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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Zunar’s arrest, a tragic (for Malaysians) comedy (for rest of the world)

They also pulled my collar, I was physically assaulted, but I kept calm, I did not want to retaliate.”
- Zunar
COMMENT Umno loves Zunar very much; first, they stop him from the leaving the country, then they arrest him for the umpteenth time to ensure that he stays put. But seriously folks, we have truly entered Wonderland, where the queen of the people’s heart goes, “Off with their heads”, and the thugs who run amok lodge police reports after the fact, and the victim is arrested for provoking the attackers.
When I first heard of Zunar’s arrest yesterday, I was worried that he had run afoul of Jakim’s guidelines about excessive laughter - “Among the rules included in the guidelines was the gender segregation for performers and audience, and that jokes made during performances must be appropriate and cannot lead to ‘excessive laughter’.”
I was wondering how exactly he would have stepped over Jakim’s line. I imagined people casually strolling past the artworks and spontaneously bursting into “excessive laughter”. I wondered if Zunar’s exhibit was gender segregated, meaning the artwork depicting males where separated from the ones depicting females.
Then I was informed that Umno had attacked him - in a literary festival - and was dumbstruck because I never thought I would write the words ‘Umno’ and ‘literary’ in the same article, much less the same sentence.
Of course, the news settled in and I realised that Zunar had already been arrested about 10 times and I wondered how many times Umno must arrest someone before they get it right. I mean, the rate they arrest people, soon they will have nobody to blame for everything wrong with this country, even though Umno controls everything, except apparently rampaging Umno members and people who suddenly decide to invade Sabah.
But wait a minute. Wasn’t Ibrahim Ali nearly booked for the same offence when he threatened to burn bibles and the then attorney-general claimed that – “The Attorney-General’s Chambers confirmed today it has closed its books on Ibrahim Ali, saying it cannot prosecute the Perkasa president for threatening to torch bibles as he was only defending the sanctity of Islam and had not meant to incite anyone to religious frenzy”, but more importantly for the purposes of this article, “Elements under Section 504 of the Penal Code cannot be fulfilled because Ibrahim Ali had no intention to insult or cause provocation, which could disturb the peace.”
You do realise what this means of course. A person who threatens to burn bibles in Malaysia can escape criminal liability but a person who draws funny cartoons about the prime minister of Malaysia is arrested, has his work confiscated and faces possible jail time.
You do realise that the only people incited to violence were Umno members that the Umno high command disavows any knowledge of. You do realise that this is clear evidence that the only sensitivities that matter are the sensitivities of thugs and kleptocrats.
Party secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said Umno had nothing to do with the attack even though Penang Umno Youth chief Rafizal Abdul Rahim, who led the attack, made a police report. I do not know about anyone else, but if this were how the police force handles domestic terrorism, then I shudder to think what the PDRM would do when it comes to foreign extremists. Although to be fair, these days I cannot tell the difference between local and foreign extremists.
However, worry not. Prime Minster Najib said, "This is so that we have legislation that allows us to deal with threats promptly and let me be clear, I make no apology for making the security and safety of all Malaysians my first priority."
Of course, this does not apply when Umno made a threat, not to mention a police report and the police did nothing. Therefore, I have two questions:
(1) Is it not worrying that the PDRM seem incapable of preventing violence when threats are made, and
(2) Doesn’t Zunar deserve security and safety?
Malaysia’s unofficial AG
After typing this, I realised who I was addressing these questions to. I mean when a couple is arrested for insulting Kuala Lumpur’s top cop, what more an extremely funny cartoonist for insulting the Grand Poobah, the protector of race and religion but most importantly, the Malaysian Official 1 who has never met a scandal he could not get someone else to bail him out of.
Therefore, either Umno has no control over its members who engage in thuggery or Tengku Adnan is indeed like what Jamal ‘Red Shirt’ Yunos, claimed, senile. It is somewhat funny when you think of it. Pundits claim that Umno dumbs down the population and here is a group of Umno thugs attacking an artist in a literary festival.
Since the authorities have no interest in prosecuting the 1MDB case or the malfeasances pecuniary or otherwise of the Umno state, it is left to artist/activist like Zunar to carry that burden. Of course, trial by public opinion is not ideal but when you have an Umno potentate determined to put the public on trial, things sort of even out.
This, of course, would make Zunar Malaysia’s unofficial attorney-general. He makes his case with cartoons that I must say is better than an attorney-general who behaves in a cartoonish manner, especially for taking action against Malaysiakini for uploading a video allegedly insulting him. Meanwhile, people who cannot take a joke do not seem to understand that these are a punchline to a long-running Umno gag.
What the Umno goons should have done is set up an exhibition by Utusan Malaysia’s ‘Senyum Kambing’ crew and compete for public favour. However, it is much easier attacking a cartoonist in a literary festival instead of putting your money where your fists are, and contesting on even terrain.
But then again, maybe these Umno goons are smarter then I give them credit for. Has anyone ever read the ‘Senyum Kambing’ stuff? Extremely not funny, and I am someone who laughs aloud whenever I hear jokes made at the opposition’s expense. I mean am I not the one who always goes, the opposition is one big joke.
The only words of comfort I can offer to my friend Zunar is that it ain’t over till the fat lady sings but unfortunately by even typing this, it may be construed as an intentional insult meant to provoke a breach of peace.

S THAYAPARAN is commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.-Mkini


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