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Malaysia’s new vice – plagiarism

 | December 19, 2013

The government's 'devotion' to pilfering ideas from outside sources and unabashedly claiming them to be Malaysian 'copyrights' is shaming the nation


The nation is in disarray, from racial tensions to a corrupt administration, Malaysia seems to be struggling to steady her gait. Now, another vice has been added to the list of ‘plagues’ – Plagiarism.

From Pos Malaysia to academicians like Ridhuan Tee, it has become an easy way to make a name. Even Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is guilty of plagiarism, be it his ‘1Malaysia’ theme or the ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign.

Pos Malaysia learned a lesson the hard way when it was publicly embarrassed by Filipino wildlife photographer Romy Ocon, who in a forum thread on dpreview.com, accused the national postal company of stealing his photo of a Long-Tailed Shrike and used it on their stamp.

The stamp, depicting a white-breasted bird was released by Pos Malaysia as part of its Visit Malaysia 2014 collection. There are altogether six different species of birds in the series. Ocon was alerted to the supposed blunder via email on Oct 30 by a concerned stamp collector from the United Kingdom.

Bad enough that Pos Malaysia resorted to plagiarism, it earned the wrath of Ocon when he pointed out that bird had been wrongly labelled as a White-Fronted Falconet. To Ocon, the error was a ‘serious ignorance’ as both birds have distinctly different appearances.

A picture of the stamp collection was posted on Facebook but has since been taken down after receiving negative comments from netizens who were informed of the plagiarism claim. It was not only Ocon who cried foul against the Malaysian government.

Another picture in the set, one of a Malaysian Hill Partridge was also claimed to have been ‘stolen’ from another photographer, Con Foley. But has Malaysia learnt its lesson? Hardly.

The ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign

The government’s ‘devotion’ to pilfering ideas from outside sources and unabashedly claiming them to be Malaysian ‘copyrights’ is very disturbing. The much-publicised ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign drew a flak when news broke that Najib had plagiarised the Israeli and Mongolian campaigns.

In Mongolia’s case, it had 19 months before Malaysia embarked on the ‘Mongolia Endless Possibilities” campaign to promote tourism in its country. When heckled by the opposition, Putrajaya turned defensive and claimed it launched the campaign in January this year, months before Israel did.

In fact, the Prime Minister’s Office’s even released a statement saying the Israel campaign titled ‘Israel, One place, Endless Possibilities’ came out four months after Najib unveiled the Malaysian campaign at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year.

The ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign was projected to rebrand ‘1Malaysia’, introduced by Najib in April 2009. But then going by Najib’s penchant for pinching ideas, one has every right to doubt the premier. But in the end, the ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign which was to be launched on Sept 17 this year to commemorate the Malaysia Day golden jubilee celebration was shelved indefinitely.

It was not only the ‘Endless Possibilities’ that Najib was accused of imitating. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim branded Najib as notorious for adopting slogans all for the sake of boosting the latter’s popularity without first doing his homework.

Two years ago, Anwar was suspended for six months after claiming the Najib-led government got the idea for its ‘1Malaysia’ campaign from media consultancy Apco Worldwide, which Anwar claimed was also behind the One Israel concept. The Najib-administration typically denied this with the Umno Members of Parliament claiming it was a mere coincidence.

Najib’s new interest in plagiarism did not end there. The premier did it again when he rode on the struggles of former South African president, the late Nelson Mandela, claiming Umno, the country’s largest race-based political party, championed equality, as did Mandela, who went on to be revered for his efforts at eradicating apartheid in South Africa.

It is today common knowledge that Umno Baru perpetuates ‘ketuanan Melayu’ or Malay supremacy and is steeped in corruption, cronyism and discrimination, unlike Mandela who had devoted his entire life to fighting white supremacy.

Najib sets a bad example

It is a sad day in the history of the country to acknowledge the painful fact of a premier who takes the easy way out to earn popularity by stealing ideas, time and again. The rakyat is forced to wonder whether their prime minister is just plain lazy to engage in creative thinking and put in motion plans and ideas that will propel the nation to greater heights and make her people proud.

Maybe that is why Najib remained nonchalant over accusations that pro-Umno academic Ridhuan Tee Abdullah had all along been engaging in plagiarism. Despite that, Ridhuan was promoted to the rank of associate professor at the National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNW) early last year.

Lamenting the troubling scenario, Senator Dr Ariffin SM Omar, who once taught at UPNM, told a press conference at the Parliament lobby last month: “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.

“We have sacked students who were found to have plagiarised their papers. And what more when a lecturer is found to do the same? Are we saying that it is alright for a member of the teaching staff to do it? If the government is serious about making our education institutions world-class, then they should take action against Ridhuan to deter others.”

It is a classic case of ‘bapa borek anak rintik’ or ‘like father like son’ – with Najib leading the way in plagiarism, there is little shame for the likes of Ridhuan, a columnist with the racially-notorious Utusan Malaysia, each time they steal the hard work of others.


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