Prominent cartoonist Zunar expressed his protest, in principle, against the banning of the controversial comic by Malaysia-China Business Council chief executive officer Hew Kuan Yau by Putrajaya yesterday.
Zunar, who admitted that he has yet to read the book ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for Win-Winism’ in its entirety, stated he was “strongly against the banning of the comic”.
“Until today, I haven't read the whole content of the comic. What I heard are only hoohas from the ministers, government institutions and political parties without being specific about which pages and what subjects they are not agreeing with.
“I would like to make it clear that personally I may agree or may not agree with the content, but I am strongly against the banning of the comic,” he said.
He said his stance is based on the principle that one’s interpretation cannot be used to ban comic books.
“The principle is simple - ‘Cartoons and comics are a matter of interpretation. If you do not agree with the contents, no problem. But do not use your interpretation as a law to ban it.’
“Don't like? Don't read!” the artist, whose full name is Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, said in a statement today.
However, the cartoonist stated he is against the distribution of this comic book at schools.
He added that any party who feel defamed by the book’s content or find it to be seditious could file a civil suit in court, without the government having to resort to a complete “unacceptable” ban.
This would allow the artist the chance to defend himself, Zunar said, citing the 2014 Court of Appeal judgement in lifting the then government’s ban on his books.
“This (suing) is a better alternative than an outright ban on the implausible ground of prejudicial to public order,” he said.
Meanwhile, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang congratulated the Home Ministry on its actions.
In a Facebook post today, he said the move was needed to reject political cultures that could be a detriment to national harmony.
“Congratulations to the Home Ministry on its firmness.
“We must reject the political culture of ‘pests’ (makhluk perosak) that can threaten national harmony, and the government must be firm in taking action against any party which crosses this line,” he posted
Yesterday, the Home Ministry announced the ban of the book by Hew, a former DAP member, for, among others, promoting and spreading erroneous facts about communism ideologies.
The ban applies to all three language versions of the book - Chinese, English and Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
The controversy first arose when it was revealed that the BM version of the book, created by Hew and published by the Penang-based Asia Comic Cultural Museum where he is the curator, had been sent to libraries in national and vernacular secondary schools for free.
The Education Ministry has repeatedly denied authorising the distribution of the books at schools and is investigating the matter.
Hew, known by the moniker “Superman”, said the book was intended to encourage school-going children to learn more on the BRI by China. Aside from the BRI, the publication also touched on hot button issues such as on the Uyghur Muslims in China.
He had further claimed a copy had been presented to top Chinese leaders like China president Xi Jinping by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in April this year.
The Prime Minister’s Office, however, denied having any role in the presentation of the book to Xi.