What happens next?
Well, Animah's letter has gone to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Culture, and many more individuals and agencies. I am waiting for her go ahead before I paste it up here. We need to give all these bodies time to digest and respond to it.
Meanwhile we wait and see.
We have been told that this matter was actually raised in the parliament but it was neatly sidestepped and ignored. Truth is, very few in the Government, and in the opposition, actually care. There are more 'important' issues.Frankly, this cannot be a fight for book lovers alone. Those in the book industry must also express their dismay over the bannings.
I was talking to one of the larger local publishers the other day, with two of the books on the restricted list - two of the extremely innocent titles we all were joking about.
"Any idea why your books were restricted?"Oh yes. Didn't Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Fu Ah Kiow say the other day:
"None at all."
"Have you tried appealing?"
If the distributors feel that any of the restrictions are unfair, they can always appeal by sending the book to our Putrajaya headquarters for review. We will see what the problem is and correct it if necessary.Perhaps there is inertia in the book industry and as Raman suggests, those involved might feel more comfortable "selling rice, ikan bilis and sugar instead". One book restricted, never mind there are plenty more books on the shelves.
Perhaps also there is fear. Raman reports that another book distributor had promised to give Raman a list of books which had been restricted, but was told:
No lah, my boss does not want to get involved, he said. After they stop all our shipment from Singapore, susah lah.As Raman says:
This is precisely what book banners and book burners thrive on: fear. And book banning and book burning is where it all starts.(Do read Raman's post in full as he works up a better head of outrage than I'm capable of.)
The books that are restricted, by the way, are not the only books missing from our shelves. There are now the books the distributors aren't even attempting to bring in.
I spoke to a distributor recently who said that he had brought in just a handful of copies of a book published in Singapore which contained three memoirs by individuals involved in the Emergency. (I have the book and it is of definite historical interest.)
He was sure that if he brought in copies in larger quantities to supply the bookshops, his books would be confiscated in Johor.
How many more books don't even make it here?
But he did say that with any title he feels might be considered controversial, he submits a copy to the Ministry headquarters in Putrajaya. And that so far he has had no trouble getting approval.
So please distributors and publishers, do appeal. For the sake of all those who love books (and let's put it bluntly, keep you in business.) And please let us know what happens.