Dear editor,
THIS should have been buried over a year ago, but I suspect the actors were struggling to come up with a believable cause of death. Most Guyanese were eager to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sadly, that was not forthcoming, so they went along their merry way enjoying the ambiance of the APNU-AFC Government infrastructure countrywide developments.

Then, just like it disappeared, it reappeared. The medium on this occasion was not the Prime News, but rather the High Courts. It was plastered all over the major dailies; some reluctantly. If I were an editor, this would have been the headline, “Irfaan Ali’s degree questions resurrected from the dead”. You see, I am more for the eye- catching and the outrageous.

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To get a flavour of the mood of the locals, I ventured into, with much trepidation, the comments section of the Stabroek News, since the other dailies’ comments sections are sparsely utilised by the readers, for reasons unknown to me. As I read the comments, with bulging eyes and regular gulps of air, I started to wonder if we had imported Donald Trump’s anencephalic supporters. The common theme running through most, if not all, of the comments is that this is not a big issue like it is being made out to be. Mind you, the language used was impregnated with poor grammar, atrocious spelling, and Guyanese rural area vernacular, hence I distressingly concluded that this cohort is not Harvard University scholar material. One of the characters articulated, with more stupidity, that it is the last desperate act of the APNU-AFC before they lose the upcoming elections. I was tempted to request his poll, but then better sense prevailed, recognising that he is likely from a lower “IQ”.

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The said gentleman probably missed the memo on Irfaan’s first degree from a non-existent Business College of West Demerara, or more likely he has no reading skills. Then there was this bloke who I suspected dropped out of school as soon as he learned to say “mama”, who fallaciously argued that soon, lying about your age would be a crime. Yes, young man, it is; just go misrepresenting your age in a court of law with the intent to mislead, and you will find out. Among all the cretinous and laborious comments was one from a young man who correctly stated that lying about your academic credentials would result in your being deselected as a Presidential Candidate in most political parties except the PPP. Clearly, Dr. Franklyn Anthony has been reading my letters. Let me explain, if it is at all possible, to those irrational characters why academic fraud should not be taken lightly.

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Imagine taking your child to the hospital where she was diagnosed with appendicitis. Your normally jubilant daughter was transferred from A&E to operating theatre. You were assured, Bob Marley-style, that everything is going to be all right. Two hours later, a tearful nurse informs you that your daughter died, tragically. The surgeon inexplicably damaged a blood vessel, and your daughter bled to death. Further investigations excruciatingly unearthed that he’d faked his medical degree which unfortunately was not picked up during his 20-year employment by the hospital. Was this gentleman faking his medical degree not a big issue?

Now, let’s say your husband was wrongfully charged for murder. You knew that your husband was innocent; very innocent, I must add. You paid a lawyer to defend your husband, who had already spent three years on remand. The case was finally called up, much to your relief. It took three months to be completed, and to your horror, your husband was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

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You knew something went wrong, so you spend the next ten years investigating the matter. Disturbingly, you agonisingly discovered that the lawyer had faked his qualifications. Your husband succeeded in securing a retrial, but it took two additional years. In total he spent 15 years behind bars before he was finally released. As a result, he missed his children’s high school and university graduations; he missed lots of major events with his children. Was the lawyer faking his qualifications not a big issue?

Finally, you owned a multi-million-dollar family business with a staff of thirty. You have a wonderful accountant who is always prompt at work and the last to leave. After 10 years, the GRA contacted you about outstanding taxes. On investigation, you discovered that your loyal accountant was anything but loyal. Akin to Chris Brown’s smash hit, “these accountants ain’t loyal.” Your disloyal accountant was not paying the tax as he should have. Actually, he’d stolen the monies. Further investigation revealed that he is a fraudster who faked his accounting degree, since he dropped out of university. Because of the amount owed to the GRA, you had to take out a loan, dissolve your business, and sell the property to pay your outstanding tax. Your thirty employees were all made redundant. Was the accountant faking his degree not a big issue?

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I can go on and on, but I trust those who are defending Irfaan Ali faking his degree gets the point. Academic fraud and plagiarism are taken seriously by all universities around the world. When I did my dissertation for my Master’s, my academic work and that of other students were analysed by computers to check for plagiarism. Found guilty, and we would have been expelled from the university.

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To fake one’s qualifications is a criminal offence for obvious reasons. When someone claims that they are qualified for a job when they are not, it can cause irreparable harm to others. If we can revisit the third case to emphasise two points, you will see that it highlighted dishonesty on two levels. First, the “accountant” was dishonest about his qualifications, then he was dishonest with the company’s finances. This is another issue about academic fraud that cannot be ignored. Those who commit academic fraud are more likely to be dishonest in other areas. These are just some of the issues of academic fraud that should not be taken lightly. Most Guyanese recognise this fact, hence it is not being put to rest.

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It is without a doubt that Irfaan Ali allegedly committed academic fraud with at least his first degree from the non-existent Business College of West Demerara. The evidence supports the fact that he is likely to be dishonest in other areas. If you do trust him, that is clearly your right and you can employ him to manage your mini-supermarket. I tell you this, most right-minded Guyanese would not trust him to manage the US$multibillion oil sector. Placed to manage the oil-and-gas sector, and I can guarantee you that he will do much more than build a mansion in two years. And, shockingly, we haven’t even touched his 19 criminal charges as yet.

Regards,
Dr. Mark Devonish MBBS

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