Malay indie group strikes back at BTN, demands public apology

Screen capture shows a slide of the BTN’s Research and Publication Department that listed indie book publishers that it labelled as ‘anti-establishment’.
Screen capture shows a slide of the BTN’s Research and Publication Department that listed indie book publishers that it labelled as ‘anti-establishment’.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — Accused of leading an anti-establishment movement against the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, a group of Malay independent book publishers and writers are now threatening to take action against the National Civics Bureau (BTN) if it refuses to apologise.

In a statement here, the group gave the government agency a 14-day deadline to issue the public apology and retract the accusations made in a teaching module uploaded on its website earlier this year.

“We deny the accusations made by the BTN in the slides that appeared on its website on March 11 and were subsequently removed on June 15,” they said.

“We believe that BTN, under the Research and Publications division, has made reckless claims without any verification and we demand that BTN issues a public apology.

“Should BTN fail to retract this teaching module and admit the mistakes it made in the slides on their website, we will not hesitate to take further action. We give the agency 14 days to respond,” they added.

The statement, sent to the media via email by Faisal Mustaffa of Merpati Jingga, an independent book publisher, was also backed by writers Benz Ali and Melati Rahim, and several others, including Du Book Press, Thukul Chetak, Group Buku Jalanan and Frinjan.

Earlier this week, Malay Mail Online reported that the independent book publishers were tarred by the BTN as masterminds of an “anti-establishment” movement to influence youths voting in the 14th general election in a set of presentation slides that were uploaded on the agency’s website on March 11.

In the slides, BTN’s Research and Publication Department listed six publishers whom they claimed are the “main players” of the movement, naming Sinaganaga of independent group Sindiket Sol-Jah and publishing house Studio Anai-Anai as the “chief”.

Others named include Amir Muhammad who heads alternative publishing house Buku Fixi, Aloy Paradoks of Selut Press and Sang Freud Press, Aisa Linglung of Lejen Press, Mutalib Othman of Dubook Press, and Faisal of Merpati Jingga.

BTN also listed DAP member Melati Rahim as one of the icons of the young generation who are bringing “ideas of freedom and extremism”, accusing her of “writing pornographic stories” despite her “Muslim woman image”.

Another “icon” listed was outspoken writer Benz, whom it claimed was spreading the ideology of socialism while rejecting the monarchy and religious institutions.

Two others listed as “icons” were pro-opposition activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim and Zikri Rahman of independent public library movement Buku Jalanan.

BTN further alleged that the “indie gang” has a lot of silent followers and will bring negative impact to the government as they are currently moving freely without being monitored by the authorities.

In their statement today, the group of writers and publishers told BTN that the term “indie” refers to being “independent” and not bound by the rules of other established institutions or organisations.

“But the definition of ‘indie’ according to BTN deviates from the actual meaning of the term and gives the impression that we bring bad influence to the country,” they said.

Despite denials by the government and the agency, sporadic leaks of closed-door events conducted by the BTN or featuring its staff have continued to entrench suspicions that the bureau was a hotbed of racism and “brainwashing”.

A senior BTN official caused an uproar back in 2010 when word leaked that he had used the terms “si mata sepet” and “si botol” at a closed-door Puteri Umno gathering to describe the Chinese and Indians respectively.

The terms are considered derogatory with “si mata sepet” meaning slit-eyed and “si botol”, alcoholic, in Malay.