Kit Siang moots parliamentary panel to review ban on 1,600 books

Veteran DAP politician Lim Kit Siang singled out the July ban on pro-moderation group G25’s book 'Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation ― Islam in a Constitutional Democracy' as the 'most shocking' of the recent book bans. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Veteran DAP politician Lim Kit Siang singled out the July ban on pro-moderation group G25’s book 'Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation ― Islam in a Constitutional Democracy' as the 'most shocking' of the recent book bans. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Malaysia needs a parliamentary committee to revisit the government’s ban on more than 1,600 books over 40 years, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang said.

Lim, who is the DAP parliamentary leader, believes however that such a committee would not be possible under the current administration and would be feasible if the federal opposition Pakatan Harapan comes into power.

“There must be a Parliamentary Committee to review the ban on over 1,600 books in the past 40 years to uphold the bedrock principles of moderation, openness, tolerance and inclusivity in the nation’s Constitution and nation-building process,” he said in a speech last night at a forum on books.

He said such a parliamentary reform will have to wait for Pakatan Harapan to win the next general elections, which he said “will usher in a spate of parliamentary reforms in the first 100 days of Pakatan Harapan in Putrajaya”.

Lim had commented on the recent spate of book bans, which he claimed represents the “rise of extremism, bigotry and intolerance” and to be at odds with the key principles for the nation.

“The spate of book bans are not only a violation of human rights of Malaysians to freedom of expression, they represent a direct attack on the bedrock principles of Malaysian Constitution and nation-building,” he said.

“All Malaysians must unite to defend these bedrock constitutional and nation-building principles as they will decide whether Malaysia, a nation of diverse races, religions, languages and cultures, will succeed and prosper as a nation and be a model to the world or become a failed state,” he added.

Lim singled out the July ban on pro-moderation group G25’s book Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation ― Islam in a Constitutional Democracy as the “most shocking” of the recent book bans.

The Home Ministry had on September 6 banned a total of 22 books and gazetted the bans on September 28 and October 3, including publications by Muslim scholars seen as progressive.

An October 10 report by think-tank Penang Institute showed that the Home Ministry had banned 1,695 books from 1971 until this year, with its analysis showing that Malay-language books and publications on sex and religion being heavily-policed.

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