Dec 24, 2009

Tun Mahathir's maverick book withheld by Home Ministry

PETALING JAYA: The book on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, "Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times (Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific)" was withheld by the Port Klang branch of the Home Ministrys’ Quran Publication Control and Text Division.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department headquarters confirmed that the book had been withheld but clarified that it was not held by the Customs Department as reported by online media.

“Following investigations, it was found that the book was actually withheld by the Port Klang branch of the Home Ministrys’ Quran Publication Control and Text Division,” the department’s public communications section senior assistant director of customs 1 Zazuli Johan clarified Thursday.

It was also reported that the former premier wanted the book on him, which was written by veteran Australian journalist Barry Wain to be released, saying that he did not need any protection.

The book takes a critical look at how Dr Mahathir led Malaysia as prime minister from 1981 to 2003. The book credits the former premier with Malaysia’s economic growth but it also blames him for losses of RM100bil during his tenure.

On Wednesday, DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate Dr Mahathir over allegations in the book.

Dr Mahathir in his blog welcomed the suggestion saying that the commission should not be confined to one Prime Minister alone but should also look into Tun Abdullah Badawi’s years in power.

Malaysia Transparency International president Datuk Paul Low also called for the release of the book saying that it was a matter of public interest.

“Why should it be withheld? It can always be made available across the border. It doesn’t make sense. When you withhold something, it is because it is harmful the society especially children, but in this case it’s an issue of information or research by somebody.

“We should defend it with the truth. We need to be much more open about it,” he Thursday said when commenting on the book which was held by the authorities.

Low said he believed that the Malaysian society was matured enough to be able to discern what was correct information and make proper assessment.

He added that even Dr Mahathir called for its release and had no reservation about it being distributed.

In a media statement issued by the Aliran executive committee recently, Malaysians should not be denied the right to have access to material that critically commented on Malaysia’s recent history and of its past leaders from a wide range of perspectives.

It said that Malaysians’ right to make their own judgement and assessment of things past and present must be respected and honoured in a country that claimed to be very democratic.

“Otherwise, we shall be exposed as a sham democracy,” it said adding that it called on Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein to confirm if the book has indeed been held up, confiscated or banned.

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