Sunday, October 31, 2010
Who ever said local writer cannot produced good work. Then they have not read Kam Raslan's Confessions of an Old Boy - The Dato' Hamid Adventures. I had opportunity to interview the author. His story appears in the sun Aug 2 , 2007
The artist as iconoclast
It's not easy to write humour, but that is what writer/director Kam Raslan does with panache. Publisher Marshall Cavendish (Malaysia) is considering submitting his book Confessions of an Old Boy - The Dato' Hamid Adventures to be nominated for the Impac Dublin Literary Award. The book centres on a retired civil servant who looks back on his life from the 1940s, taking the reader from Kuala Lumpur to Monte Carlo, Los Angeles to Algiers and London. Kam talks to BISSME S. about the book, stereotypes, rewriting history, his frustration as an artist in Malaysia, directing a feature film, and his search for father figures.
theSun: Every writer has a message to convey. What is yours?
Kam: One message was to break down the Malay stereotype ... help to remind us that there are different types of Malays. And once upon a time, my character - an anglophile Malay, an aristocrat - would actually have been defined as the archetypal cliche of the Malay if we had gone back 50 years.
Over time things have changed. There has been the rise of the "working class Malay" led by the likes of (Tun) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad). That is fine.
In the process, these Malays have been scrubbed from history. It is almost an embarrassment to their history. I want to reclaim these people. I want to bring these guys back into public memory.
Why bring them back?
Because when I speak to many non-Malays, they remember these people with affection. They (non-Malays) feel these guys were just like us ... they did the same things together ... saw the world in the same way ... spoke the same language literally.
The people in his (Dato' Hamid's) generation have been through so much. They have lived through so many moments in history ... to be born under the flag of the British Empire ... living through the Japanese Occupation during the war and seeing their British masters run away ... at a fairly young age creating a new country ... governing a new country. My father was one of those people. He came back to Malaysia after having been in London for many years.
I want to remind people that people had lived lives in this country that were very exciting and very interesting ... bigger than walking around the shopping mall and choosing a new Gucci bag ... bigger than choosing a new handset.
When you remember that, you will realise that not only have these people lived this wonderful life, this country has a more interesting history than people it give credit for.
Did you receive any threats, especially death threats, when you had your character Dato' Hamid referring to his son, a politician, as the Ayatollah?
I am one of the few writers in this country who have not yet received a death threat. (laughs)
Is that good or bad?
I think a death threat is good for sales. The fellows who read my book and spoke to me - they identify more with the Dato' than his son, the Ayatollah. It might be that they are with Ayatollah but they want to be like the Dato'. Maybe there are people out there (who want to kill him), but they have not said anything to me.
Is the character of the Ayatollah a reflection of the people running this country?
The people who are running the country are the children of the same elite. They still have the same sensibilities. They still enjoy a good cigar and probably have a good whisky ... I don't know ... I can't say for sure. They still share the same tastes. But that is private. In public though they now dress in different clothes. They have to speak to different and wider audiences. So they put themselves over as being the opposite of their father's generation. Those are the people who are running the country and the ones below them, that is a different story.
Tell us about a chapter in the book that you loved?
Hamid goes to his son's house and he sees there are no books, but there is an incredibly long dining table. I have been in many of those houses. One of the saddest things about those houses is that the kids are locked up in their rooms with their Internet, checking out chat sites all over the world. That is a monolithic and rather dull cultural image. It is not really remembered now, but an essential part of the Malay culture is to travel. I hear stories of young guys who got on a ship and sailed off and ended up in San Francisco, London and Paris. I have even met some of them.
Are there any similarities between the character of Dato' Hamid and you? And differences?
He doesn't believe in anything. But I do believe in some things. He wants the quiet life and I am not so keen on a quiet life. He loves his luxuries and I love mine too. He can't afford them, neither can I. He has seen more than I have.
There is a hint of the anti-establishment sentiment in your writing. Are you?
I wouldn't say I am anti-establishment. I was born into the establishment. I am anti-rewriting of history in ways I think that narrow the Malaysian imagination. I am anti-inefficiency. I am anti people not being given a fair chance.
Can you elaborate on "rewriting Malaysian history"?
I will give an example. I have a painting on my wall which I cut out from an old British newspaper (1870s). It has a bunch of Malay warriors charging at uniformed British soldiers who are shooting at them. It was the Perak War in 1876. In a way, that image describes me because I am half British and half Malay. That is my Malay side charging at my British side.
But the thing is that the story is not that clear cut. My forefathers were not those Malay fellows charging. They were on the other side and they benefited. They weren't necessarily Pro-British but they were just one faction vying against another.
My mother's family (Kam's British side) is very working class and I am not a member of the ruling class there. I have a working class British background but I led a very middle-class life.
The point I am making is that when I see images of history portrayed in very simplistic terms, when people say that the Malay warriors were charging at British soldiers and we must celebrate, I will say it is too simple.
If you ask me to look at the real background, it is much more complicated and much more interesting. It actually helps to describe who and what we are - we stop being two-dimensional characters and become three-dimensional.
I do not like rewriting history. I like us to be honest in the way we understand our history.
So you think we rewrite history?
I think we do. I remember watching the TV one Merdeka and there was a Malaysian guy who was saying it is really great to celebrate the sacrifices the freedom fighters made. I thought, "who is he talking about?"
One of the great things about this country is that we negotiated our independence. I have been getting the impression that there is a passive rewriting of history that our independence was fought for. Fighting for it suggests guns and guerilla ambushes.
Would you want to turn your book into a movie?
No. It is un-cast-able. The budget is too big. Everyone who reads the book, they are the film directors, they are directing that movie, they can hear it the way they want to hear it and they can see it the way they want to see it. If someone comes along and gives them an official image, they will be disappointed.
You said you always wanted to direct your first feature film. Why haven't you done so?
I had an offer to do a romantic comedy. I like the genre, but I wanted to do something that grips me. I grew up watching the likes of The Godfather. Not that I want to do The Godfather - it has already been done. I am gathering the strength to do it.
Do you have a story idea for your first feature film?
Yes. It is set in Kuala Kangsar in 1917 when a young man returns from Al Azhar University in Egypt. These days we think of Al Azhar as being a potential breeding ground for militant Islamists.
Back then, it was seen to be a place for secular and progressive western ideas. He comes back with modern ideas and comes into conflict with his father who is very much old school of adat (tradition) and working with the Istana (palace).
My hero is found guilty of a crime he didn't commit, and gets away with a crime he did commit. It is so huge and requires so much of money.
Why not start with small films like Yasmin Ahmad and Amir Muhammad have?
You are absolutely right. There are many stories but I never felt confident enough before. Now I have seen Sepet and said to myself "Oh yeah, I know these guys and I could have done that". I think what Amir and Yasmin are doing is fantastic. In fact I am a big fan of Afdlin Shauki.
I will direct my first film when I start getting my proposal together, and start writing my synopsis, and start knocking on the door of the rich and powerful who will sign me a blank cheque.
Which are you more passionate about - going behind the camera as a director or sitting down to write?
It's funny: I enjoy both, I hate both. Directing is getting up really early every day for weeks and constantly having to have an opinion on everything. It is not nearly as creative as you imagine.
The down side of writing - it is lonely, boring and unhealthy. You never move, you just sit there and you smoke.
The good thing with movie making - you have the opportunity to get out and be among so many people. It's exciting when you are making it happen. It's a hell of a thrill - making the sequences come together and the actors giving more than you imagine.
The good thing about writing is that I don't have to think about a budget and constraints like censorship.
Do you think there is less censorship in writing?
There is in a sense. In book publishing, you can say quite a lot. You go through the shelves in any bookshop in the Malaysian section and you can find many very interesting and surprising voices.
What are the changes you like to see taking place in this country?
I really want that one day for all 25 million (of the Malaysian population) to be able to take part in important things ... for everyone to have the tools and the ability to be the CEO ... to be the chief editor of a newspaper ... to be a contributor to our future. Now, because of various policies, we have many people in this country who cannot perform certain functions.
What is the biggest limitation you face as a writer and director in Malaysia?
The creative arts and entertainment in this country are not well paid. Maybe it is because we are not a terribly rich country.
I find that when I get involved in a TV project, it is not considered an important priority to pay people like us.
The way I see it, the people who are creating works that are actually generating an audience should be paid. Instead the priority in this country is the manager. He is considered more important that the creator.
Can you give an example?
Just this morning I went to a production house to talk about a script. The man who owns it has been in the TV industry for 30 years and he has to close his place down. He can't pay his staff. He simply can't get a commission from the TV stations. After generating programmes that were the most popular thing on TV, he has to close down. He's a good guy and played by the rules but he is being passed over. For the creative artist who wants to do something, that is the problem. It is a system that doesn't encourage people to come along and create stuff. The system doesn't exist to recognise these people.
Is that one of the reasons you plan to go back to England to try your luck as director and writer?
Yes. It is tough for me because I know I am good at what I do. It sounds incredibly arrogant. Sometimes I find myself in a situation where I am talking to people who have the ability to make my dream come true.
I say to myself that you are so stupid and I am so talented and don't you understand how it is supposed to work around here? I walk out of the room and it didn't happen. At least if I go to England, I will be tested. I just feel I need to go off and achieve something somewhere else, just so I can come back and prove to people that I am actually capable of doing what I said I was.
Is it frustrating being an artist in Malaysia?
You tell me. How many artists have you interviewed over the years who have said it is not frustrating to be one.
Do you believe writing can change the world? Do you believe your book has changed anything?
We kind of harbour that illusion. But at the same time we can't help it. I've got no choice. I need to do this. I can't turn my back on it (writing).
I would love for a book to change the world. But I don't think that any more. I used to believe that could happen.
If someone read my book and agreed with something in there and said, "I must now do this", it is because of all the other things happening in their lives. It is also because they already believe in that. It is just that my book might have given it a voice and put it into words. I don't think it is possible for one thing to come along and do that.
I love the book, but it is not Martin Luther King Jr standing and saying "I have a dream and let us walk hand in hand". It is not Mahatma Gandhi's salt march.
Tell us about your childhood years and how they have influenced you?
You are not my analyst (laughs). My father died when I was five (Kam was in Malaysia at the time). My first five years were very privileged ones. Suddenly I was taken to England, we weren't dirt poor, but we just suddenly landed in a middle class environment. I was so young and not so conscious of it.
I grew up in an English environment, but I was always aware of being a Malaysian. I would always tell my friends I was Malaysian.
I guess on a psychological level, I was affected by the dislocation and shock that something could be taken away. I am not talking about material things but the fact that my father suddenly disappeared.
I was the youngest of three siblings and looked up to my two brothers. My eldest brother was only 11, and he suddenly had to play a role that he could barely comprehend.
Growing up without a father figure meant I was always looking for father figures and creating them. In a way, with Hamid, it is no surprise that I should feel so at home writing about a guy who is my father's age. But he is not like my father. I have been drawn to seeking out these father figures and at the same time rejecting them. I must say that the biggest single influence of the whole experience is that I really raised myself intellectually. I didn't learn to understand the world around me by asking what that is and how is it that works like that. But I happened to work it out through discussion with my other six-year-old friends. It has given me an enormous sense of independence.
What one piece of advice would you give budding writers?
Don't do it. It's too hard. I would not wish it on my worst enemies. I can get by but I can't see myself making a pensionable future. If my words mean nothing to you, then learn the art of writing ... learn the techniques of writing. Concentrate on it to the exclusion of all other things, and most importantly, live life with your eyes and ears wide open. If you don't live life, you will have nothing to write about.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Here is an interview that talks about bringing Malay literature to the international level to the point of winning nobel prizes.The article appeared in the sun dated Jan 3 2008
Title: Global Malay writing
Lim Swee Tin is one of only a few non-Malays who wax lyrical in Malay, even writing books in the language. Of Chinese-Thai parentage, he has been writing for 37 years and has won more than 20 awards, including the SEA Write Award from Thailand and the Perdana Literary Award. the prolific writer has produced 18 books of poems, seven novels and over 20 short stories. Some of his poems have been translated into English, Russian and Korean. Lim, 55, has been invited to recite his poems in Thailand, Taiwan and Britain. A literature lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia, he also sits on the national language committee in the Education, and Arts, Culture and Heritage ministries. Lim laments to BISSME S. about the dearth of good literary works in Malay and how Malaysians do not read. Nevertheless, he dreams of seeing a Malaysian win the Nobel prize for literature.
theSun: Why do you think there are so few non-Malays in the Malay literary scene?
Lim: Sometimes the non-Malays feel an inferiority complex. Some of them feel that their work will not match that of the Malay writers. Frankly speaking, they (non-Malays) should not have this attitude. They should feel confident about their talent and their work. After all Malay is not a strange language to us anymore. It has been incorporated into our school system for years.
Some say discrimination exists, so a lot of non-Malays are not keen to write in Malay. Is this so?
I do not think discrimination exists. I am a good example. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (a government body that promotes Malay literature) has been publishing my work since 1985.
People say you are the perfect example of discrimination. You have been writing for more than 30 years yet you have not received the Sasterawan Negara (national laureate) award. So far, no non-Malay who has written in Malay has received this award.
I have a hope to get it. I have a dream to get it. I feel I have given a lot to Malay literature. The award is a recognition of your contribution and your sacrifices. If I get it, I will not reject it (laughs). It will be a thrill to be called Sasterawan Negara. I do not think I am being discriminated against. There are many writers out there who are more deserving than I.
What changes would you like to see taking place in the Malay literary scene?
In recent years, I have found the Malay literature scene stagnant. There has not been much progress. Our literature is far behind that of the (rest of the) world. We need to shake things up so our literature scene will move at a fast pace and we will catch up with the rest of the world.
But some Malay novels have been selling more than 200,000 copies. Isn’t that a good sign?
I agree that the popular commercial literature is doing very well. But not the serious Malay literature.
Why do you think serious Malay literature lags behind literature in other languages?
We are stagnant in terms of new ideas. And it is not enough just to have new ideas. It is also important to present these new ideas in a way the world’s readers can relate to them. It also boils down to your writing technique and presentation.
Malaysian writers writing in English such as Tash Aw (Harmony Silk Factory) and Rani Manicka (The Rice Mother) are on the right track. They have somehow perfected the art, presented their ideas so world readers could relate to them. It is not surprising that western journals feature them and their books. At the same time, I also find there are not enough writers producing serious Malay literature. We can count them on our fingers. One particular young writer I am really impressed with is Faisal Tehrani. I see a lot of potential in him.
Why do you think there are very few writers producing serious literature compared to popular fiction?
In the last decade or so, we have sort of neglected churning out a new generation of writers in serious literature. In the past our writing associations and government bodies had many contests and programme to encourage writers to dabble in serious literature.
Some say it is not profitable to write serious literature compared to popular literature. Do you agree?
Yes. In popular fiction, a writer spends three to six months on a book. Then he sells more than 100,000 copies. The high volume will guarantee a high royalty. But in serious literature, a writer may spend several years on one novel and the sales volume is nothing to shout about. So it can be very discouraging to write serious literature.
What are the first steps we should take to encourage young writers to produce serious literary works?
For starters our serious literature needs to be translated into English and many other languages and sold worldwide. When you have the world market, the sales volume will be higher. Slowly the western journals will feature these writers.
I will give one example of a writer from China called Wei Hui. Two of her books Shanghai Baby and Marrying Buddha have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold millions all over the world. The western media also featured her. She is only 23.
The same thing should be happening to our authors who are writing serious literature, for example Faisal Tehrani. When people see local authors of serious literature doing well, more will be tempted to write serious literature.
Some believe the themes Malay writers choose are very national and Malay culture-orientated so it is not easy to translate their books and sell them worldwide. What do you say?
It doesn’t matter what theme you choose. It doesn’t matter what culture you choose. You can choose to write about a Malay fisherman in a village. But you must be able to write it in a way the world could relate to. One good example is Indonesian writer (the late) Pramoedya Ananta Toer. He wrote about situations in Indonesia, yet readers all around the world and of different cultures could relate to his stories. His books are well known all over the world.
There is less effort in translating our literature books into English; therefore the Malay books can’t travel to the overseas market easily. Do you agree?
Yes. We need to translate more of our books into English and other languages so they will be more marketable overseas. But translation is a minor reason. What we really need is the support and people who have the experience to distribute and market our books to overseas markets.
Is the government, especially Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, doing enough to promote our books overseas?
We cannot only depend on the government and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in this matter. Big groups such as MPH can take our serious literature to the world. It (MPH Bookstores) has the resources, the network and most of all, the experience to take our literature to the world. One company I really respect is Silverfish. In the last few years it has taken the initiative to organise international literary seminars and invited well-known writers from all over the world to participate. Indirectly their seminars give exposure to local writers to improve their knowledge and to promote their books.
Is Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka doing enough for Malay literature?
It is doing its best. But there is still room for improvement. Almost every year, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka has a booth to display our books at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Publishers all over the world come to this fair to buy and sell copyrights. But so far we have not heard of any outcome.
What kind of role do you think the government could play in promoting Malay literature?
The government could give grants to writers to attend writing seminars overseas. It is so difficult for writers to get any kind of grant. When a writer travels and attends writing seminars overseas, he meets a lot of people and he broadens his mind and his horizon. It will make him a more experienced writer and this will be reflected in his future work. If the government can send a man to space, why can’t we send a writer to a writing seminar in Spain or Germany?
What is your hope and dream for the Malay literary world?
I would love to see our literature reach world level and win a Nobel prize. I hope this dream will not remain a dream.
Do you think our literature has the potential to be nominated for the Nobel prize?
Yes, it has. I have read many works of Nobel prize winners and I really believe Sasterawan Negara (national laureates) such as A. Samad Said and Shahnon Ahmad have the potential to win this award. A. Samad Said’s Salina would have made a perfect nomination.
So why haven’t we walked this road?
It is not easy to get a Nobel prize nomination... it is a different ball game. First, someone has to nominate your work. This someone must be a scholar of literature and must be well-known worldwide. The Nobel prize committee will then check on the background of the person who nominates the writer ... (also) the background of the writer who is nominated.
So the first thing we should do is to translate our books into many languages and promote them in the world market. Then a scholar of high reputation will be able to see these works. When the scholar is impressed with the work, he or she will nominate it. But how many of our books have been translated into English and other languages? How many of our books have we sold overseas? But it is not too late for us to do that. We have young writers such as Anwar Ridhwan whose work we can promote to the world and still win a Nobel prize.
These days the education ministry is giving more preference to the English Language. Some Malay writers view English as a colonial language and we should not promote it. What do you think?
I do not see anything wrong with what the education ministry is doing. English is important. It is spoken worldwide. If we want to gain knowledge about the world, it is important we master English. My only hope is we do not neglect our Bahasa Kebangsaan (national language). There should be continuous development of Bahasa Kebangsaan.
Some serious novelists don’t like popular commercial literature. What is your stand on this form of literature?
I do not see anything wrong in writing about romance and youth-orientated themes. It still takes effort and energy to write what they write. The best thing is society loves reading them. Indirectly these writers are creating a reading society.
Our society is not a reading society and I support any attempt to promote reading. I believe, with time, these readers might want to graduate from reading only romance and youth themes. They may start looking at serious literature.
Why do you think ours is not a reading society?
We live in a time when people want instant gratification. Reading improves you intellectually. It shapes your personality. But you do not see instant results. It takes time before you see the effects of reading in your life.
So people prefer to spend their money and time on things where they see fast results. For example, if they go to a movie, when the movie ends, they will feel some kind of excitement.
Some say books are very expensive here so people are put off buying them. Do you agree?
I do not agree with that. Going on a date to see a movie is more expensive than some of the books. But people still go on dates and see movies. Why? Once again, they get instant gratification.
What can we do to inculcate the reading habit in our society, especially among the youth?
I remember when I was a kid, way back in the 60s, there were always vans coming to our kampung to sell books. They also buy back old books. People are too lazy to go to the bookshop. So why don’t we bring the bookshop to them?
Let us send these vans everywhere, from the housing estates to fancy condominiums. Who knows, that may spark an interest in reading again. Often we see vans going around collecting old mattresses and selling new ones. Perhaps it is time we see vans that sell books.
Your advice for budding writers?
A writer must always seek out knowledge. You will not be able to write a good novel if you do not have in-depth knowledge. So you must read a lot. You need to attend a lot of seminars. Not only literary seminars.
Attend any kind of seminar – from AIDS seminars to economic seminars. All these seminars will make you more knowledgeable.
Of course, you also need to travel. When you travel, you meet a lot of people and you see a lot of different things and all this makes you knowledgeable. All this knowledge will add substance to your writing and that will definitely impress your readers and critics.
Tell me something about yourself. What sparked your interest in reading?
I was born in Bachok, Kelantan in 1952. My father was Chinese and my mother was Thai. I speak Hokkien, Mandarin, Thai and mostly Malay. I always find myself expressing the best in Malay.
My father ran a small coffee shop while my mother was a housewife. My father had never gone to school. But he loved reading. He loved to tell his children the stories and articles he had read. I think that is where I got my reading habit.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
I have heard so much of the writer Faisal Tehrani. So finally I meet him in 2008 for the first time and did an interview with him and the story appeared in the sun in July 31 2008.
Title : Writing for change
Faisal Tehrani, 34, is a rising star in the literature scene. This novelist has won prizes and awards, including the prestigious Anugerah Seni Negara in 2006. His kind critics predict this talented writer, whose real name is Mohd Faizal Musa, is a national laureate in the making. Others say his writings are Islamic extremism, anti-West and are ultra-nationalist. He speaks frankly to Bissme S. about his controversial image, early days as a writer of erotic literature and the future.
Tell me your start as a writer.
I became a writer when I was 16. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) had this programme Minggu Penulis Remaja. They pulled out a few potential writers from different schools and started giving us writing lessons.
Did you always want to be a writer?
When I was young, I wanted to be a writer for the wrong reasons. I wanted to show off to my friends and tell them: ‘I can write ... what can you do?’ I was also earning good pocket money. I was the first one to have a handphone when I was in university. It was more of an ego thing, a glamour thing, a money thing.
When I turned 22, I changed. I wanted to became a responsible writer. I wanted my writing to change society for the better. Writers should not only write stories, but be philosophers as well. They should offer solutions in society.
What inspired you to become a responsible writer?
I met Pak Samad (A. Samad Said, a national Laureate) and Shahnon Ahmad (another national Laureate who wrote the controversial Shit which is a sharp criticism of the political climate in 1999). These two writers influenced me in many ways. Pak Samad gave me many books from international writers ... writers from countries that are oppressed. I was so inspired by Shahnon’s fire and courage. That changed my perception, my principles. I also went to Kerpan, Kedah. What I witnessed there, also changed me.
What happened in Kerpan?
I saw a group of farmers whose land had been confiscated by the government for a mega project (prawn breeding). The villagers told me stories different from what was reported in the media. They were oppressed. It was not a fair negotiation.
Their story actually inspired me to write my first work of fiction Perempuan Politikus Melayu (The story loosely centres on a rich Datuk who confiscated some farmers’ land without mercy).
Because of the title of the book and because it was published during reformasi (when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy prime minister), everyone quickly related the book to (Datin Seri Dr) Wan Azizah (Anwar’s wife who headed Parti Keadilan Rakyat after Anwar was sent to prison).
Then, my second novel Cinta Hari-Hari Rusuhan came out. In it I touched on the student movement and the Baling demonstration. Once again people said I was talking about Anwar Ibrahim. But both of these novels have nothing to do with Anwar Ibrahim or his wife, Wan Azizah. They are about human rights. These books are about oppression.
What is your personal view on Anwar Ibrahim?
I met him only once. That was after he was released from prison. As a person, I like him. He is seems to be a nice guy. But A. Samad and Shahnon Ahmad always tell me, ‘as a writer, you have to analyse people ... you have to analyse issues ... if you want to bring them in your pages.’ I started to analyse Anwar and I found contradictions. That is all I will say about him.
Some people think Anwar will make a great prime minister. What do you think?
That is subjective matter. Why should Anwar be the prime minister? Why do we put the burden on him only? We are not lacking leaders, are we? Why don’t we give the prime minister’s post to someone from the younger generation? There is a younger generation in PKR, PAS, DAP and Umno, with new ideas. They should be given a chance.
What about Nurul Izzah (Anwar’s daughter)? She is refreshing. She must have some new ideas. PAS has a few fresh faces who are liberal and sophisticated. DAP’s Lim Guan Eng seems to be cool. He even took pictures with Ning Baizura (singer) and flew in economy class.
The older guard ... they always have had some dramatic episodes in their past and these could easily become ... an issue. We should give the younger generation a chance.
Look at the Russian president. He is very young. (Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev. Age: 43) Look at America ... they might elect (Barrack) Obama. He is young. (Age: 47). The whole world is changing for a perspective from the young and for new ideas. I think Malaysia should walk a similar road.
You feel a writer must write to change the world for the better. But today, some people, including writers, have lost the belief that the power of words can change the world for the better.
When I was a teenager and when things were not right, my mum asked me to write letters to the newspapers to complain about stray dogs roaming freely, garbage not being cleared regularly, etc. But then things began to change slowly. The stray dogs were caught, the rubbish got cleared regularly and changes began to take place slowly. The power of words did change the situation. I also believed at that time that all "that letter writing to newspapers" spurred my interest in writing. (laughs)
Why do you prominently feature Islam in your novels?
One of the reasons is because I find there is a vacuum. Not many writers write about this and there are so many demands. When I meet readers during book festivals and fairs, they always encourage me to write on such subjects. Islam is facing many challenges now and I want to offer my views on the religion.
Some people say that based on your writing you are an Islamic extremist. Are you?
People who do not read my stuff will jump to that conclusion. Just because I write about Islam, people think I am an extremist. I feel I write more about human rights and oppression than Islam. Human rights is part of religion.
When the film Fitnah was shown, people wanted Malaysians to boycott products from Holland. I opposed the idea. I believed such boycott would get us no where. In fact, I said let us Muhasabah (look within ourselves) and ask why this film-maker (Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders) created that film.
Why didn’t you support the boycott?
Personally, I felt Fitnah was depicting Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader. It is not me. I do not interpret the Quran like that .That guy (Osama) interpreted the Quran like that. Extremism is an act by certain groups. It is not related to Islam at all.
Fitnah is different from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The Satanic Verses was written deliberately by Salman Rushdie to not only insult Islam, but also the British people and their former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Geert Wilders wrote Fitnah because he is confused. Let us have a discussion about this and find ways to solve this.
There must be other reasons why people jump to the conclusion that you are an extremist.
People also jumped to that conclusion again when I criticised Yasmin Ahmad’s film, Gubra. (The story touches on a bilal and his wife’s close relationship with their neighbours who happen to be prostitutes). I just didn’t like the film. I think the film is superficial.
Did you have a problem with the scene where the bilal is touching the dog?
No, not at all . In fact I did not mention it in my review. But I do like Yasmin’s Mukhsin because it is more sincere. People did not read my reviews on Mukhsin. They just read my review on Gubra and when it was out, some of my friends avoided me. They isolated me. They put me aside.
How did you feel about being isolated? Did you wish that you didn’t write anything about Gubra or that you didn’t write too much on Islam?
I cannot stop my friends if they want to avoid me. I wish I had written more about Gubra. I really do not like that film (laughs) and I cannot avoid myself from writing on Islam ... it is just inside me. I majored in Islamic studies in the university.
What other misconceptions do people have about Faisal Tehrani?
They also say I am an ultra nationalist. In one of my articles, I said the official language is Malay and that the Malay language should be approved as the language for films, art and literary works. So people started calling me an ultra nationalist. I also opposed the idea of science and mathematics being taught in English. They have been taught in the Malay language since the 1960s, so I asked why are we changing?
Just because Tun Mahathir (former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad) thought that a few students cannot speak English he felt we should teach Science and Mathematics in English. How can you learn English grammar from Mathematics and Science? It doesn’t make sense at all.
There is an assumption that you are anti-Westerner. In your book 1511H Kombat you had Muslim soldiers take over the White House.
People in Germany thought this book was cool and wanted to translate it. (The book is being used as text in one of the universities in Germany). They say ‘we dream this will happen to the White House’. Some European countries hate America. It is not about the East hating the West or the West hating East. It is just about what one particular government is doing.
America has supported a lot of vicious stuff around the world. It is not just what they did in Iraq. It is also about what they did in Vietnam, Korea. Have we forgotten Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Now I am sounding like Iran. (laughs)
Why am I depicted as a West basher? There are other writers who did the same thing. Just because I wrote one novel where Muslims took over the White House, people are calling me names, but my book fulfilled the fantasy of many young readers. It became one of my most celebrated novels from which I am still earning royalty. A certain Western power is oppressing many countries, so I speak against it.
One day, when China becomes a super power and starts oppressing other countries, I will write about it. Then people might say I am anti-Chinese. But I am not. Like I said earlier, I write about human rights, I write about oppression.
In your early years, you wrote some erotic short stories. Are you ashamed of those works?
I will never deny that I wrote them. Those works carry my name. Some young readers have told me that they find my early works are very sexual, erotic and help to spice up their imaginative minds for something (laughs).
A part of me feels very embarrassed, but I also believe that if I didn’t write those stories, I would not have been able to arrive at this point. I might not have become a writer at all.
Do you look down on writers who write erotic stuff?
Seriously, I cannot say I look down on them. Some of them are really brilliant writers ... even better than me. But I do not write such stuff any more. It doesn’t interest me.
Personally, I avoid discussing principles of writing or other writers. My belief is that if what we write leads to a society becoming irresponsible, then it is not good. A writer should promote good things … changes that we can believe in.
Some people say the literature scene is going through a bleak period.
I see a bright future for serious literature. The Malay market is flooded with romance and thriller novels. People are bored and tired of such novels. They are looking for something different to read. Serious literature is slowly gaining a foothold, especially with those who have become frustrated by cheap thrillers.
Is Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka doing enough to promote serious literature?
I am a product of Dewan Bahasa. If I say they do nothing, it is not fair. But when you are a government agency, you have bureaucracy, you have too many rules, you have too much red tape. They should think like an artist, they should think creatively.
What changes would you like to see taking place in the literary scene?
I’d like to see our works being translated not only into English but also other languages. But we are not doing that. I will also like to see the works of local writers who write in other languages being translated into Malay. We should be translating Kee Thuan Chye and K.S. Maniam’s works into Malay.
Is the government playing its role effectively to promote serious literature?
Saying the government is not promoting literature at all is unfair. Compared to Indonesia, we are better off. Their government doesn’t do anything at all.
The Malaysian government has been helpful in many ways. But we are moving to Vision 2020. We want to be known as a first world country. We should be doing more. We have to put more effort into literature.
Would you see any of your novels made into films?
Yes, Tunggu Teduh Dulu may be made into a film. It is one novel where I do not deal with heavy issues. It is about two women struggling to plant papayas. The theme is suited to the Malaysian audience.
Do you have any film-maker in mind?
If it is Yasmin, I will be willing. She is a good movie-maker. I am willing to sit down with her and discuss the project with her. If others, I might have some doubts. Most of our films are illogical.
One of my short stories Cahaya Pada Jiwa (Light On Soul) has been adapted into a TV drama. It is about corruption. The director changed the contents so much till it became illogical. I can understand when you adapt literature to screen, there will be changes. But to make a logical short story into an illogical and complicated TV drama is really damaging.
I heard that you are dabbling in film-making. Is that true?
Yes. I am interested in making short films. I have made one that is loosely based on the recent election and it is called Bulan Mengambang Ke Langit KL. (In it, he looks at how the opposing party was trying to get its message across without the help of the mainstream media).
I am also planning to make a short film called Air (Water). There are a lot of proverbs about water and I want to translate them into images on the screen.
Friday, October 8, 2010
This article has recently appeared in the sun (Oct 7, 2010). It talks about a protest that took place in shah alam that turned ugly. Here two film makers are talking about their documentary touching on this matter
Shah Alam protest
First-time filmmakers Sheridan Mahavera and Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi talk to Bissme S about their documentary on the cow-head protest, Kisah Tauke Mancis dan Minyak Tumpah.
What motivated you to make this documentary?
Sheridan: As a journalist, I did the story on the protest. (Where protesters marched with a cow’s head). I felt I never got into the real story behind the protest. As I looked at all the reports, a lot of them were superficial. They didn’t go into the heart of the matter. I wanted to write the story behind the story. I did have a vision this story should be a film. But I didn’t have money and the time to make this film. Komas has a freedom film festival where you can submit a proposal and if they find your proposal to be good, you will be given a grant to do your film. I applied and got the grant (RM6,000). I roped Siti into the project because she has script writing experience. We used to work in the same organisation and we worked well together. (Sheridan is now a freelance journalist while Siti is attached to an English newspaper portal.)
Is the documentary going to offer something new?
Sheridan: Yes. Because of the scarce publicity, the protest issue had been framed as one religion against another and one race against another. But that is not the case. It is not a religious issue. It is not a race issue. We are a plural society with many religions. We are one of the most plural societies on earth. It is a mismanagement in the planning of our communities. It is a problem of governance. It is a problem of how Malaysians deal with their history. It is a problem with local authorities in how they organise and plan their communities.
You have to ask yourself why Petaling Jaya doesn’t have any of these problems. In Petaling Jaya, you have temples, mosques and churches and some of them are built next to each other. In Seremban, a friend of mine told me there is a Hindu temple in the middle of a Malay community and the Malays have no problem with it.
Siti: You have other people labelling this incident as a religious issue and not really solving it. When we did this documentary, we talked to a lot of people. We did a lot of research. We found out there is a deeper layer to it. The people of Shah Alam felt cheated because the whole issue has given them a bad light. It is not about them being racist. It is not about them being intolerant towards other religions. The real problem has not been resolved in the last 20 years. They have been living with this problem for 20 years.
I would not like to reveal too much about this problem. It would be like giving away the story. Come and see the documentary. All I can say is the film is supposed to remind us how extremism can easily be fuelled when we fail to understand the context and manage such situations rationally. The temple has been in Section 19 (before it was relocated to Section 23) even before Shah Alam was developed. We have seen the master plan of Section 19 and the temple was not indicated in the plan. We cannot tell the audience what to think. But I can only hope after watching the documentary, people will leave the hall, thinking that there is always two sides to any story.
What is the main goal of this documentary?
Sheridan: There are ethno and religious extremists who want to manipulate you … who want to incite you. Do not be swayed by them. You had a case of a non-Muslim politician entering a surau blown out of proportion. She was invited to visit the surau. She didn’t give any religious talk. She was explaining certain government funding that people can benefit from. People should be mature and should not be swayed by emotional religious manipulation. They should see things beyond race and religion.
Some people may feel you are sensationalising this issue. What do you have to say?
Sheridan: I will argue with that. There are no films done on it. There are not enough articles written on it. People misunderstand this issue. With this film we hope to deal with this misunderstanding … to change people’s opinions about this issue. It is an issue that begs to be dealt with.
Siti: When I write I aim to be objective. I always try to give two sides of the story and it is the same here. Before we even began to write our proposal to Komas to get the grant, both of us went to the ground and did our initial research. I do not want to be accused of riding on the popularity of the story. I do not want to be accused of sensationalising the story. There is a real issue and people of Shah Alam have been fighting for it over 20 years. Till today it has not been resolved. We are portraying their plight.
What is the biggest challenge you faced?
Siti: Both of us are writers with the print media and we had never held a camera before. It took us time to be comfortable telling the story we wanted to tell in visual forms and we had to make it engaging as well.
Both of you have different opinions. How did you solve your differences?
Sheridan: We had a lot of discussions before production began. We sorted out our differences. We made sure we were on the same page with the storyline, on who we wanted to interview, visuals we would use and music. We were co-directors. It had to be our story. If we were not able to sort out our differences, we would not have made this film.
Siti: He comes from a political background while I do general news and human interest stories. Naturally our approaches were different. When we were drafting the concept behind the documentary, we agreed it was not going to be a political documentary. It was going to be about the people … about community we live in. A friend has said this is a film about loggerheads by loggerheads.
Do you think your documentary might be censored?
Siti: We rather not think about it.
Sheridan: I do not think so. The documentary tells people not to be racist. I do not see that as a problem. Do you?
What do you think about race relations in this country? Some people say that it is hostile. Do you agree?
Siti: I do not think we have any major problem in that department. Even the experts we talked to agree with this statement. I do not deny that we have religious extremists. They are a small minority but the problem is we have let the minority voice become louder.
Sheridan: The extremists in this country are a very small minority and that is their weakness. But their strength is that they are vocal while the majority is silent. It appears as if the minority are speaking for the majority. We have to understand that some groups want to create racial problems because it benefits them. They get political mileage. They get into the papers every day. You get into the papers every day by saying crazy things. (We laugh) Seriously, the crazier the things you say, you get into the paper a lot more. It is not to say we, as journalists, like to sensationalise things. People are trying to sensationalise themselves and we are just writing about them.
Some people say we had better race relations in the 60s and 70s. Do you agree?
Sheridan: I think the belief that race relations were better in the 60s and 70s is an illusion. It is like looking at the past through rose tinted glass. After doing a lot of research, I think there was probably a lot more intolerance then. We didn’t have much inter-mingling. The Malays were living in the village, the Chinese were mostly in urban areas and (many) Indians were in estates. We were more separated then. But now there is greater movement between us, it forces people to be more integrated ... it forces people to be more tolerant … it forces people to accept the fact Malaysia is made of different races and you have to deal with it. The whole idea of race relations being better back then is nostalgic. For the people who said the 60s were the golden age of race relations, I like to ask them what happened in 1969?
Does the Shah Alam incident paint a bad picture of Islam as an intolerant religion?
Siti: When I started the project, I thought the social engineering of Shah Alam had caused this problem. The majority were Malays and Muslims. I thought they (the people of Shah Alam) wanted to be the dominant race … they wanted to be the dominant religion. When you dig deeper you will find that is not the case. The Malay people in Section 19 Shah Alam had lived beside the temple for the last 20 years. Even the Indians (in Section 23) were protesting over the relocation of the temple to their area.
Sheridan: The people who stayed in Section 23 did not agree with the protest. They have said this is not what Islam is all about. But a small group of people have hijacked this issue. I hope the film will kill that perception that Islam is intolerant.
Both of you were in the print media. Now you have become documentary makers. Was it difficult to move from one medium to another?
Sheridan: You should try it. It is so much fun. Journalism is always about telling stories. The people you interview are characters and you have a plot line which is basically the issue that you are going to highlight. The only difference is I am telling my stories in moving pictures
Since both of you are Malays and Muslims, some people may accuse you of doing this documentary to justify that Muslims and Malays are not racist in this particular incident.
Siti: We cannot help being Malays and we cannot help being Muslims. But our intention is genuine. We are not putting any record straight. We made this documentary to correct our own perception. We thought it was a race and religion issue. But it is not. We have been fair in presenting the facts to our audience. We interviewed people from the temple, people from current and past administrations and people who stayed in the areas.
Sheridan: If you judge us as Malay and Muslim first, film-maker second, then you are not going beyond race and religion. You should judge people by their actions and not by their race and religion. I think we have been objective in presenting our facts.
What is your next project?
Sheridan: I am working on a book that talks about Islam. It is more like I am writing letters to Muslims; to get them to think about certain things that have been happening in this part of the world; to talk about certain challenges the Muslims are facing; to make Muslims see a broader perspective of Islam than what they have grown up with. The book is part memoirs and part self discovery. Islam has a broad intellectual tradition. For ages, Islam has nurtured mathematics, astronomy, medicine and engineering that Europeans have used to create their renaissance. It is more of getting the Muslims to rediscover a different part of their faith that would probably help them see the world in a different light.
Siti: I am working on a book on Mariam Johari who was stranded in Korea after World War II. During the Japanese Occupation she was abducted and forced to become a labourer. Then she was taken to Korea. In 2007, when she was 84 she wanted to return home. But she lacked the proper travel documents. Finally, she got her Malaysian passport. She wanted to die in her own country. But her dream was not achieved. She died in Korea. Her body was brought back. It is a dramatic story. I think she is an extraordinary woman because she lived in a country not knowing the language and the culture.
The documentary will premiere at the Komas
Freedom Film Festival on Oct 16 at Auditorium
Menara PKNS, Petaling Jaya. For details, go to
Saturday, October 2, 2010
You find very few non Malays dabble in Malay writing. One of them is Uthaya Sankar. In this interview which was published in the sun July 16 2009 . Here is the article
Suggested Headline : Straight from the heart
Award-winning writer Uthaya Sankar SB tells Bissme S what he thinks of the literary scene, his run-ins with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and racism.
Why do you get angry when journalists ask you about your excellent command of Bahasa Malaysia?
If the journalists were to ask me how come I am fluent in German, I would understand their curiosity. German is not my mother tongue. German is not my national language. By the way, I don’t know German. But to ask a Malaysian "how come you are so good in Bahasa Malaysia" is an insult. I believe every Malaysian should be able to converse and write well in Bahasa Malaysia.
Many assume that I grew up in a Malay environment and that is the reason I can write and speak Bahasa Malaysia well. But that is far from the truth. I grew up in a village (Aulong Lama in Taiping, Perak) where the majority were Indians and there were only two Malay families.
Bahasa Malaysia is our national language. I regard Bahasa Malaysia as my first language. When a Malaysian is not good in Bahasa Malaysia, then it’s news. I wouldn’t have minded if the journalist asked me why I was not so good in Bahasa Malaysia because that would have made more sense. However, over the last few years, journalists have stopped asking me this question. Thank God for that.
Tell us more about the "little war" with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) over the use of the term "Bahasa Malaysia"?
It started in 1999. This year I am celebrating my tenth anniversary of this so-called war. (Both of us laugh.) It all began when I submitted a collection of short stories to DBP for publication. The collection comprised stories from ten Malaysian Indian writers including myself. In the foreword I wrote, an editor in DBP wanted to change the word "Bahasa Malaysia" to "Bahasa Melayu". When I still wanted to use the term "Bahasa Malaysia", he started to lecture me that the term doesn’t exist. The matter was even taken up to (prime minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak who was then the education minister. He made a statement to the press that it was all right to use the term "Bahasa Malaysia". But DBP said it’d only publish the book if I used the term "Bahasa Melayu". In the end, I did not allow the book to be published by DBP.
Why are you obsessed with the term Bahasa Malaysia? What have you against the term Bahasa Melayu?
I have nothing against the term "Bahasa Melayu". I will not stop anyone from using "Bahasa Melayu". But it pisses me off when someone – or anyone for that matter – says I can’t use the term "Bahasa Malaysia". I am not doing anything illegal. The term was introduced in 1970 and reinforced by the cabinet in 2007. Therefore, nobody has the right to stop me from using it. The more you try to stop me from using "Bahasa Malaysia" without any valid reason, the more I want to use the term. It is like parents telling you that you can’t love this girl and you start loving her even more.
What is your honest view of DBP?
DBP works at a snail’s pace. Once it does get a manuscript, it can take years to publish it. It’s also an open secret that it does not have a good marketing strategy. DBP should learn from Alaf 21 (a publication house owned by Kumpulan Karangkraf Sdn Bhd). Alaf 21 starts its marketing and publicity drive long before the books hit the market. Publishing books per se is not good enough anymore. You need to promote the books vigorously so readers will pick up the books. You need to make sure the books are available everywhere.
But this is not happening in DBP because most of the time, the books are merely available in the Dawama (the marketing and distribution department of DBP) storerooms.
Therefore, it is not surprising that (national laureate) Datuk A. Samad Said has taken back the rights to most of his books from DBP and wants to publish under his own publishing house, Wira Bukit Sdn Bhd. Haslina Usman has also done something similar with her father (national laureate) Datuk Usman Awang’s works by taking back all the copyright from DBP and publishing under UA Enterprises Sdn Bhd.
DBP is given the task and responsibility to look after our national laureates but it appears it is not doing a good job. The fact that these national laureates do not want to be under DBP’s umbrella doesn’t paint a good picture of DBP. I submitted a letter to DBP recently to officially take back the rights to my books under it. I have no other choice. In 2007, I gave DBP a letter to reprint my books under their publication since there was a demand for my books. But it has not done anything to date. It’s a sad fact that DBP is not proactive.
Why do you think DBP is not proactive?
Every year, DBP is getting funding from the government to publish a certain number of good quality books. It does not have to generate profit since it relies on the government funding. It feels as long as it publishes books, it has done its job. This has to change.
Some people believe DBP should be privatised so it will be more effective. What do you think?
Dawama (the marketing and distribution department of DBP) is privatised. But I do not see any real change. Privatisation is not the answer. It is the mentality of the people involved that should change.
You often criticise DBP. But it gave you your first big break. Some might say you are biting the hand that feeds you. What is your comment?
My relationship with DBP is more of a father and son. When a father makes a mistake, it is the duty of the son to point it out. I am doing my duty as a son. I am just asking them why are they neglecting their other sons (Usman Awang and A. Samad Said). I am just asking DBP (or anyone else for that matter) why can’t I use "Bahasa Malaysia" when there is such a term. What I am saying is based on facts. This is not slander. Whenever DBP has functions, I still attend and I still give my support. As I said, ours is a love-hate relationship.
Have you written anything in English?
I think in English but I prefer to speak and write in Bahasa Malaysia. I would not mind if people wanted to translate my stories into English, Tamil or Chinese.
Funnily enough, Institute Terjemahan Negara Malaysia (ITNM) translated one of my stories into English recently and I never knew about it. I only got to know that my story (Nayagi) was in the Sea of Rainbows anthology when I went for the book launch. I have nothing against ITNM translating my work. But I would have appreciated it if ITNM had at least informed me about it.
DBP has also translated one of my stories (Yang Aneh-aneh) into English and it was supposed to be featured in An Anthology of Malaysian Short Stories. But frankly, I would be surprised if the book gets published by 2020.
Is it true there is discrimination and as a result a lot of non-Malays are not keen to write Bahasa Malaysia literature?
I do not think discrimination exists. In fact, the many magazines under DBP are always looking for non-Malay writers to write Bahasa Malaysia literature. In fact, they pay very well. But the editors do not seem to get enough contributions. In this case, I blame the (non-Malay) writers. They like to jump to a wrong conclusion that their works will not be accepted and that discrimination exists. Of course, you cannot expect publications to accept every material that non-Malay writers submit. The works should be of a certain standard.
I always advise my editor friends not to accept stories in Bahasa Malaysia just because they are submitted by a non-Malay. You accept the work because it is a good piece of writing, regardless of race. In the past, Kumpulan Utusan had a literature competition category for non-Malays who write in Bahasa Malaysia. I do not agree to having such a category. Why have a separate award for non-Malays? If it is a competition, everyone should be in the same level. Of course I am happy that Utusan has scrapped this category.
Many non-Malays also have this assumption that you must write about Malay or Muslim characters if you want to get your stories published. That is not true. Most of my stories are about Indian families. The editors are always looking out for different cultures to be featured in their magazines.
The writers must also make sure the fiction they submit is free of spelling mistakes, so the editors do not have a headache going through their work. Read your work 101 times before sending it to the editor. Do not expect your editor to correct all your silly mistakes that you should have corrected.
So far no non-Malays have made it as sasterawan negara (national laureate) and this proves discrimination exists. One good example of this is the poet Dr Lim Swee Tin.
Associate Prof Dr Lim Swee Tin should be recognised as sasterawan negara, not because he is non-Malay but because he deserves it. He has created some masterpieces. I do not know why he has not been awarded sasterawan negara title till now. Maybe no one has nominated him. I am submitting a nomination. Like I said, he deserves the title.
Romance novels and popular fiction sell better. But why do you write serious literature?
I have nothing against people who write romance novels and popular fiction. But I like to write stories that make people think. Perhaps, 95% of readers are looking for romance novels and popular fiction, compared to only 5% who are looking for serious stuff. Let me cater to those who are hungry for serious stuff.
I strongly believe that God wants me to write something other than romance novels and popular fiction. I believe my writing talent is God’s gift and there must be a reason for His gift.
Do you think writers should write just to tell a story or their stories should have some moral message to make the world a better place?
If you are a writer with morals, it will be reflected in your writing. If your mind is corrupted, it will also be reflected in your stories. I have never written a story with the aim of putting a moral message across. But subconsciously, the moral values in me would be reflected in the stories I write. The readers are a better judge of that.
What do you think of our prime minister’s 1Malaysia concept?
It could be a brilliant concept to strengthen racial unity. But I think we are going overboard. For example, the TV station where I work is so keen to cover anything that has to do with the different races in this country. The media seems to be desperate to get non-Malay faces on the TV screen.
Ironically, last year (in April 2008, one year before the 1Malaysia concept was launched), I went out to cover a news event that featured Telegu New Year celebrations. In the end, the story was not aired in the Bahasa Malaysia news.
I was curious and wanted to know why the story was not used. The editor in charge told me, it was a story about an insignificant minority group and she also accused me of bringing "unsur-unsur Keling" (Keling elements) into the Bahasa Malaysia news.
I resigned immediately from my post as news editor because I felt her statement was racist. I did not want to work in a news department where racism exists.