How long will it be before bookshops have no stock to sell?
What makes me angrier than the banning is how little public reaction there is to this news in Malaysia. And nothing in the mainstream media.
I thought that it was pretty telling that the Jakarta Post (registration necessary) carried (on page 3! half-page!) article protesting the ban of a history book, Ruth T. McVey's The Rise of Indonesian Communism on 30th September. In Stigma against communism kills freedom of speech with ban on history book, M. Taufiqurrahman writes:
The book focuses on Indonesian communism as its theme, a subject that was strictly off-limits in the country until the downfall of the authoritarian Soeharto regime in the 1990s. ... (It) is no rabble-rousing manifesto bent on persuading readers to take up arms and fight the powers that be. It's a highly pedantic textbook, not to say tedious in parts, which meticulously chronicles the development of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), from its founding to its temporary eclipse in 1927 after a failed insurrection against the Dutch colonialists. ... Every university student who cares enough to go to the public library will have probably come across this book, if they do not own a (photo) copy of it themselves. After all, it is compulsory reading for any student of political science during their early years in college.The book was seized by Customs and Excise Officers at Soekarno Hatta International Airport.
Echoes in all this of the Malaysian situation, right? Especially the paranoia with the 'C' word.
But here's the difference. The paper investigated the story. Journalists called and hounded and followed leads and obtained statements from the officers involved and printed them. And even if:
McVey's book remains stashed away somewhere in a vault at the Customs and Excise Office. It seems the work, like so much of the country's history, has yet to see the light of day, buried under continuing bigotry and narrow-mindedness.at least now the public (or at least those who read this english language paper) are aware of the issues.
Last night some friends met for buka puasa and a get-together. Most had seen Amir Muhamad's The Last Communist, either in the cinema or on DVD so it seems Singapore is doing a roaring trade from Malaysians it seems.*
Even banned stuff can be found here with a bit more effort, so perhaps that saps the will to fight on this issue. But to me the very fact that a book or film is banned without adequate reason, without debate, is a serious moral issue.
*Amir will be talking about his next (yet to be banned?) film tomorrow (5.30, Sat 14th) at Silverfish. Let Usha/Phek Chin know if you want to attend at 03-22844837