Malaysia: The Extent to which Fawning Officials Go to Please The Boss


February 5, 2018

Malaysia: The Extent to which Fawning Officials Go to Please The Boss

by Anisah Shukry

An outpouring of solidarity for dissident artist Fahmi Reza in the form of posters shared online, after a warning from Malaysian police over his caricatures of the prime minister. – Fahmi Reza Twitter pic, February 5, 2016.

Images of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak dolled up in chalk-white makeup, with a bright red gash for a smile and neon green (or occasionally lush orange) hair, greet visitors to the Facebook community page called Grupa.

It is an acronym for “Grafik Rebel Untuk Protes & Aktivisme”, or “Rebel Graphics for Protests and Activism”, which brought together several graphic designers and digital artists to design posters for last year’s Bersih protest in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, they have set their sights on a new project: flooding the social media with pictures of a clown-faced Najib – sometimes grinning, sometimes sad, and sometimes with a rose dangling from between his lips – along with the hashtag #KitaSemuaPenghasut (we are all seditious).

In Malaysia, where an award-winning cartoonist was censured for drawing satirical comics on the Prime Minister and his wife, Grupa’s antics are more than just a colourful dig at Najib.

They told The Malaysian Insider they were risking arrest to stand up for fellow graphic artist Fahmi Reza, who posted the first clown caricature of Najib on his own Twitter on January 31, and promptly attracted police attention.

In Fahmi’s debut clown poster of Najib, he drew a fang-like smile on the Prime Minister’s face and sinister-looking eyebrows, with the caption: “In 2015, the Sedition Act was used 91 times. Tapi dalam negara yang penuh dengan korupsi, kita semua penghasut (but in a country that is full of corruption, we are all seditious).”

It was in response to the Attorney-General’s decision to close investigations into the RM2.6 billion found in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Not impressed, the newly-set up Twitter account for the Police’s Cyber Investigation Response Centre (@OfficialPcirc) warned him that he was being watched.

“My first reaction was shock,” Fahmi told The Malaysian Insider as he recalled receiving the tweet.

“I didn’t know the existence of that police cyber unit, PCIRC, until they tweeted me that warning.”

But that feeling quickly turned to outrage when he read its tweet, especially the words “Gunakan dgn berhemah&berlandaskan undang2” (use properly and in accordance with the law).

Big Brother is watching

Defiant, Fahmi immediately wrote a post on Facebook in Malay, which translates to, “In a country that uses laws to protect the corrupt and oppress those brave enough to speak out, it is time we abandon all niceties when fighting the corrupt rulers”.

He also posted another satirical artwork on Twitter, using the police’s words against them in the caption, along with the hashtag #BigBrotherIsWatchingYou, an ode to George Orwell’s 1984.

The activist, who recalled his arrest 12 years ago for drawing a poster on police brutality, didn’t expect the Internet’s graphic artist community to rise up with him in solidarity this time around.

The #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement was a “new wave graphic rebellion against the Old Order”, he said, and the response has been overwhelming.

“It was beyond my expectations. It proved to me that I was not alone. There were others who share my outrage.In the past, graphic designers have largely kept themselves out of the limelight when it came to politics and activism. Grupa is a breath of fresh air,” said Fahmi.

On Grupa’s Facebook, fresh caricatures of Najib are posted every hour, and social media users are lapping it up.”Make a shirt of it, I’d buy it,” urged Facebook user Apisz Fumi in the comments section.

“That is one frightening image,” observed Richard Lee, to a digitally edited picture of Najib baring rotten, bleeding teeth and a cheerfully bright red clown nose.

Grupa said the movement came about when they decided to produce clown-faced posters of Najib to show solidarity with a fellow graphic artist and disgust at the ruling class for “constantly abusing the law”.

“We started releasing several posters on our Facebook page and before we knew it, we even had the public submitting their own versions of Clown Najib to us. To date, we have released 46 posters depicting Najib as a clown,” the group said, adding that they received dozens of paintings from “the citizenry” a day through email.

But the group, as well as Fahmi, risk running afoul of the law, more specifically Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

A conviction could land the artists a fine of up to RM50,000, a year’s jail, or both.And as if to drive this point home, @OfficialPcirc’s only tweet since issuing the warning to Fahmi comprised an image breaking down that same law.

But the prospect of having the police cyber unit clamp down on them doesn’t seem to perturb Grupa, even though they risk courting more trouble than Fahmi, given the flood of caricatures on their page.

They said they were frightened of just one thing: being trampled over should they not voice out.

“So far, no authorities have contacted us, but that may change. We are looking forward to it,” they added.

Global attention

The BBC report on Fahmi Reza and the solidarity shown to him by fellow graphic artists. – BBC pic, February 5, 2016.

For the time being, the group plans to continue sharing clown images of the Prime Minister as long as it believes citizens are being repressed and denied their right to free speech and freedom of expression.

Besides receiving Facebook likes and shares, they gained international publicity with a BBC report on them titled “PM left red nosed by censorship protest”.

Grupa said they were left “humbled and surprised” by the attention.

“We didn’t expect it to go big…Actually we did lah, I mean, you mess with freedom of expression this is what you get lah, blowback,” they quipped.

Despite this, the group is strict about maintaining anonymity. “We are an anonymous collective group of graphic designers and digital artists who work as a team devoid of a formal hierarchy. There is no one in charge as we feel that our artwork should do the talking for us.You can say that our posters are in charge.”

Fahmi said he was ecstatic by the Malaysian graphic design community’s strong spirit of resistance.”It shows that they can ban a poster, but they can’t ban the idea behind the poster. Because ideas are bulletproof.”

And he is confident Malaysia’s #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement will herald a change in society.

“The outpouring of solidarity posters from graphic artists with their own versions of a clown-faced Najib despite the police warning against it was a clear act of defiance and represents a shift in the way ordinary people react to police intimidation.

“When people are emboldened to defy and stand up against injustice, it chips away at the power structure that keeps people docile.”

Clearly emboldened by the movement, Fahmi shared the BBC report on his Twitter yesterday, with the caption, “#KitaSemuaPenghasut has spread. The rebellion has begun.”

He told The Malaysian Insider: “That BBC took interest in the story shows how preposterous it is to consider a satirical graphic featuring the Prime Minister to be a threat.”


February 2, 2016

A Fearless Cartoonist challenges The Royal Malaysian Police over his Najib Clown Cartoon

by Arfa Yunus

http://www.freemalaysiaytoday.com

fahmi-reza-4

Artist and activist Fahmi Reza has warned police against arresting him over his artwork depicting Prime Minister Najib Razak as a clown.In an open letter posted on his Facebook page today, Fahmi said his arrest would only get him more publicity and draw more attention to his art pieces.

“With all due respect, I hope the Police would not make a rash decision to arrest me, following the Police report lodged by Ali Tinju and the Red Shirts movement against the poster I shared on social media.CaLsvZcVIAMmfH9

As you know, the poster was a satire based on current issues, which is protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees ‘every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression’,” he said.

Fahmi recently received a warning from the Police for uploading a caricature of Najib as a clown, as part of a campaign against the Sedition Act.

In lodging a police report yesterday, Ali Tinju, whose real name is Mohd Ali Baharom, said Fahmi’s artwork had caused “public outrage” and could influence the rakyat to hate the Prime Minister.

Fahmi, however, said that if he was arrested, it could draw more visitors to his social media accounts and would inspire more people to rebel, become more aware of their rights, and be unafraid to speak up against corruption, injustice and oppression.

“I end this letter with Newton’s Third Law: ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’.”

Zunar seeks Freedom of Expression via The Washington Post


January 5, 2015

Zunar seeks Freedom of Expression through The Washington Post: What a damning shame for the Malaysian Government

By Zunar January 1, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-malaysian-government-has-no-sense-of-humor–and-thats-dangerous/2016/01/01/9f4437aa-af26-11e5-9ab0-884d1cc4b33e_story.html

Zunar is the pen name for the Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque.

zunartoon01032016

I’m a cartoonist in a country where cartooning can be a crime. Under my pen name, Zunar, I expose corruption and abuses of power by the Malaysian government. As it happens, I have a good deal of material to work with. For instance, Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently facing questions about a $700 million “donation” made to his personal bank account.

Congrats Zunar

MALAYSIA-POLITICS-MEDIA-RIGHTS

Last February, Police raided my home in the middle of the night and hauled me off to jail. I was handcuffed for eight hours and thrown into a cell with all the other criminal suspects. I managed to avoid telling my cellmates what I was in for: using Twitter.

I was accused of sedition over a series of tweets I sent out opposing the jailing of a prominent Malaysian opposition leader. Now I’m facing nine charges under my country’s archaic, colonial-era Sedition Act, which could result in a 43-year prison sentence. The court proceedings against me begin this month.

Najib and Obama

I was in the United States in November to receive a press freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. While I was discussing my case with American journalists and cartoonists, President Obama was in Kuala Lumpur meeting with Najib — the third time they met face to face.

Obama is eagerly courting Malaysia in his efforts to fight extremism and to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and his meeting reportedly focused on that to the virtual exclusion of everything else. That’s a grave disappointment and a missed opportunity. Obama has a responsibility to put the issue of human rights on the table.

The legal assault against me is nothing new, but it marks a major escalation. The authorities have repeatedly sought to silence me. My office has been raided multiple times since 2009, and authorities have confiscated thousands of my cartoon books. In 2010, five of my books — including “1 Funny Malaysia” — were banned by the Home Affairs Minister, who declared the contents “detrimental to public order.” Later that year I was detained by Police and locked up for two days after the publication of “Cartoon-O-Phobia.” To say the least, the Malaysian government has no sense of humor.

In late 2014, my webmaster was called in for questioning, and three of my assistants were arrested for selling my books. I was also brought in for questioning by the Police, and the company that processes orders for my website was forced to disclose my customer list. In January, the Police raided my office and then opened two investigations in February under the Sedition Act. That’s when they really threw the book at me.

The government hasn’t just targeted me and my associates; it also has cracked down on the entire ecosystem of free expression. Three companies that printed my books were raided and warned not to print my books in the future or their licenses would be revoked. Likewise, bookstores that carried my book were raided and their licenses were threatened. As a result, no one dares print or sell my books.

In such an environment, people like me must turn to the Internet to share our opinions and art. But now that space is under attack as well.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey recently proclaimed that the platform is a bastion of “freedom of expression” and speaking “truth to power.” With my personal slogan of “How Can I Be Neutral, Even My Pen Has a Stand,” I embrace his vision. The reality, though, is quite different.

If a person can face sedition charges for stating a belief in 140 characters or less, then there is no freedom of expression. The Malaysian Sedition Act is incredibly broad, banning any act, speech or publication purported to bring contempt against the government or royal sultans. In 2012, Najib pledged to repeal the act because, he said, it “represents a bygone era.” He’s since reversed course and moved to strengthen it.

I’ve been charged with one count of sedition for each supposedly seditious tweet. I could successfully fight one, or maybe two, counts, but nine counts and a potential 43-year prison sentence make clear that the government wants to make an example of me. I need help from people around the world who share my commitment to freedom of expression.

Amnesty International is highlighting my case as part of its Write for Rights campaign, the largest human rights effort on the planet. You can personally write to Prime Minister Najib and call on his government to drop the charges against me and to abolish laws like the Sedition Act that squelch freedom of expression. Public pressure from around the globe can make a big difference in my case and beyond. I hope you’ll join with me to take a stand.

 

 

 

 

P.Ramlee’s Message to Dear Leader Najib Razak et.al in UMNO


August 14, 2015

COMMENT: I have decided to leave this article in Bahasa Malaysia, although my readers are not just individuals who read and understand the Malay language, which our language nationalists still dream of making into a global lingua franca. It is MP Zairil Khir Johari’s tribute to the legendary Penang born and Penang Free School educated P. Ramlee, composer, director, singer-musician and comedian.

Najib and Rosmah-The Stars in LondonThe infamous Duo

The article contains valuable and relevant political messages for our dear Leader Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor and the current crop of UMNO leaders.–Din Merican

Here is some information on the late P. Ramlee, courtesy wikipedia.org: P. Ramlee was born on the first day of the Eid festival, which fell on 22 March 1929. His father, Teuku Nyak Puteh, was a sailor from Aceh, who later married Che Mah Hussain.

He attended Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Melayu Kampung Jawa (Kampung Jawa Malay School) and Sekolah Francis Light primary schools. Next he went to the famous Penang Free School secondary school until the second World War broke out. During the Japanese occupation years in Malaysia, he continued his studies at the Japanese Navy Academy. When the war ended, he resumed his studies in Penang Free School and was very active in sports.

In 1947, he won the first place in a song competition organised by Penang Radio. seven years after his acting career started, P. Ramlee directed his first film, Penarek Becha. In 1957, he appeared in the first of his Bujang Lapok comedic films, in which he acted along with Aziz Sattar and S. Shamsuddin, and which are still popular among modern Malay film watchers. During his career he directed and acted in 66 films, and had more than 360 songs to his credit.

P RamleeThe Pride of Penang–A Man of Prodigious Talent

He returned permanently to Kuala Lumpur after years with Shaw Brothers in Singapore. His final film was Laksamana Do Re Mi in 1973. In his last song, “Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur” (Tears in Kuala Lumpur), also in 1973, the lyrics depict his crushed feelings from a series of disappointments and setbacks upon returning to Malaysia after years in Singapore.

P. Ramlee was married three times. His first marriage, to Junaidah in 1950, ended in a divorce four years later. His second marriage, in 1955 to Noorizan Mohd. Noor Menonolq, a member of the Royal family of State of Perak, ended in divorce in 1961. His last marriage was in November 1961, to Salmah Ismail, a very famous singer known as Saloma.

On 29 May 1973, P. Ramlee died at the age of 44 from a heart attack and was buried at Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery, in Kuala Lumpur.

In 1986, 13 years after his death, in honour of his contributions to the Malaysian entertainment industry, the P. Ramlee Memorial or Pustaka Peringatan P. Ramlee was built in his home in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. In 1982, the street Jalan Parry, in the center of Kuala Lumpur, was renamed Jalan P. Ramlee in his honour. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Malaysian honorific title Tan Sri, and then in 2009, the honorific title of “Datuk Amar” by Sarawak State Government. The Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, an avid fan of P. Ramlee, presented the award to his adopted daughter, Dian P. Ramlee, in a ceremony honouring veteran artists in Kuching.

On 31 October 2010, a 90-minute documentary on his life was aired on History Channel Asia. During the documentary, it was revealed that P. Ramlee’s death was a shock to the nation, and a sense of collective guilt began to spread nationwide, as prior to his death he had been discredited and rejected by his own nation,citing that he was a “has been” and that his songs and film were no longer marketable. The documentary also revealed that despite his previous success in the entertainment industry, P. Ramlee died a penniless man, having given away the last of his money to a visitor to the house whom he deemed needed the money more than he.

The P. Ramlee House is a museum situated along Jalan P. Ramlee (formerly Caunter Hall road) in Penang, Malaysia. The building is a restored wooden house that was originally built in 1926 by his father and uncle. The house had previously undergone multiple repairs before being taken over by the National Archives as an extension of its P. Ramlee Memorial project in Kuala Lumpur. Items on display at the house include personal memorabilia related to his life in Penang, and items belonging to his family.–www.wikipedia.org

Malaysia: Lessons for Najib Razak from P. Ramlee

by Zairil Khir Johari

Nama P. Ramlee sememangnya tidak asing lagi bagi kita semua. Kehadiran Seniman Agung ini dalam arena perfileman negara telah meninggalkan kesan yang sangat besar dalam dunia seni, mahupun terhadap pembangunan masyarakat Malaysia. Sehingga ke hari ini, filem-filemnya masih menjadi tontonan dan rujukan umum.

Relevan sepanjang zaman

Penderma Utama

Hal ini kerana segala apa yang ditonjolkan dalam karyanya bukan sahaja relevan sepanjang zaman tetapi juga sarat dengan nilai dan kritikan sosial yang tajam. Ambil sebagai contoh adegan daripada filem Ali Baba Bujang Lapok arahan P. Ramlee, di mana setelah watak Ali Baba yang dilakonkan Aziz Sattar kembali pulang dengan sebuah peti yang penuh dengan wang emas, isterinya langsung bertanya: “Dari mana kanda curi wang ini?” Dijawab Ali Baba: “Kanda bukan curi, kawan kanda kasi, da.” Lalu isterinya membalas: “Kawan kanda siapa? Kawan kanda siapa?” Dengan penuh kejengkelan, Ali Baba membidas: “Eh, engkau berapa banyak mahu tanya da?”

Tidak sangka pula, adegan daripada filem tahun 1961 ini masih relevan pada hari ini, lebih 50 tahun kemudian. Mungkin ramai yang boleh bayangkan adegan yang serupa dengan dialog berikut: “Oh, banyaknya duit ini. Dari mana Dato’ curi wang ini?” “Saya bukan curi, kawan saya derma, lah.” “Siapa kawan yang derma itu? Siapa kawan yang derma itu?” “Eh, rakyat ini, berapa banyak mahu tanya lah?”

Selain menggelikan hati kita, P. Ramlee juga seorang budayawan yang berpandangan jauh merentasi zaman. Beliau mampu secara kritis mengangkat pelbagai isu dalam masyarakatnya – baik persoalan kebudayaan, ketidakadilan sosial mahupun agama dan moral. Seringkali, karya-karyanya akan memberi peringatan akan kepincangan yang bakal menimpa masyarakat sekiranya sesuatu masalah tidak diatasi dengan segera atau jika masyarakat tidak melepaskan diri daripada takuk yang lama. Dalam konteks ini, filem bagi P. Ramlee bukan sekadar alat hiburan, tetapi turut menjadi alat untuk mendidik dan membuka minda masyarakat.

Citra keagamaan dalam filem P. Ramlee

Dalam kepelbagaian tema yang dibawa oleh P. Ramlee dalam filem-filemnya, tema agama, dakwah dan moral tidak kurang pentingnya. Namun begitu, kaedah pengupasan citra keagamaan oleh P. Ramlee ini tidak mengambil bentuk yang nyata. Sebaliknya, ia lazimnya disuntik melalui simbolisme yang membawa makna yang tersirat.

Misalnya, dalam filem Pendekar Bujang Lapok, sikap Wak Mustar yang memaafkan para samseng biadab yang menolaknya di jeti perahu menggambarkan salah satu elemen moral yang dituntut dalam agama. Begitu juga dengan ketiga-tiga pendekar yang dimainkan oleh P. Ramlee dan dua sahabat karibnya, Ajis dan Sudin, yang mengembara untuk mencari ilmu. Bukankah ini merupakan “jihad” yang besar dalam agama?

Kuala Lumpur 06 May 2014. Labu (M. Zain) and Labi (P. Ramlee) with a kadi (Aziz Sattar) in the movie

Keprihatinan P. Ramlee terhadap kesenjangan kekayaan antara golongan miskin dan kaya juga terserlah dalam karyanya. Dalam filem Labu dan Labi, beliau secara tajam mengkritik golongan kaya yang menindas dan tidak ikhlas dalam mewakafkan harta kepada golongan miskin. Ini dapat dilihat melalui watak Haji Bakhil yang mempunyai agenda tersembunyi sewaktu beliau mendermakan harta kepada rumah anak-anak yatim. Kritikan terhadap sikap tamak golongan kaya turut boleh dilihat dalam filem Tiga Abdul, apabila watak Sadiq Sigaraga, seorang saudagar kaya, telah jatuh miskin akibat daripada kerakusannya. Pada penghujung ceritanya, watak protaganis, iaitu Abdul Wahub, kemudian mendermakan rumah kedai kepada anak-anak yatim, lantas menampilkan elemen kebajikan dan tanggungjawab sosial.

Kehidupan masyarakat Melayu suatu ketika dahulu yang sangat kuat bersandar kepada unsur-unsur tahayul juga turut dikritik oleh P. Ramlee. Dalam satu adegan dalam filem Seniman Bujang Lapok, P. Ramlee memerlukan wang sebanyak RM350 untuk berkahwin, sedangkan beliau pada waktu itu sedang mengalami kesempitan wang. Lalu, Sudin memberikan Ramlee sebentuk cincin yang menurutnya memiliki hikmat. Cincin itu digunakan oleh Ramlee untuk meminta wang daripada  seorang pengurus syarikat filem yang bernama Kemat Hassan. Namun, Ramlee disergah oleh Kemat Hassan dan hanya mendapat RM5. Kecewa, Ramlee bertindak membuang “cincin hikmat” itu ke dalam longkang.

Babak ini memberi pengajaran bahawa apa sahaja yang ingin dicapai oleh manusia haruslah dilakukan dengan usaha yang keras. Penyandaran terhadap elemen-elemen tahayul bukan sahaja ditegah dalam agama, malah ia juga mampu menjadi penghadang kepada kemajuan masyarakat.

P. Ramlee sebagai pendakwah

Kepekaan P. Ramlee terhadap persoalan agama dan moral dalam filem-filemnya menjelaskan bahawa agama bagi beliau bukanlah alat untuk melemah dan memundurkan masyarakat. Sebaliknya, ia merupakan sumber untuk menggerakkan masyarakat dalam pelbagai sektor kehidupan.

Bagi P. Ramlee, agama juga bukanlah suatu alat untuk menghukum, sepertimana yang difahami oleh ramai daripada kita pada hari ini. Beliau lebih suka menampilkan citra agama yang progresif dan bertoleransi terhadap kerencaman masyarakat kita yang berlatarbelakangkan pelbagai kaum dan budaya. Alangkah baiknya sekiranya kita dapat mengiktibarkan cara pandang dunia P. Ramlee ini.

Akhir kata, P. Ramlee tidak melakukan dakwah melalui cara-cara yang biasa, umpamanya melalui penonjolan imej-imej kewarakan yang jelas lebih mementingkan bentuk daripada isi. Jika diteliti karya P. Ramlee, jelas beliau memilih untuk berdakwah melalui jenaka dan budaya popular yang halus bentuknya tetapi tajam kesannya. Isu-isu yang diketengahkan pula berkisar pada kepentingan ummah, kedaifan golongan miskin serta penindasan terhadap yang lemah. Dalam cara tersendirinya, P. Ramlee sebenarnya menzahirkan nilai-nilai agama yang sebenar.

Sesungguhnya, sumbangan P. Ramlee adalah sangat besar kepada kita semua. Walaupun sejarah akan selama-lamanya mengingati beliau sebagai seorang seniman dan budayawan yang tersohor, jelas usaha-usaha beliau sebenarnya menjangkaui batasan seni dan budaya. Malah, jasa dan baktinya dalam memajukan citra agama yang berjiwa besar dan progresif juga jelas melayakkan beliau untuk digelar sebagai seorang pendakwah. – Roketkini.com

https://youtu.be/Sna5-EeUMjw?list=PL0069E04E6745E940

 *Penulis adalah Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera

Congratulations, Zunar


October 3, 2014

Congratulations, Zunar

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Pirates-of-Carry-BN

Despite Putrajaya’s restriction, the work of cartoonist Zunar titled, “Pirates of the Carry-BN”, has been accepted into the Library of Congress in Washington, USA.

Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, said his book would be catalogued in the Asia Section of the library and become one of the more than 120,000 books of cartoons there. “For me, this is a form of appreciation, as none of my works are recognised here (in Malaysia). Some are even banned,” he said in a statement today.

Zunar said in a ceremony on October 1, Sara G. Duke, who is the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in Prints and Photography Division, accepted the book on behalf of the library.

He said it was an honour to be part of the library’s 200-year-old history that boast a collection of over three million books and 33 million catalogued books. “The book is not found in any libraries in Malaysia. It is also not sold in any bookshop here for the same reason,” he said, adding that some of his previous works have been listed in the Library of Congress records, but does not exist physically.

Zunar is currently in the US, attending a month-long tour, “To Fight Through Cartoon”. He also held a solo exhibition at an art gallery, The Crane House in Louisville and gave lectures on art and journalism at the University of East Kentucky, the University of West Kentucky, Manual High School and Berea College.

Sara_Zunar_Zunar_Pic_03102014Zunar (left) and Sara G. Duke, curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in Prints and Photography Division, holding a copy of ‘Pirate of the Carry-BN’. – Pic courtesy of Zunar, October 3, 2014.

He is expected to attend a forum next in New York City and in San Francisco, where he would appear as a guest at the Annual Convention of The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists for three days from October 9.

Zunar is a political cartoonist who was detained under the Sedition Act for drawing cartoons which were deemed seditious. Seven of his books were banned in Malaysia.

In the “Pirate Of The Carry-BN”, he highlighted the unsolved murder of a Mongolian woman, the political conspiracy against opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the wife of the present Prime Minister, and the Scorpene submarine deal and purchase.

He recently initiated the “Cartoonists Against Electoral Fraud (CAEF)”, a movement to protest against election fraud in Malaysia. And, he is the recipient of an award for “Courage in Editorial Cartoon Drawing 2011” by Cartoonist Rights Network, Washington. – October 2, 2014.

Literature moving into obscurity


June 15, 2014

Literature moving into obscurity

by Bhavani Krishna Iyer*@www.thesundaily.com

http://www.thesundaily.my/node/256005

E Literature

I HAVE vivid recollections of receiving brickbats from family members and friends when I made the announcement one eventful day that I was planning to pursue a doctoral degree in English Literature.

Many thought that such a degree would not earn me a living and yet others thought literature was out of vogue. I would say both these groups were neither completely right nor wrong, but the point is I have no regrets having pursued my passion.

It was uphill all the way getting material, and my search to support my thesis often ended in futility. I remember scouring bookshops in India where the assistants would send me to the deepest, darkest and most obscure corners in the shop to look for books related to literature. I often felt small but never any less important.

IT and engineering references were hot sellers and the bookshop owners used to tell me that literature books don’t sell because there was no demand.

There is also this common complaint that studying literature will not be of any use for a working adult unless one is teaching the subject. Not forgetting the acidulous remark we get that literature will not teach anyone how to make a sandwich or build a bridge, hence, why bother?

A course mate said she was almost coaxed into doing something “more marketable” when she was about to embark on the PhD. Such were the harsh realities when all things related to science and technology appeared to have elevated status at work and outside work, due to their perceived importance.

English writersWhen I stood in front of my boss years ago, asking for time off to attend classes, I was not surprised that he asked “how is it going to be of any benefit to you and the company.” I simply said, “I will be a better person to say the least, and of course as an employee, I will have a more enlightened view of my surrounding, the environment and the people around me.

“People with a literature background have better written and other communication skills and it has been widely accepted that understanding complex ideas and theories and doing research come easy,” I explained. He did not say anything further.

The zeal for literature is very much a personal preference, either you like it or you don’t and for those who are consumed in it for reasons other than academic, they will know the many-pronged benefits. I am a staunch believer that the interest can be developed.

Exposure to literature keeps one afloat in a conversation about the life and times of people which would appeal to just about anyone. Additionally, one’s vocabulary increases by reading literature and last but not least, literature serves as momentary escapism from the harsh realities of life. It serves to de-stress people who are overcome by the stress of modern living. People who read literary works will know the power and pleasure of using the language with all its quirks.

Personally, I think, literature adorns one with the ability to appreciate the enriching array of human characters and experiences.”But literature is difficult,” is often the lament from many, but let me tell you it need not be so if you get into the groove of it and start with the right material.

The Ministry of Education has incorporated a component called Language Arts in its English Language syllabus where pupils from Year 1 study rhymes, short stories and others to “activate pupils’ imagination and interest”.

I am told by a friend who is a teacher trainer that the English language teachers are exposed to teaching literature in the classrooms, in a small way from the way I see it but this is a good move and I hope we get this going without high-handed interference.

Having said that we seem to be in transition most times from quick-fixes in as far as learning English is concerned and perhaps a revolutionary policy in teaching and learning English might be just the answer to arrest the decay.

*The writer was a language teacher and now teaches part-time in public universities, apart from having a full-time job. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com