Kee's World: Veteran journalist gives voice to the people


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 25 Nov 2018

PETALING JAYA: One of the most prolific authors on the local scene, Kee Thuan Chye is back with a book that captures the excitement of the May 9 general election.

Titled The People's Victory, it's a vibrant account of the days leading to Malaysia's historic change of federal government.

In an interview at The Star, he explained why this book is not the same as some of the other's that have been flooding the market.

"It's a dramatic narrative of how we managed to kick out the corrupt Barisan government. I have framed it like a three act movie."

"The first part starts with GE13," said Kee, 64, while acknowledging that GE12 in 2008 was also a real watershed election.

"In 2013, we thought we were going to win. And many of us still believed we were cheated out of it. There was a series of protests and rallies. But then there was the Kajang move, the jailing of (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) and the break-up of Pakatan Rakyat. And it all ended in despair."

However, there comes a turning point.

"The second act I call Hope which comes in the form of the 1MDB expose to and then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's fight for survival. How he got himself cleared by the PAC and the AG.

"Then the old leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad comes into the picture. There were so many twists and turns and dirty tricks, and the climax is GE14 itself," he said.

Following such a triumph naturally the third act is called Euphoria. "Who can forget the day of the elections, and the suspense over the outcome. But we triumphed and it was a victory of the people," said Kee.

"This book is different because it also pays tribute to you and I. We wanted it. Without that it wouldn't have happened. Common people mobilised. Spread the propaganda on social media. Donated money. Attended the ceramah. Volunteered as polling and counting agents. We were there in the sun and the rain. It is our victory.

"I really think this book is a souvenir of all the hard work that went into achieving this near impossible historic event. A testament to spirit and determination of Malaysian people. Whatever they threw, we organised and mobilised. The story of how volunteers rose to the occasion with postal votes was just remarkable. We believed in the right to vote and our democracy."

The veteran actor/author/journalist conceded that he was not initially thrilled at having Dr Mahathir spearhead the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

"I had a lot of ambivalence about it. Mahathir's first rule was the source of so much repression, and there were debates for and against. I was lambasted for posting my reservations."

Despite some frustrations at how the Pakatan government has dragged its feet or backtracked on issues like child marriage and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Kee is generally optimistic about the changes in Malaysia.

"I think the current government is very aware that support from Malays was not all that strong at the GE14. Pakatan came in third after PAS and Umno. So I think the government cannot be too gung ho. A clean break from the past and drastic changes can cause a lot of problems.

"I think we have to build up and introduce principles of good governance which were sorely lacking. It's a long process and the people have to slowly be educated," he said.

Kee feels that a wave of freedom has swept through the country.

"Don't you feel freer? Aside from press freedom. That's a big positive. There is a lot of dirt coming out. Yes, we have to accept that whoever calls the shots will be selective, and while 1MDB is fresh, there will be corruption crimes in the distant past from Mahathir's first era that remain buried.

"Look at the Election Commission, with Art Harun (Azhar Harun) they have definitely got a good man. And I think when Mahathir wanted to be Education Minister, but the voice of the people stopped him. That was a sign that things are going to be different."

Despite rumblings by the discontented and agent provocateurs, the reform agenda is still very much on the cards, said Kee.

"The handover of power is still supposed to hold. As far as I am concerned, it still has to be honoured. The deal is very clear. Failure to do so will undo the goodwill of the victory and plunge us into chaos. It needed a lot of compromise. And this is why we needed the Anwar move in Port Dickson. We have to be prepared because if something happened to the PM, all hell could break loose."

Kee empathises that Malaysians must not think that the battle ended with the swearing-in of a new government.

"People are conditioned to be apathetic, even on issues of draconian laws. I was ecstatic that they impose moratorium on Sedition Act. But many are not so interested. I would also like the Printing Presses, Universities and Colleges and Peaceful Assembly Acts to be abolished or liberalised. But a lot of people can't be bothered."

Was he himself offered a role in the new government?

"Of course not, nobody has offered me anything!" said Kee.

Aside from making his name with non-fiction books like No More Bullshit Please, We're All Malaysians and March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up, Kee is also known as a playwright.

"Last year, I staged my play Swordfish and Concubine. I intend to do more, especially in this new era. In the last couple of years my old play 1984 was revived. First in Mandarin. When I looked at it. I was shocked that the issues had not changed. Perhaps it time to write a sequel!"

 

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