Controversial book editor nabbed, investigated for sedition

AN overseas-based book editor under probe in relation to a sedition case has been taken into police custody upon his return to the country.

According to a Malaysiakini report, Kean Wong, who edited the controversial “Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, And Hope in New Malaysia” book published three years ago is currently being held at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters (IPD) and is being investigated for sedition.

When contacted by the news portal, Wong’s lawyer Goh Chia Yee confirmed the arrest.

According to rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) executive director Sevan Doraisamy, Wong was nabbed at the Kelana Jaya immigration office while he was applying for his passport renewal earlier today (Oct 16).

“Wong’s phone was seized by the cops during the investigation,” Sevan was quoted as saying by FMT today (Oct 16).

“Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance And Hope in New Malaysia” is published by GerakBudaya Enterprise Sdn Bhd’s Strategic Information and Research Development Centre.

The book sparked controversy in 2020 after it featured an image similar to the national coat of arms on its cover, illustrated with a naked child flanked by two tigers with humanoid faces stepping on a crocodile.

The publisher, Gerakbudaya, later apologised for the design but said it had no intention of insulting or ridiculing the national symbol.

The book comprises political analyses and reports on the 14th General Election (GE14), which marked the end of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) six-decades of grip on power.

The book was banned in July 2020 by then-home minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin due to complaints regarding its cover, which included a caricature of Malaysia’s coat of arms, the Jata Negara.

Back then, the case was investigated under Section 5 of the Emblems and Names (Preventing Unlawful Use) (Amendment) Act 2016, Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act 1948, Section 8 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984, as well as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

At the time, rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) criticised the probe, saying that the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1963, under which the investigation was carried out, only prohibited the use of the official coat of arms without written permission from the minister.

“The law did not prohibit any artistic rendition inspired by the nation’s coat of arms, such as the one used on the book’s cover, which no sane person would mistake for the country’s actual coat of arms,” LFL had reportedly said.

Interestingly, in 2020, graphic artist and activist Fahmi Reza had tweeted an explanation about the cover, which he said was in fact a painting that had been in existence for years.

According to Fahmi, the controversial book’s cover was a painting made by Shia Yih Yiing and was showcased at a local art exhibition in Kuala Lumpur that was open to the public in 2014. – Oct 16, 2023


Main pic credit: FMT

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