PETALING JAYA, 27 Jan 2010: After two months of study, the Home Ministry still has not decided whether a Barry Wain book on former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should be banned or not.
Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mahmood Adam, when last spoken to on 19 Jan, said a study of Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times had been completed by ministry officials.
But he added that a final decision at the ministerial level had yet to be made about the book by the former Asian Wall Street Journal editor.
“There are various aspects we have to look into further,” Mahmood said without elaborating. He also would not confirm news reports quoting sources that a recommendation to ban the book had been made.
The Nut Graph‘s subsequent attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.
On 26 Jan, an officer in the ministry’s Quranic Text and Publications Control Division said the division had met its two-month deadline of 18 Jan to complete its review of the book.
“At our level, we have finished our task and it is now for the higher authorities in the ministry to decide,” the officer said, requesting anonymity because civil service protocol does not allow him to speak to the media.
The 800 copies of the hardcover book remain in the Customs Department’s custody at Port Klang. The books, which arrived in two batches of 500 and 300 respectively, were seized in November 2009. They will be sent back to Hong Kong if the book is banned.
A decision to ban the book in Malaysia would be based on the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which gives the home minister discretion to refuse circulation, withhold delivery or return to sender, any publication that is deemed prejudicial to public or national interest.
Earlier this week on 25 Jan, however, the High Court lifted a ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam. The judge said the home minister’s act of banning the book was “illegal and irrational as there was no evidence to show that the book was prejudicial to public order.” The book had been in circulation for two years before it was banned.
On Wain’s book, Mahathir himself has said that it need not be banned. “I have read a proof copy and I think it is good for the public to read it,” the former premier wrote in a blog posting on 8 Jan.
In an earlier posting on 22 Dec 2009, he urged for the book’s release, saying he was “not in need of government protection.” He also welcomed a royal commission to probe the book’s claims that he squandered billions of public funds on mega projects.
Malaysia is reportedly the only country where the sale of the book is being delayed. It is understood that the book is in its third reprint for Asia.
For related stories, see In the Spotlight: Freedom of Expression