Media Statement by Loke Siew Fook in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 17th September 2009:
Ministry of Higher Education's lackadaisical attitude on UPM plagiarism case does little to uphold academic integrity and excellence
The handling of the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) plagiarism scandal by the university and the Higher Education Ministry is indicative of the present government's lackluster attitude on improving the standards of higher education in Malaysia.
In an interview with The Sun, UPM's Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Nik Mustapha R. Abdullah said that "It's very difficult to prove plagiarism also because sometimes it's about expression but it's very unfortunate as they will have to suffer”.
Nik Mustapha also claimed that their act was unintentional and that printers of the two lecturers' book that contained the plagiarised materials had to suffer the biggest loss.
These statements are extremely disappointing.
These two lecturers have committed a serious offence which is not just against academic integrity but also against the law, as they had used copyrighted material for commercial gain. How can they be “unfortunate” and be “suffering” for plagiarism?
If a full professor can commit supposedly “unintentional” plagiarism, what does it say about this person's credibility as a high ranking academic? The university's investigation had concluded that "substantial" amount of the 64-page book was lifted almost word-for-word, thus how “unintentional” could it be?
It is the dignity of Malaysia's higher education system that suffers the biggest loss and not the printers of the book.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin's ignorance in refusing to condemn the actions of the plagiarists and his unconvincing defence by claiming that plagiarism happens in other countries as well shall not be welcomed by Malaysians who yearn for excellence in Malaysian academia.
Khaled claimed that the government should not get involved in the case as it would hurt the autonomy of the university. If that is the case, why is the police involved in hauling up and locking up student activists in universities? Student activists who fight for legitimate causes are locked up in cells while plagiarising professors are just given warning, isn't this double-standards of the worst kind?
DAPSY wishes to remind the Higher Education Ministry that plagiarism shall not be tolerated if academic excellence is to be achieved and academic integrity is to be preserved. DAPSY believes that this is not an isolated case and urges the Ministry to enforce stricter rules and carry out regular investigations on suspected plagiarism cases in all higher educational institutions under its watch.
* Loke Siew Fook, DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) National Chairman & MP for Rasah