did not take any action against Ridhuan and, instead, he was promoted,” Dr Ariffin was quoted as saying.
The paragraphs Ridhuan is alleged to have copied were said to have been originally written by Airil for his research paper and uploaded on to his blog on May 25, 2009.
Ridhuan is alleged to have plagiarised Airils’ work for the Grade DS51 Efficiency Level Assessment (PTK4) coursework conducted from May to June 2010.
A former academician, who declined to be named, said plagiarism was something that is extremely difficult to prove.
“For example, there are a lot of general comments such as, ‘Malaysia achieved independence in 1957’. That exact sentence could have been quoted somewhere else,” he said.
However, he said that it was time for the Malaysian mindset to change and for issues such as plagiarism to be given serious attention.
“There are a few things Malaysians as a whole do not find disgusting. We don’t throw up over things like plagiarism and corruption but we are disgusted over things such as deviant teachings and drugs. Why can’t we be disgusted with things like this? This disgust must be created (forged).
“Plagiarism is something that we have not given serious ethical attention to,” he said.
After all, do we want Malaysia to be known as a place where plagiarism is rewarded?