On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Some issues transcend politics

The book's sub-heading, Shit @  P***mak @
PM, is a little crude.  The asterisks
have been used by  newspapers to replace
three letters to make it printable.

But I have to agree with the National Laureate on certain points.  Those who have not read the book  should not criticise it.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk  Ong Ka Ting should be commended for
maintaining that the book  need not be
banned. It should just  be ignored.

We shouldn't just ban books or 
publications that we do not agree 
with, so long as national security is 
not threatened or they are not libellous.

The whole point of democracy is  that we
should defend the rights of  writers to
express themselves,  even if we do not
share their  views.

The last thing we should do is to  punish
Shahnon such as stripping  him of his National
Laureate  Award and the benefits that
come  with it.

It will be sad if the authorities  only
reward writers for having establishment views.

The fact that Shahnon has said  he is a
long-time PAS member and  that he has
spoken at a PAS ceramah, I think, is sufficient for Malaysians to make their

Most of us would also question  the
sincerity of PAS leaders who  reject
populist culture such as dikir barat but are quick to defend  Shahnon's work because it fits into  their political agenda.

It is the same with those who  back
violent reformasi street demonstrations but wash their hands  when the majority of Malaysians  expressed their disgust at the  damage done.

But we know and the rest of the  world
know, from the pictures  published in newspapers,
which  politician has tried to be

There is really no point in pushing the book controversy further.  Let nature run its course as the  majority of Malaysians are moderate and

Shahnon's work, irrespective of  whether
it has aesthetic value or  otherwise, has
sent us a reminder.  It is supposed to be
a political satire.

And like all satires, it is supposed to be humorous. Never mind  if the choice of characters and  words used are not even near Tan  Sri Samad Ismail's regular political parody
in Gila Gila.

Politics in Malaysia has become  too
emotive and personal of late.

Malaysians must learn to agree  or
disagree on political issues and  what
democracy is all about.

If it is a political satire, then we 
must not lose the ability to laugh at 

We should not be too overreactive and sensitive, which seem to  be a problem with some of our

Granted that national reconciliation has become more difficult  over the past one year, that should  not stop us from talking to each  other.

On that note, it is, perhaps, refreshing that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad  Badawi was gracious
enough to  open an art exhibition by
Datuk  Syed Ahmad Jamal.

Syed Ahmad is actively involved  in the
opposition Parti Keadilan  Nasional and
had designed the  “white ribbon'' logo
for Adil, the  movement linked to the

That is what maturity is about.  Whether
it is art or otherwise,  there are things
which go beyond  politics. Things like

Our politicians, whether in the  Barisan
Nasional or opposition,  must be able to
compete on a more  mature and reasonable

The abuse of the Internet and involvement of foreign journalists in  local politics is something that we  should be concerned about.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet  Ministers
have been accused of  stashing away
millions in an Israeli bank.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was  named by
the Philippine Inquirer  as being
involved in a gaming outlet in the country, ahead of his  wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah  Wan Ismail's visit to Manila.

Many of us would dismiss these 
allegations as absurd but the sad 
part is that some of us have become selective in choosing what  we want to believe.

Politicians who accuse mainstream newspapers of being irresponsible by not
giving them sufficient coverage have, ironically,  been behaving irresponsibly themselves.

If twisting facts is not enough,  they
have propagated rumours to  serve their
political cause, all in  the name of

The publications and websites  run by
these groups, for example,  have hardly
been objective, fair  and

But that seems to be all right,  somehow,
because it serves their  cause. Some of
us have become so  partisan that we can
no longer differentiate between right and 

On that score, it was a nice  change to
hear Barisan MPs calling for changes to the Internal Security Act and the
codifying of  laws on contempt.

Debates must be allowed to  cross party
lines if they are properly argued without the thunder and-lightning approach
adopted by  the opposition.

We sometimes forget archaic  laws can be
amended without necessarily having to repeal them  completely. For example, we can  improve laws pertaining to the  condition of ISA detainees.

No one in his right mind would  argue
against the call to improve  the police
image and to stop corruption.

For that matter, any sane Malaysian who has seen the photographs  of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with  a black eye in prison uniform  would also have sympathy for him.

Reform is not a totally ugly  word. Being
in the opposition is not  a crime

It is patriotic to make suggestions to improve things in this  country. There is always room for  the expansion of democratic space.

In calling for reforms, we must  also
realise the consequences and  risks that
we have to take. Will it  be a change for
the better?

Moderate Malaysians must ask  whether
they want to dismantle  the existing
system, with its flaws,  for another
system which can be  repressive and more

Those who talk about cronyism  and
corruption have sometimes refused to admit that many aligned  to them have been cronies themselves and have
indulged in money  politics.

Some talk of the abuse of institutions and the media for political  gains but ignore the fact that they  had also been guilty of that themselves when
they had the political  clout.

As in all books, Malaysians  would have
to decide whether they  want to live in a
world of make-believe or in the real world.