Book cover of From Majapahit to Putrajaya
PETALING JAYA, 27 Nov 2008: A leading bookstore in Kuala Lumpur has stopped selling a book by Malaysian public intellectual Dr Farish Noor, pending an investigation by the Home Ministry.
The entire stock of the book, From Majapahit to Putrajaya, was confiscated from Kinokuniya’s KLCC outlet on 15 Aug 2008 by officers from the ministry’s Selangor office in a regular annual inspection. Other book titles, mostly on religion, were also seized.
“Kinokuniya will not be selling these titles until the Home Ministry arrives at a judgement. We do not practice self-censorship, but this is a pending issue, so we will wait for a proper decision,” Kinokuniya corporate affairs manager Theresa Chong told The Nut Graph.
She said the enforcement officers were supposed to inform the bookstore of a decision within two weeks, but they have been waiting for three-and-a-half months now. “We have been asking them to give us an answer,” she added.
However, From Majapahit to Putrajaya, a collection of essays about contemporary Malaysia published in 2005 by Silverfish Books, is still being sold at other bookshops. Also still on sale, including at Kinokuniya, is the Malay translation of the book, Di Balik Malaysia: Dari Majapahit ke Putrajaya.
Chong said officers routinely take books to investigate when the contents are in doubt. “They are from the authorities, so we have to co-operate with them,” she added.
While the books belong to the store as stock, Section 18(b) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) allows for any authorised official to temporarily seize books deemed unacceptable even if a title has not yet been banned by the ministry.
Silverfishbook’s Raman Krishnan, who only heard about the ministry’s actions through word of mouth, described the situation as “totally, utterly absurd.”
“This book is four years old. Everybody has read it. A bit late, isn’t it?” he said in a phone interview.
“Will the ministry pay for the books they have taken?” he added.
ZI Publications, which published Di Balik Malaysia, was also not notified by the ministry that Farish’s book was being investigated.
Still available in KinokuniyaIts executive director Rashid Khan said ministry officials should not have the authority to confiscate books in this manner. “Books do not require a permit,” he said.
“The ministry should first study the product, read the book, and conclude that it is unacceptable. Then only can they direct bookstores to not sell the book. I believe that a book is legal until it is banned,” he said.
“[These confiscations are] not fair — not to the author, the reader, the publisher, or the bookseller,” he said, noting that bookstores like Kinokuniya would lose out on sales of books that other stores still carry.
Rashid added that if officers needed to read any book for their investigation, they should either request copies from publishers or buy these books themselves, instead of confiscating stock from bookstores.
Rashid said that it was time for booksellers to come up with a common statement, protesting these arbitrary confiscations, to protect their business interests.
Secretary for the Home Ministry’s Publications and Quranic Texts Control Division, Che Din Yusoh, told The Nut Graph he was not aware of the book seizures from Kinokuniya. “[The Selangor branch] has not reported this to me yet,” he said.
Attempts to reach the ministry’s Selangor office director were unsuccessful.