UPM academics accused of ‘rewriting’ Malay maritime history in questionable journal

A French historian has come out accusing two academics from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) of misrepresenting historical facts related to Malay maritime history and questioning the credibility of the academic journal it was published in.

(NST) – In a Facebook post, Serge Jardin, named Rozita Che Rodi and Hashim Musa– both academics affiliated with UPM– as the authors of a paper titled ‘The Jongs and The Galleys: Traditional Ships of The Past Malay Maritime Civilization’ that was published in the International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, Vol.13, Issue 11, 2023.

Jardin alleged that an image used in their paper to show a model of Malay Jongs (a type of sailing ship originating from Java, Indonesia that was widely used by Javanese, Sundanese, and later, also by Peguan and Malay sailors) is in fact a Foochow Pole Junk (a type of cargo vessel) from China.

“How low can academia go!” he remarked in his post.

“Shame, shame, shame, shame!”

His Facebook post included a photo of the jong in question to which he further listed two other factual claims in the paper that he argues have been falsified.

“Of Jongs.

“1. The photo does not show a Malay Jong but a Foochow Pole Junk from China.

“2. The model is not in the Maritime Museum of Jakarta but in the Royal Museums of Greenwich, England (ID: AAE0200). In a museum all exhibits have an identification number (photo 2). https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-7064,” the post added.

“And Galleys.

“In the Malay Concordance Project, galley is not mentioned twice in the Sejarah Melayu (ed.  A. Samad Ahmad), but six times! All in connection with the arrival of the Portuguese in Melaka (confirmed by the Portuguese sources), never in the “Malacca armada”. Galley was never used by local mariners during the Malacca Sultanate period. Most Southeast Asian Navy (men) started adopting galleys in their fleet after the advent of Portuguese-Ottoman to SEA.

“The galley, Mendam Berahi, of Hikayat Hang Tuah (seventeenth century) is an anachronism.

Jardin then proceeded to question whether the journal it was published in is credible and peer-reviewed.

“4. International Journal of Academic Research… where is the peer-review?” the post ended.

Jardin has authored several books, including ‘Rêver Malacca’, an invitation to discover Melaka through the eyes of travellers; ‘Malaisie, uncertain regard’, a collaboration with Sylvie Gradeler on Malaysia, as seen through arts, crafts and literature; and ‘Malacca Style’, with photographer Tham Ze Hoe.

Sharing Jardin’s Facebook post was political analyst Professor James Chin, from University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute. Echoing Jardin’s views, Chin said that he was “completely dumbfounded” by the revelation as one could easily fact-check the paper’s alleged false claims.

“The KM (Ketuanan Melayu) crowd are so desperate to rewrite history. Two academics published in a fake academic journal claiming Chinese junk to be Malay in origin….From a top Malaysian research university. I am completely dumbfounded because you can check the facts so easily,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Chin continued saying to “viral the post” and see if the institution affiliated with the authors would take action or choose to cover it up.

“Do read the original posting. Please viral and see if the university will take action or cover up.”

Chin also shared a repost of Jardin’s original Facebook post by Preeta Samarasan– a published Malaysian author, who expressed similar thoughts on the matter.

“This….is unbelievable. I knew something of the audacity of our rewriters of history, but rewriting history for our local textbooks is one thing, and rewriting it for international academic journals that should be peer reviewed is quite another,” she said.

She also made the suggestion that the journal “isn’t a real journal”.

“Edited to add: of course this isn’t a real journal. Please read my friend Gareth’s comment for the depressing details.

“But the fact that publishing nonsense articles in a backyard journal can count as a publication record for Malay(sian) academics is the whole problem.”

The New Straits Times has reached out to UPM and is awaiting a response on the matter.