Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Only a totalitarian communist-like regime would ban books and art without requiring the authorities to provide any rhyme or reason.

On December 19, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s book ‘Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation of Malaysia’ was banned under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPA). As usual, only official reason given for this ban is that the book is "likely to be prejudicial to public order as well as public interest and is likely to alarm public opinion".

The addition of ‘Assalamualaikum’ to the growing list of books banned by the Malaysian government is proof of the government’s outright disregard for freedom of expression and ideas in Malaysia.

According to Zaid, the Home Ministry did not explain or consult him before banning his book nor was he even informed that the book would be banned. It goes to show the immense and arbitrary power that the PPA accords the Home Ministry to ban these without any clear reasoning.

Such curt excuses to ban books certainly harks back to the Stalinist or Maoist regimes where any forms of expression, whether in writing or in art, which are deemed prejudicial to the interest of the ruling elites are banned.

In 2017 alone, 44 gazettes have been issued to ban publications in Malaysia. Among the political titles banned are civil society group G25’s new book Breaking The Silence: Voices of Moderation; Islam in a Constitutional Democracy and reknowed academic Professor Farish A. Noor’s From Majapahit to Putrajaya, which was published in 2005.

The banning of these titles without any clear justification shows that the government exercising totalitarian control over what ideas can be discussed by Malaysians. This goes completely against the values of democracy that our country holds so dear.

In a democratic state, the authors and publishers would be hauled to the Courts to be charged for any criminal offences which may have taken place.  Even if there were no criminal elements involved, the Government must at the very least provide facts and justifications to prove the contents of these books to be wrong.

However, the BN regime will not even pretend to rebut the arguments carried in the book, however feeble the rebuttals might have been.

Just last month I had questioned the government’s censorship of arts following the confiscation of works at the KL Biennale for purportedly containing ‘elements of communism’. It seems that the thought policing of our government will continue with the banning of these books and the continued censorship of our media.

We call upon the Home Affairs Minister to prove that Malaysia is not taking great leaps to undermine democratic principles enshrined in our Federal Constitution, in remaking Malaysia into a communist state.
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