Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Biog of Mahathir Isn't Reaching Shops

800 copies of an authoritative new biography of our former PM entitled Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times have been held up for the past three weeks at customs at Port Klang. Says The Asian Sentinel, the book written by former Asian Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Barry Wain :
... is a warts-and-all, critical but fair account of Mahathir's 22 years in power. It is certain to become an essential study for scholars seeking to understand the onetime premier's reign and its consequences. But maybe not in Malaysia itself unless the locals buy through Barns & Noble (available Jan. 10) or Amazon (Jan. 5) for US$60.75.
And the piece gives a lovely insight into how a book can be prevented from reading its audience without ever actually being banned by time time honoured practice of foot-dragging :
Foreign published books air-freighted into Malaysia often go through customs without being checked, or with only a cursory check at the airport. Books sent by ship or by land from Singapore are often stopped for inspection, however, which can mean customs officers spending weeks reading the material. Sometimes they just sit on the book, leaving the publisher with little option but to withdraw it or be faced with being hit with storage charges, leaving the book effectively banned without the government having to face criticism for formally banning it.
Aliran says that this is
... nothing short of crude and reckless censorship, although indirect, the effect is the same. It very undemocratically denies Malaysians reading material that should be made freely available to all and sundry. This book is of particular interest to citizens who are appalled by the disclosure that under Mahathir RM100 billion could have been squandered. They have been waiting anxiously to find out how this atrocity involving a mammoth, mind-boggling amount could have happened without anybody commenting on this extravagance.
(One silly silly line at the end of the piece :
But for readers who buy Kindle or another electronic reader, it's easy to get.
because of course there isn't a single e-reader for the Malaysian market as yet !)

More about the book on Anak Bangsa Malaysia's blog.

Update 27/12 :

This from The Star :
The book Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times is not being put through any additional scrutiny by the Home Ministry.
It has been withheld to undergo the normal process for any foreign publication, said ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Fuad Abdul Aziz.
“Studying the content is the usual process for any publication from abroad and the book written by Barry Wain is no exception,” Ahmad Fuad said in a statement yesterday.
He said this was to ensure the publication’s contents would not jeopardise national security and public safety.
He said the ministry had 60 days from the time it was submitted to decide if the book should be allowed to be distributed in the country.


C said...

Can't he use his billions to bribe someone then? jk. I guess I can get it since I'm in Canada.

katztales said...

Looks like a marketing opportunity for someone who travels a lot...

poppadumdum said...

Mahathir would probably have another coronary if he knew about it - after all, he IS the Champion of Democracy and Free Speech, and the Lion of Anti-Censorship.

Fadz said...

I'm fairly certain some Keadilan and/or DAP and/or Pas people will find a way to distribute the book, with all that scandal it may surface. But it's in English, right? Darn, that would limit the readership to only those who could twist whatever's written into a political agenda.

Never mind that Optimus Prime placed Malaysia in the eyes of the world, never mind he brought us through the Great Recession without indebting the country to World Bank. Never mind all the good, let's focus on the bad.

Politic is intriguing. Politicians make it ugly.

Greenbottle said...

can someone please review this book...i don't bloody care if it's banned or not, if i want to read it bad enough i'll find ways to get it.

mahathir is an interesting guy but i hate to waste my time reading another hagiography (not that i've read any) with nothing apart from an exercise in sucking dick- metaphorically speaking.

Tiny said...

It's interesting how many people assume the book has been censored because of its (only heard this at the water cooler) descriptions of vile, atrocious dictatorship. If you know anything of Barry Wain at all, you would know that the book is likely to also carry some very strong and positive views of the old man. Is it still censorship if you disallow a person to say nice things about an individual you don't like? Or is it "principle"? Sitting on the fence is rubbish if you have to make a decision. But for observation, it's a fantastic vantage point. Too bad we prefer rabid rant to two sides of a story.

bibliobibuli said...

this holding up of books is the way books are prevented very often from reaching the shops in KL. it is not censorship per se. many books just disappear into a void. (i hear this from booksellers and distributors and i have seen some of the correspondence, so this is no trick of the imagination)

we may see the books here at some point in the future - let's see. but right now the bookshops cannot get their ordered copies.

and please we do need to be very vigilant about this practice. we have got "restricted" books released in the past because we highlighted the case on blogs and in the press. apathy of course is the easier path.

Fadz said...

I don't know about others, but I'm not assuming the worst. However, this book was written and published outside Malaysia, therefore was not scrutinized by local 'authority figures' during its production.

As such, much liberty could have been taken with this book. We all know how selective our local media can be.

Eliza said...

I've read the interview with the author in The Edge and on the whole, I would say, he is more positive than negative of Mahathir's administration. The books could be a victim of inefficiency rather than interference. Now that the issue is highlighted though, am hoping the authorities will push the books through. I do agree with Sharon though that we need to be vigilant against these sort of delay-and-disappear tactics. As for Dr. M, so much has been written about him already, a lot of it negative, that I don't think he pays too much attention or gets particularly bothered.

On the e-book, yep - you can't find one in Malaysia. I own a Sony E-Book reader but it was purchased in the US. Even the e-book site assumes you are in the US for downloading/payment purposes which is annoying.