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
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.