It’s time to release Malaysian Maverick book

As the second 60-day period of customs “detention” of Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times ends on March 13th, I call on the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein to release the books with immediate effect.

The Malaysian government has yet to make a decision on whether to allow Malaysian Maverick to be sold in the country. About 800 hardcover copies have been held by Malaysian Customs in Port Klang since November, while the Home Ministry examines the book.

It is now the end of the second 60-day period (which, by my calculation, ends on March 13). Will the Ministry let this matter drag on indefinitely? How much longer does the Ministry need to “examine” the book?

It took me three days to finish reading the book despite a busy schedule. With officials whose only job is to decide whether or not to recommend a ban on a certain book, there is just no reason for the Ministry to let the matter drag on for 120 days.

The book, a political biography of Tun Mahathir Mohamad, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in the UK, and was launched in Singapore in December and in Indonesia in January.

The author provides details of all the known major scandals and concludes that,

based on incomplete public information, rm15 billion was a conservative estimate of Perwaja’s losses. Similarly, Bank Bumiputra dropped at least rm10 billion. Bank Negara’s foreign exchange forays drained perhaps rm23 billion from Malaysia’s reserves. The cost of trying to push up the price of tin seemed paltry by comparison, maybe rm1 billion. The total, rm50 billion or so, could have easily doubled if a professional accounting has been made, factoring in all the invisibles, from unrecorded writeoffs to blatant embezzlement and opportunity costs.

Malaysian Maverick has been widely acclaimed by reviewers. Former Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya, Ungku Aziz, calls it “a very fascinating book”. In my own review of the book in the Penang Economic Monthly, I said that

Barry Wain spent two-and-a-half years painstakingly putting together this revealing book. Using smooth journalistic language, he presents a wide range of materials, including interviews with the subject and his immediate family. For those who want a peek into the rollercoaster years under Dr Mahathir and at the same time search for a different future for Malaysia, this is an indispensable guide.

It’s time for Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to do the right thing by releasing the book, or risk Malaysia becoming the laughing stock of the world yet again.

Liew Chin Tong

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