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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Syabas To Our Heroes Fahmi And Zunar!

 Syabas To Our Heroes Fahmi And Zunar!

M. Bakri Musa



Will Rogers once quipped that everything is changing now, what with comedians taken seriously and politicians a joke, when it used to be vice versa.


In Malaysia things go further, much further. Her politicians, besides being a silly joke, are also senile clowns while her cartoonists, virile heroes at their prime. Star cartoonists Fahmi Reza and Zulkiflee Anwar Haque (Zunar), strike fear at the highest levels. In May 2018 CNN described both as “The two cartoonists who helped take down a Malaysian Prime Minister.” 


            After the Prime Minister, who’s next?


Fahmi and Zunar have been widely lauded by their international peers. Fahmi won the “Most Outstanding Human Rights Film” at the 2007 Freedom Film Fes. His rendition of a red thick-lips Najib as a grotesque clown was the iconic campaign banner during the 2018 General Elections. In 2015 Zunar received the coveted International Press Freedom Award. In 2011 he received the Robert Russel Courage in Political Cartooning Award and again in 2020.


As for being honored by their local peers, they have none. They have no peers among locals.


Fahmi’s doodling rattled even the palace. His latest was not a sketch but a playlist on Spotify with the label “Deng Ki Ke?” (Are you jealous?) splashed over the portrait of the Queen in her regal yellow. There are titillating subtitles but we need not go over them. That playlist of songs each with the word “jealous” in the lyrics did not amused the Queen such that she deactivated her Instagram.


Spotify too was spooked. Undeterred and ever resourceful, Fahmi uploaded his playlist on Apple Music. Having listened to the free preview, I must compliment him for his selection of songs! For that he was detained by the police for – what else in Malaysia? – allegedly insulting those in power, the Queen in this instance.


The Queen later reinstated her Instagram but with her earlier posting of “Dengki Ke?” deleted.


What was there to be jealous of the Queen? Her wealth? More than a few local tycoons could outmatch her on that front. Her looks? Well, let’s not go there.


That jealousy referred to in her earlier Instagram had nothing to do with either wealth or beauty, rather over the much sought-after biological Covid-19 vaccine. On their recent trip to Saudi Arabia, the royal couple secured (outside regular channels) 2,000 doses of the vaccine.


When someone queried whether palace chefs had been vaccinated, she responded with her now infamous Instagram posting, “Dengki Ke?” From there, the ever perceptive and sharply piercing Fahmi struck, and it went viral. Her royal attempt at being “hip” in social media backfired in the worst possible way.


Malay sultans and their families not following the rules are not a novelty. Their securing those vaccines outside of regular channels would not even raise a yawn in feudal Malaysia. So why the fuss this time? No one begrudges the King and Queen, as well as palace personnel, getting top priority. They should, both as a show of confidence for the vaccine as well as for their position. No need for the haughtiness, much less the secrecy and super-sensitivity. The government could have made special provisions for them and do so openly. That would also be the right thing to do.


The unneeded secrecy that is problematic. What other secret deals were cooked up with the Arabs? With Najib’s 1MDB trials now meandering through the courts, citizens cannot be blamed for speculating.


I salute Fahmi’s artistic genius and undaunted bravery. What saddens me are his detractors, especially the few prominent Malays. They caricature him as a stooge for the Chinese, DAP to be specific. That says more of Fahmi’s Malay critics than of him. In effect they are repeating the old Mahathirian refrain:  There are no brave, smart, or creative Malays. When they seem to be one, they are but puppets of the Chinese. What a sad commentary, on them!


Zunar famously said that even his pen has a stand. Malaysians too must take a stand on this Fahmi versus stupid Malaysian officialdom. When leaders breach their oath of office and abrogate their responsibilities, citizens must act to show their disapproval, and do so in no uncertain terms. Malaysians have had enough with their leaders getting away with impunity, be they politicians looting the public purse in broad daylight or religious leaders groping school girls and taking free junkets abroad.


To Fahmi and Zunar, continue on your brave crusades. We cheer you on! Thanks to his lawyer Nadarajan, Fahmi is now released. As for Zunar, visit his website (zunar.my), buy his books, and be his patrons. His latest collection, Caca Marba, promises to be another sizzler.




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