The Home Ministry’s latest move to ban a book by former law minister Zaid Ibrahim shows that the government is becoming increasingly totalitarian, said DAP lawmaker Tony Pua today.
Zaid’s 2015 book “Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation of Malaysia” was banned under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) as it was “likely to be prejudicial to public order as well as public interest and is likely to alarm public opinion”.
Denouncing this as a “curt excuse”, Pua (photo) said the ban was “proof of the government’s outright disregard for freedom of expression and ideas in Malaysia”.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 10 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
“It goes to show the immense and arbitrary power that the PPPA accords the Home Ministry to ban (books) without any clear reasoning... and 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,” added the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.
The ban bore a resemblance to how totalitarian regimes like Joseph Stalin's USSR or Mao Tse Tung's China would ban forms of expression that were prejudicial to the interest of ruling elites, observed Pua.
On the contrary, democratic states dealt with such issues through due process.
“In a democratic state, the authors and publishers would be hauled to the courts to be charged with 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,” Pua said.
Aside from Zaid’s book, 43 other government gazettes were issued to ban publications last year.
Among the targets were "Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation - Islam in a Constitutional Democracy” by a group of eminent former civil servants called G25 and several books by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF).