Thursday, January 11, 2007

Books in KKDN Limbo

In the previous post I mentioned that publishers and distributors could apply for the green light from KKDN headquarters in Putrajaya for books they might fear had a chance of being "restricted" by the officers in Johor (as far as one can predict these things!), and could appeal if they felt that books were being "restricted" unfairly. (As Deputy Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow had promised.)

Well, an article in yesterday's Sun illustrated that while this might be so in theory, in practice books submitted in the HQ might well fall into a beaurocratic black hole.

Copies of a book called Faces of Courage, an "historical appreciation of colonial Malaya's legendary Kathigasu family" were apparently seized by KKDN officers in Johor Bahru in March. An appeal was immediately made to the KKDN headquarters in Putrajaya. Nine months on, no decision on the book has been reached by the officers of the publications and Quranic text control division. Principal assistant secretary Yaakob Samad has refused to say why the book was being withheld.

James Wong Wing On writes about Sybil Kathigasu in Malaysiakini:
The Christian Eurasian woman who was very un-apologetically pro-colonial and spoke Cantonese - was particularly remembered by older generations of Chinese residents of Ipoh and its satellite township Papan as one simple, kind-hearted and extraordinarily brave soul who saved many lives and inspired those in despair during the 44-month Japanese occupation from December 1941 to August 1945. To those who are younger, her legend is preserved in her wartime memoirs No Dram of Mercy first published in 1954.

According to the legend, the simple housewife of Dr AC Kathigasu, who operated a clinic at No.141 at Brewster Road in Ipoh, secretly helped to supply medicines and medical services to the anti-Japanese guerrilla forces in Papan where she and her family lived as war refugees. She also helped them to illegally keep shortwave radio sets and listen to broadcasts from Britain and the outside world. Because of those ‘subversive’ activities she and her husband were arrested, tortured and detained until the war ended.
Faces of Courage brings together the 1954 memoirs of Sybil Kathigasu (which has long been available in bookshops here), with a piece by former Communist Party Malaysia leader Chin Peng about the help he and his men received from the Kathigasus during the Emergency; and an account of the subsequent life of Dawn Kathigasu and an interview with Olga Kathigasu, 86, who resides in Ipoh.

It is of course the section by Chin Peng which might be the sticking point for the KKDN. However, his own memoir Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History is available in the bookshops.

Media Masters managing director Ian Ward describes the book as:
... a meticulously researched project based on documented material and actual oral interviews.It paints a very human picture of the Kathigasu story but one that is in significant contrast to the myths that have developed around this subject over the decades. It corrects a number of serious factual errors that have long accompanied the retelling of the Kathigasu saga.
The book is clearly of great local interest and an important historical document, and should be made available to readers here. I managed to buy a copy a month or two back from Silverfish.

And nine months in the booktrade is a very long time, especially when you are a small local publisher trying to recoup your investment.

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