Congratulations Zunar

November 25, 2015

Congratulations Zunar

by Kean Wong

Sapuman -Zunar


For a well-travelled Malaysian zipping between London, Cambridge, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Washington DC and New York, cartoonist Zunar belies his reputation as a hell-raiser activist, always sketching our homeland in black and white, the splashes of colour only to accentuate the differences he has with the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Instead of his apparently fearsome reputation which has earned him a record nine charges for sedition and a possible 43 years in prison, Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque is mild-mannered, a little droll, and funny in the way Malaysian ministers are not.

Like his satirical cartoons that often harshly portray a nation on the skids, the symmetry of culprits making off with glittering loot as the rakyat go under, the past week had a similar balance of scenes as US President Barack Obama thrilled his Malaysian hosts in Kuala Lumpur while Zunar made his case for urgent Malaysian reforms to the US Senate’s Human Rights Caucus in Washington DC and the US Mission to the United Nations in New York.

As Zunar claimed again last night in his speech in New York when receiving this year’s top media freedom prize from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “the government of Malaysia is a cartoon government – a government of the cartoon, by the cartoon, for the cartoon.”

“For asking people to laugh at the government, I was handcuffed, detained, thrown into the lock up,” he told a slice of Manhattan’s moneyed elite at the glittering black-tie gala in the storied Waldorf Astoria, which raised US$2 million (RM8.43 million) for the CPJ’s work.

Congrats Zunar

“But I kept laughing and encouraging people to laugh with me. Why? Because laughter is the best form of protest. My mission is to fight through cartoon.”

“Why pinch when you can punch? People need to know the truth and I will continue to fight through my cartoons. I want to give a clear message to the aggressors – they can ban my cartoons, they can ban my books, but they cannot ban my mind,” the political cartoonist said, echoing the points he’s been making in the past few weeks in London, Sydney and Washington DC.

In Sydney the previous week, Zunar had regaled the big crowd of Malaysians and Australians at the state Parliament how the corruption scandals that have rocked Malaysia inform his arresting caricatures, his trials of satire, and his outrageously popular female protagonist’s helmet-haired symmetry, consumed in flights of fantasy money and jewels.

Obama at Taylors University

Although he insists that Malaysia has become a “kartunation”, “run by kartuns for kartuns,” many Malaysians demurred with that last part, preferring they were left out of an increasingly melancholy joke’s punchline.

For his hosts the Sydney MPs Jamie Parker and Jenny Leong, they were bemused and perhaps a little incredulous that a colonial-era law like the Sedition Act was still widely used to silence critics of a government in a proudly independent Southeast Asian nation.

Leong, who explained her father was originally from Sibu but never returned after his studies in Adelaide, welcomed Zunar to “a nation, a Parliament that celebrates the freedom of expression”.

The Australia Director of New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Elaine Pearson, also took the lectern to congratulate Zunar for his “courage in cartooning” and for being awarded HRW’s Hellman/Hammett grant this year, which helps him work and publish at a time when his books are banned and whole print runs are confiscated in the thousands of copies in Malaysia.

In Washington DC in the past several days, Zunar caught up with his growing legion of friends and fans in the epicentre of America’s political cartooning community like Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Wuerker of Politico.

For a town obsessed with China and its impact on the Asian neighbourhood now unsettled by apparently waning American power, Zunar’s interventions were effectively rendered in forums on Capitol Hill and media like The Washington Post.

While President Obama made plain the key role Malaysia (and Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak) plays in America’s plans coping with a rising China asserting itself across the region – in what some in Washington agreed was a “blingtastic success” among young people in Manila and Kuala Lumpur, thanks partly to Obama’s fable-like story of an Indonesian childhood – Zunar on the other side of the world stubbornly kept the stage curtains a little askew, to highlight what the cartoonist alleges was the misleading golf game indulged in at top levels.

Like many Americans following the clampdown on human rights in Malaysia, detailed in last month’s HRW report ‘Creating a Culture of Fear: the Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia’, Matt Wuerker is not amused.

“Sadly, Zunar’s case doesn’t surprise me,” said the softly spoken Wuerker, ahead of Zunar’s arrival in Washington.“It’s entirely too common the response to cartoons and satire in so many parts of the world today. In some sense, it’s a compliment to irascible cartoonists like Zunar. It just demonstrates the power and effectiveness their work.

“At the same time the response by a government that uses threats, lawsuits and other forms of intimidation to try silence dissent just demonstrates a weakness and fragility of their hold on power. Governments that are strong, popular and enjoy the support of their people have nothing to fear from a little ridicule and a few cartoons. Yes, I’m blessed to live in a part of the world where people can take a joke.”

For a Malaysian like Zunar facing jail time – and who has arguably cut through the fog of indifference about Malaysia in noisy power centres like Washington with little more than his starkly drawn portraits of a troubled nation and a rude sense of humour – it’s no joke.

Charlie Hebdo and the Ugly side of Religious Zenophobia

January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the Ugly side of Religious Zenophobia

by Lim Teck

teck-ghee-limAs they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They follow in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper of ices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy.

US-FRANCE-ATTACKS-MEDIA-DEMOLike so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the Prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda. (—Fareed Zakaria, “Blasphamy and the Law of Fanatics,” January 8, 2015.)

The recent massacre of journalists and other innocents in Paris by Muslim extremists has resulted in a spontaneous and universal wave of sympathy, mourning and concern.

Leaders and ordinary people all over the world have joined in widespread condemnation of these dastardly killings; and rightly so. These are acts of twisted minds. There is no way in which the actions of the Muslim jihadists can be justified.

Political satire has a long and honoured tradition in France and in other democratic nations. The satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo — the target of the cold-blooded massacre – has mocked people of all faiths and backgrounds. One cover of the magazine in April 2011 has listed the major religions by rolls of toilet paper marked “Bible,” “Torah” and “Coran” and has the headline “In the toilet, all religions…”

This irreverence towards all and sundry who are in power or authority is one of the distinguishing features of the democratic system that French Muslims have fled towards and now call their own.

One would expect that the Muslim community would be amongst the first to cherish and protect the secular and democratic way of life in France.

If Charlie Hebdo has lately been seen as paying more attention to lampooning Muslim politicians and Islam, it is because both the religion and their adherents have drawn public attention and scrutiny to themselves. In doing so, in standing up for the freedom of expression, the staff of Charlie have had to pay the ultimate price. All thinking and good people must pay tribute to the murdered cartoonists and their colleagues and unreservedly condemn the barbaric acts aimed at silencing them.

Putrajaya and opposition response

So what has been the response of Malaysia and Malaysian Muslim leaders to this abominable act.On the one hand, we have the correct and restrained response of Putrajaya and the opposition parties.

Kudos to our Prime Minister. In a posting on his Twitter account, Najib said that Malaysia, a Muslim ­majority country, stands in unity with France after the attack at the publication’s Paris office. He tweeted “Msia condemns in the strongest terms all acts of violence. We stand in unity with the French people. We must fight extremism with moderation.”

Kudos also to Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad who said that the sensitive nature of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons on Islam cannot be used as a reason to justify the multiple killings of the satirical magazine’s staff members. He said terrorism is a far greater evil than satirical comments and articles against Islam, and that although PAS does not agree with the French magazine’s works, the party believes extremism is not the way to protect the religion.

Anwar Ibrahim, leader of Pakatan and PKR, perhaps belatedly recognising that the source of Islamic religious intolerance and hate is embedded in the leadership of the religion, has urged Muslim leaders across the globe to denounce such acts of terrorism “in the strongest possible terms.”

His colleague, Azmin Ali has noted that “[t]he culprits who committedAzmin Ali these murders purportedly in the name of Islam are actually the enemies of Islam…” Azmin has also been forthright in stressing that “such acts of terrorism and sheer cruelty are completely unacceptable in Islam and we reiterate the paramount importance of justice and moderation and reject all forms of violence and fanaticism.”

Two who are not with Charlie

That’s one end of the spectrum in which our leaders have shown by their measured response that they are or can be part of the civilised world. At the other end of the scale, we have two political leaders — one retired, and the other an up and coming — who have made public comments which are reprehensible and irresponsible.

Khairy_Jamaluddin_(cropped)The first is Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who mocked the need to protect satire that is “racist, xenophobic, bigoted.” Posting on Twitter in response to the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur which said satire should be protected because it is “intended to provoke thought,” Khairy alluded that exceptions had to be made when the content of the satire is offensive. “Even racist, xenophobic, bigoted satire? Please. I condemn the murders. Like I condemned the cartoons,” he posted on Twitter.

This response coming from the UMNO Youth Chief is beneath contempt. It will deservedly haunt him for the rest of his political life. If he thinks that people or organisations that are racist, xenophobic and bigoted deserve to be murdered in cold blood, he needs to look into the mirror himself before he repeats this message.

The other Malaysian whose response is reverberating over the internetDr.Mahathir is former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He has said that Charlie Hebdo had on numerous occasions showed disrespect towards Islam and often derided Prophet Muhammad via caricature.

“Is there a need for them to ridicule Prophet Muhammad knowing that they are offending Muslims? We respect their religion and they must respect our religion,” he said when commenting on the killings.

By his stance, Dr Mahathir is implying, even if he is not directly saying it, that violence is justified against those who do not accord the respect towards Islam that he and his fellow Muslims think the religion deserves. Dr Mahathir has made a great many cynical, inflammatory and instigative statements in the past. This set of comments must rank amongst his most odious.

In some ways, the attack on Charlie can be considered to be the equivalent of the United States 9­11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Like the Twin Tower event, the impact of the killings will be long lasting. It will lead to the hardening of European and world public opinion towards Muslims and Islam. That cannot be good.

Unfortunately the comments by Dr Mahathir and Khairy are not helpful in any way. They will lead to the stigmatisation of Muslims even as they embolden Muslim extremists to engage in “revenge” acts aimed at punishing those (including from their own religion) who do not show the proper respect or are perceived to be disrespectful towards their religion.

TDM : the man synonymous with crony capitalism tells media how he fought corruption!

December 3, 2013

Tun Dr. Mahathir (TDM): the man synonymous with crony capitalism tells media how he fought corruption

by Lee

mahathir-Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) today claimed that corruption in Malaysia is greater now than when he was in office.

Explaining why, Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister was quoted as saying that the law was enforced smoothly and without delay during his 22 years in office, compared to the current state of affairs.

“Quick action should be taken by the government on cases involving corruption and bribery as the public’s perception is important,” Dr Mahathir said.

“Corruption depended heavily on the law and the punishment meted out. One of the most important factors to battle corruption is the expediting of the investigation process,” Dr Mahathir was reported as saying by news portal, Malaysiakini.

He was speaking at a press conference at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur today after attending a forum ahead of the UMNO assembly which begins on Wednesday.

Dr Mahathir had been asked to comment on the issue as the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index Report is due out tomorrow.

The former UMNO President also said money politics was on the rise, as seen in the recent party elections.

“Although the voting format has been changed, but money politics is still alive and kicking,” Dr Mahathir said, declining to elaborate further.

Instead, he said he had an idea on how to combat corruption within UMNO and Malaysia.

“I have an idea and I will seek out a platform to explain and expand on the idea,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini. He also defended democracy in Malaysia, arguing that while it was not perfect, it was still better than having people take to the streets.

“Malaysia’s democracy may not be perfect, but an imperfect democracy is still better than the people taking to the streets and killing one another.”

He was adamant that Malaysia’s democracy was stable and capable of functioning as a social counterweight for all races and communities. However, Dr Mahathir said Putrajaya should own up to its mistakes and work on improving itself to develop Malaysia.

“The essence of democracy is not to achieve victory, but to accept defeat,” he said in his speech at the UMNO International Forum 2013.


Congrats, Zunar on your new Book, Lawak & Lawan

December 15, 2012

Congrats, Zunar on your new Book, Lawak & Lawan (12-14-12)

Local cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar, right)is releasing a new book of Zunar“cartoons for the people” continuing his message of “corruption and abuse of power by the BN government”.

The book, titled Lawak & Lawan (Fun & Fight) boasts 108 full colour pages compilation of his cartoons posted on Malaysiakini and other websites this year.

“What I want to convey is that corruption is not just a political issue, but also is a despicable crime because it involves money,” said Zunar, expressing his intention to continue raising public awareness on the issue.

“Hence, in this book, there will be a lot of cartoons depicting the sufferings of the rakyat due to corruption by the BN leaders and their cronies.The title ‘Fun & Fight’ also reflects my determination as a cartoonist to fight with the rakyat to topple the BN regime,” he said in a statement.

 Book on sale over weekend

Zunar’s books are retailed at RM25 each and can be ordered online through his website.Zunar Lawak & LawanThe book will also be available over a two-day sales event to be launched this weekend at Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

The prominent cartoonist is known for his politically controversial work and was arrested on Sept 24, 2010 for sedition and his books seized. He has since challenged his arrest and confiscation of his works in court.

Three of his books: 1 Funny Malaysia, Perak Darul Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun were banned by the Home Ministry deemed unsuitable for public reading under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Last year, he was honoured with the ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning’ award by the US-based Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI).

Confiscation of Zunar’s Books and Artwork unwarranted

July 31, 2012

Confiscation of ZUNAR’s  Books and Artwork unwarranted, says KL High Court Judge

by Koh Jun Lin@

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has held that the arrest and detention of political cartoonist Zunar in 2011 was lawful, but that the continued confiscation of his books and artwork is unwarranted.

As such, Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera today ordered that the cartoonist’s works be returned. He also ordered the court registrar to determine the quantum of damages payable to Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque. No order was made as to costs.

The zunar new comic cartoon-o-phobiajudge said arresting officer Arikrishna Apparau and investigating officer Marina Hashim had the power to arrest Zunar under Section 20 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and to seize his works under Section 11 of the Sedition Act.

He said the officers had shown that they had reasonable grounds to suspect that the contents of the book ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’ were seditious. Therefore, the two laws allowed the Police to effect the arrest and seizure of the materials without a warrant.

The judge took note of the fact some the cartoons imply that the Judiciary is under the control of the Executive. “(The cartoons) may be considered as political satire by some, but others might regard them as being seditious. (Arikrishna) belongs to the second category – a reasonable conclusion by a reasonable man,” he said.

cartoon-o-phobia 20100924 drawingHowever, he also said it would have only required a “simple determination” to arrive at a decision on whether the confiscated materials are seditious or not. Hence, continued retention of the materials is unwarranted.

“The arrest and seizure was for a reason. That reason was to carry out investigations to ascertain whether the plaintiff (Zunar) had committed an offence under the Sedition Act, or the Printing Presses and Publications Act… Surely it would not take two years to make that determination,” said the judge.

The prolonged retention of the works without further action is tantamount to infringement of Zunar’s right’s to life under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, as selling the cartoons contributes to his livelihood. The items seized include 66 copies of the book and a A2-size collage featuring the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.

Justice Vazeer Alam also ruled that it was sufficient for the police officer to have informed Zunar of the grounds of arrest in layperson’s language, instead of citing the specific legislation used.

‘False democrat’

Speaking to reporters later, Zunar’s lawyer N Surendran hailed the decision as a partial victory, but said he would consider appealing the legality of his client’s detention.

NONEZunar urged the government to return 408 copies of his book ‘Gedung Kartoon’ seized in 2009, and to lift the ban on his other books ‘1Funny Malaysia’, ‘Perak Darul Kartoon’ and three editions of ‘Isu Dalam Kartoon’.

“These books are all banned under the PPPA. The prime minister said some time ago that he would revamp or reform the PPPA. So I would like to say to Najib, please ‘tepati janji’ (deliver your promise) and don’t be a false democrat,” he said.

He pointed out that, under Najib’s Administration, cartoonists have been subjected to the most pressure from the government.

“I was detained. This never happened under the previous Prime Ministers,” he said.

Zunar was arrested on September 24, 2010 during a raid at his office in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, just hours before he was supposed to launch ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’.

He was taken to six Police stations before being held overnight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Police lock-up, and was released on the following day. Zunar then sued Arikrishna, Marina, Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar, the Home Ministry and the government for unlawful detention.

Cartooning in Malaysia: A Tragicomedy

June 29, 2012

Cartooning in Malaysia: A Tragicomedy

by Mariam

Instead of demanding for the restoration of their right to freedom of expression, these professionals are allowing themselves to be used as a propaganda tool by Najib.

The latest group of professionals to fall prey to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s charm offensive are the cartoonists. If this thought is not depressing enough, UMNO appears to have politicised everything from hawkers to households, and car tyres to cartoons.

The event ‘You, PM and Cartoons: Cartoon and Animation Exhibition 2012’ had been billed as the largest gathering of cartoonists and animators, but conspicuous by his absence was Malaysia’s greatest and most well-known political cartoonist, Zunar (above).

In the past few months, Najib has preyed on FELDA settlers, petty traders and taxi drivers. He has rained goodies on them, given them cash handouts and made promises, which he probably does not intend to keep.

Last weekend, the Central Market played host to cartoonists and animation artists in the cartoon and animation exhibition. It was a joint effort by the Konsortium Cartoonist at Work (CAW) and Kelab Putera 1Malaysia (KP1M). Posters and banners for the event included the ‘1Malaysia’ logo.

UMNO Youth Exco, Sohaimi Shahadan and President Kelab Putera 1Malaysia, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (of the Somalia Fiasco) are believed to be the two main people behind the scenes.

Sohaimi is alleged to have instigated the cow-head scandal in front of the Selangor State secretariat, he was behind the harassment of Ambiga after BERSIH 3.0 and he is also implicated in the IMPad scandal.

Observers have asked why the cartoonists are allowing themselves to be used as a propaganda tool by Najib. They appear to be seduced by awards, inclusion in the Malaysia Book of Records and offers of cash, when they should instead, demand that their rights and freedom of expression are restored.

Abdul Azeez claimed that the event was to acknowledge the work of cartoon and animation artists. “Not many people realise that cartoonists and animators play a very important role in the entertainment we enjoy every day.”

Awards and Prize Money

It was reported that the event had scored a milestone in the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest gathering of cartoonists and animators. This was disputed by various people who allege that of the 356 supposed cartoonists, only 50 were actual cartoonists whereas the rest were those who had just signed up to participate in the event.

Najib praised the work of cartoonists and presented awards and prize money to them, because they ‘helped strengthen racial unity’, but he said that “provocative and inciteful work, which could lead to disunity and discord must be avoided”.

Around RM300,000 had been allocated via KP1M, for the formation of Yayasan Kartunis 1Malaysia; however, the details of this organisation are unspecified.

He said, “Cartoonists and animators have an important role in development and progress. Humour in the jokes must insert messages on solidarity, cooperation, tolerance and togetherness to uphold the 1Malaysia philosophy,” and he urged them to “translate and communicate all government policies in a light and relaxed way easily understood by society”.

Najib has taken the unprecedented step of banning the use of caricatures in the forthcoming GE-13. Zunar’s depiction of corruption, excesses by the self-styled “First Lady” Rosmah Mansor, the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya, the Scorpene scandal and the corruption of the judiciary, make stimulating reading.

Sources close to Zunar said: “He refuses to be a part of this programme because it is a political programme, not a cartooning programme. He feels that cartoonists are being used by political leaders for their own agendas.

“The exhibition is not organised by the Cartoonist Association, but an association headed by two UMNO leaders – Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (Kelab Putra UMNO) and Suhaimi Shadan (UMNO Youth’s Economic Bureau Chief).”

Beholden to UMNO

When contacted, Zunar confirmed that he objects to being made a propaganda tool and has rejected the award and prize money. Zunar, whose cartoons have courted controversy, says “Lift the ban on my books, drop the charges against me, stop the threats against my vendors and printers. If you present me with an award and prize money of RM10,000 but still enforce the ban on freedom of expression, then what is the point of the award?”

He criticised the selection procedure whereby politicians decide who receives the awards. He said that it would have been more appropriate to have a selection committee of lecturers in the cartooning field, other cartoonists and writers in the creative world.

Awards were given to 10 other cartoonists and animators including Mior Sariman Mior Hassan for the Revolutionary Cartoons category, Jaafar Taib (Cartoonist with dedication); Hassan Abd Muthalib (Father of Malaysian Animations); Lim Kok Wing (for Innovative Artwork) and Reggie Lee (Community Cartoonist-above).

Zunar claimed that with the award and prize money as sweeteners, cartoonists are beholden to UMNO and will refrain from criticising the government: “Why do the cartoonists not demand their rights and the freedom of expression?

“Does this mean that by binding the cartoonists’ hands and feet with law and rules, he can gain support from the cartoonists? Cartoons should be encouraged to flourish so they can evolve and thrive with freedom to create. It must not to be used to support government policies”.

Zunar said that the Prime Minister should learn to accept humour as positive criticism of his policies and work. He described ‘1Malaysia as a symbol of corruption and said that Najib has detained cartoonists who are critical, banned their books and restricted their freedom, using acts such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act.

Zunar said: “My award would have been Kartunis Berminda Kritis – The Critical Cartoonist. I disagree, because everyone should learn to be critical. Are they trying to say that others do not know how to be critical? Why can’t the authorities acknowledge the content of my cartoons?”

He condemns the way UMNO believes that a trophy, prize money, a photograph with Najib and a listing in the Malaysia Book of Records, are sufficient to placate Malaysians. Zunar said: “What is more fitting than an award is to give cartoonists their rights and restore the freedom to be creative.”

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT contributor