Zunar: No government ban can stop my cartooning

Although the political situation in Malaysia has been very tense since 1998, now the majority of Malaysians are beginning to show defiance against the ruling party Barisan Nasional, which has ruled the country for 54 years. People cannot accept the widespread corruption and high inflation with people living in economic hardship anymore.

The current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is involved in the corruption scandal of the purchasing of Scorpene submarine. This is further scandalised by the murder of a Mongolian model by the name of Altantuya who was also involved in the submarine deal.

She was killed in Malaysia by those close to the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the Barisan Nasional still stays in power from the bountiful of deceits throughout the election. Since all local newspapers, television and radio are controlled by the BN government, the people had to use alternative media such as the Facebook and Twitter to criticise and vent their frustrations.

As a political cartoonist, I use cartoons as a way to criticise the government. Not surprisingly, my cartoons are banned from being published in the government media. I produce cartoons for Malaysiakini.com, my own website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

I also publish cartoon books, but my seven books are banned on the grounds that the contents were “detrimental to national security.” Printers who printed my books and stores that sold them are constantly threatened by the authorities.

In 2010, I was arrested under the Sedition Act when my then new book, Cartoon-O-Phobia, was about to be launched. I challenged the book-banning and the unlawful detention. For this, the Kuala Lumpur High Court will decide on the 27 June.

No matter, I continue to draw, with my work now being followed by a bunch of young cartoonists. As a result, the government-controlled Election Commission recently decided to ban the use of cartoons in the coming general election (to be called before the current term ends in March 2013).

The banning of cartoons during the election is comical and ludicrous. This is because cartooning is a legally-practised medium in Malaysia and therefore the Commission does not have the right to forbid its use. Moreover, this is contradicting the freedom of expression provided to all citizens in the Malaysian Constitution.

I call for the Commission to withdraw this rule or it will become another Malaysian product of jokes to the global community. Recently, Malaysia has become a laughing stock due to the action on cartoonists such as banning of comic books and the detention of cartoonists under the Criminal Act.

I would like to announce that I will be leading a group of cartoonists, the Kumpulan Kartunis Independen (KKI) and will be actively involved before and during the next election campaign.

We will be opening our own Cartoonist Operations Centre and will be moving as a group in a van while campaigning for the coming election.

Our focus is to expose fraud and corruption and misuse of public funds by the current government, such as Scorpene Scandal or the domineering of the PM’s wife. The message-laden cartoons will be distributed in various forms: brochures, posters, banners, videos, to name a few.

I am ready to face the consequences! And I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink!

Zunar is the foremost Malaysian political cartoonist.  Last year, he has been conferred “2011 Courage In Editorial  Cartoon” award by Cartoonist Rights Network International in Washington