I do agree with him about reviewers who regurgitate the story and offer no opinions. (One author recently told me that he was most upset that a local journalist had even posted spoilers in a review! That is a total no-no.) I also agree that local books should take priority.
The lack of reviews is not lack of other reviews to plagiarise (the cheek of it!), but as I've said before, the lack of space, advertising on book pages to pay for them, and a chronic lack of reviewers.
(The New Straits Times has no reviews at all. Rehman Rashid mentioned this last week at the MPH Hi-Tea for Authors, saying that they lost all their good people who could write about literature in a major shake-out some years ago, and since now they don't have writers of the right calibre anymore, it's better not to venture into reviewing at all. Frankly I think that's a cop-out. Newspapers have a social responsibility, reviewing books is part of that responsibility. Especially when they turn round and weep crocodile tears about how few Malaysians read.)
Raman also lays this interesting charge at the feet of reviewers - the fear of what will happen if they dare to be critical:
We are so afraid of hurting feelings that we have developed non-reviewing into an art form.Perhaps it's also fear that the person who gets a bad review turning round and demanding an explanation from the newspaper. This happened to a friend of mine who dared to be critical in a recent theatre review. Why should reviewers ever be forced into the position of having to defend themselves? This is an unhealthy practice and editors need to nip it in the bud.
I would like to see more critical reviews, but are local authors ready to know what we think of their books?? I must confess I have a whole stack of books I haven't reviewed because if I were honest I'd be very critical, and might lose some friends.
Discreet silence might be better. But in the long run, surely it doesn't help.
By the way, I very much enjoyed this review today by Rabiatu Abubakar.