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Malaysia Won’t Ban Mahathir Book

May 1, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysia will not ban a book by an award-winning local author that is said to ridicule Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a senior government official said Saturday.

Governing party leaders had demanded that the book be banned, but Deputy Home Minister Ong Ka Ting said the public can evaluate the book for itself, the national news agency Bernama reported. If it were banned, he said, some might criticize the government as too harsh.

``We will not hinder the views of an established writer merely because his work contains some obscenities,″ Ong told reporters.

The book, by Shahnon Ahmad, was written in Malay but its title is a four-letter English word for excrement. More than 15,000 copies were printed earlier this year and all have sold.

Leaders from Mahathir’s ruling United Malays National Party had called for the 221-page political satire to be banned because they say it contains derogatory language.

Shahnon, they complain, named his fictional characters with initials such as ``PM,″ an obvious reference to Mahathir, who has been prime minister in Malaysia for 18 years. In the book, PM has lived in a lower intestine for nearly 20 years and refuses to leave.

Shahnon, 66, was made Malaysia’s literary laureate in 1982, and his books are required reading in many schools.

Malaysia has strict rules about censorship and publishing. Authors and publishers can be severely punished for flouting the publication laws.

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