KUALA LUMPUR, 21 OCT 2008: Datuk Chamil Wariya, author of the short story Politik Baru YB J in Mingguan Malaysia, said the piece was a fictitious account about racial politics and was not specifically about Seputeh Member of Parliament (MP) Teresa Kok.
The veteran journalist told The Nut Graph in an exclusive interview that as a fiction writer, he could explore “all possibilities unimagined in the real world.”
He said he aspired to be a novelist, and writing short stories was a start. He said he chose to write about a political topic as he was familiar with the subject.
Chamil, who is currently Malaysian Press Institute chief executive officer, said the YB Josephine protagonist in the story bore no resemblance to Kok.
“YB Teresa can be vocal at times and disliked by some for her style of politics, but generally she is a responsible politician and responsive to her constituents. YB J is not.
“YB J is a manifestation of politicians who politicise race issues and have no respect for the rights of all communities,” Chamil said in an e-mail interview.
He said his goal in writing the story was to call for moderation in political views, and to remind politicians not to incite communal feelings.
Chamil’s piece was published in the 12 Oct edition of Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia. At the end of the story, YB J is shot dead by a Chinese youth who shoots himself after killing her.
The short story as published in Mingguan MalaysiaThe suicide note found on the youth’s body states that YB J was a threat to racial harmony, and the assassin sacrificed himself for the sake of preserving peace among the races.
Chamil has been heavily criticised for the close resemblance in his story to the real-life events involving Kok in the run-up to her detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on 12 Sept. Kok was released a week later.
Kok has declined to comment on Chamil’s short story as she has filed a RM30 million defamation suit against Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd and its editor on 9 Oct over an article titled Azan, Jawi, Jais, UiTM dan ba-alit-ba-ya, which is thought to have triggered her ISA detention.
DAP Youth and the Cheras Wanita DAP have both lodged police reports against Chamil and Utusan Malaysia for tarnishing Kok’s image. They have alleged that the Malay daily and the writer were instigating violence against the MP.
Chamil has worked 36 years in print, radio and television journalism, including in the Utusan Group and in TV3. The following are his replies to questions posed by The Nut Graph.
TNG: What motivated you to write the cerpen?
Chamil: Since I retired from journalism at the end of 2007, I have set a target in my writing career, which is to venture into fiction writing. My burning ambition is to be a novelist one day. So writing cerpen is an apt start. I have chosen a cerpen on politics as I think this is a world that I know pretty well. Hence, Politik Baru YB J was written.
(Source: Malaysian Press Institute) But I have also completed two other cerpen, also on Malaysian politics. One is about power struggle in a political party, while the other is on a highly ambitious politician realising his dream to grab power just like the Prince.
Was your story based on the events involving Teresa Kok? Why is the cerpen so similar to her case?
No, cerpen being cerpen is not about real life; and specifically, it is not about any particular politician, alive or dead. Cerpen are fictitious in nature, in which the author is allowed the freedom to explore all possibilities unimagined in the real world. YB Josephine was a made-up character that has no resemblance at all to the Seputeh Member of Parliament. YB Teresa Kok can be vocal at times and disliked by some for her style of politics, but generally she is a responsible politician and responsive to her constituents.
YB J is not. YB J is a manifestation of politicians who politicise the issues of race and have no respect for the rights of all communities.
The setting of the cerpen is the ups and downs of racial politics in Malaysia since Merdeka, which is viewed as a zero-sum game by YB J.
What did you hope to achieve with this story?
Generally, the cerpen is to enrich the Malaysian literary world, especially with regard to political short stories, which are lacking at the moment. So what I am trying to do is use my little knowledge on Malaysian politics to enlighten Malaysians through short stories. In Politik Baru YB J, indirectly, I just want to share my thoughts that racial politics, if you take it to the very extreme, is bad for Malaysia.
I am advocating moderation in one’s political position, be it on the part of the government or opposition, so that the country can benefit from political harmony. Failing which, the country could end up in turmoil, as can be seen from routine news items in a number of Middle-East countries.
I don’t want that to happen here. The cerpen is also a reminder to politicians not to incite communal sentiments in the name of politics, and not to take racial harmony, unity and peace for granted.
Were you ordered by anyone in Umno to write it?
Penning the cerpen is my own initiative, in line with my ambition to migrate to fiction writing. Nobody ordered me to write it.
How do you justify the violent end of the story, where YB J is shot dead? Is violence justified under the name of creative license?
Do not see the ending of the cerpen in a straightforward manner. View also what is tersirat (implicit), not only tersurat (obvious). I must stress what was murdered in the cerpen was not a politician per se, but extreme ideas, no matter where they come from.
The violent end in Politik Baru YB J must be seen in that context. But if one chooses to see otherwise, then there is nothing much I can do. Each of us has our own predispositions, depending on one’s ideology, mindset and preference.
Do you think the cerpen incites people to act violently?
Definitely not. If the cerpen incited people to act violently, by now we would have witnessed a lot of political murders in this country. The fact that there are none prove that the cerpen has no negative effect at all, as far as inciting violence is concerned.
Cerpen readers are smart people who are able to differentiate what is real and what is the imagination of the author. They may disagree with the author’s way of concluding the story, but I suppose they accept it with an open mind, noting that it is just a cerpen, after all.
While certain quarters take offence at the storyline and make issues out of it, the majority who read the cerpen take it positively and rationally. I am glad there are so many rational people in this country, and this is a good indication to move forward with more political cerpen in the future.
See also: Seni ganas
Let’s all defend Chamil Wariya’s right of free expression even if we think his piece is stupid, the story line insipid and motives suspect.
Pete Wu says
Please tell this guy not to insult our intelligence! A man must have the courage to call a spade a spade. I have a strong feeling he is working for some extremists in Umno.
As a person who continuously preaches freedom for the media, I thought his cerpen was taken in a literal sense that it was Teresa Kok, and that she was going to be assassinated for her loudness. And that’s where people got it wrong.
It’s just a another person’s point of view using fiction.
Even Nat Tan wrote a reply to this cerpen.
Not about Teresa. And yes, Syed Hamid Albar has hair.
Unbelievable that a person holding such high office in the media world can stoop so low. Along with such a position comes a sense of responsibility which this person does not demonstrate. Considering the current political situation in the country, his short story can only be considered childish and irresponsible. If this is the kind of wisdom he passes on to his grandchildren, one can only fear for the future of this country. If an educated person of such high public standing can only have such limited mentality, what of the ordinary person in the street? After all, these are the people who lead the country right? But in what direction?
Saya rasa yang jadi isu ialah ending cerpen ni – pembunuhan!
Kalau penulis cerpen ni buat happy ending kan bagus, e.g. YB J tu jadi insaf ke, Melayu-Cina makin rapat ke, perpaduan bertambah erat ke, kan lagi bagus. Barulah ada nilai-nilai kasih sayang, keamanan, perpaduan….
Timing cerpen ni pun cam tak kena. Kita sekarang ni tengah hot dengan banyak isu, keluar lagi cerpen macam ni, macam siram api dengan minyak. Tak perlu la….
Point yang saya nak sampaikan, cerpen ni ok kalau ending dia positif, bukan pembunuhan.
Sri Hartamas says
Let it rest, folks. Why can’t you accept his legitimate explanation. And don’t blame everything on Umno. There are extremists everywhere amongst us. And drop the holier-than thou attitude.
And you noticed he said all that without the lips moving, too!
And God didn’t make them green apples, it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summer time, and there’s no such thing as Dr.Seuss, Disneyland or mother goose, no nursery rhymes!
Not convinced says
There are too many similarities for you to explain it away. Can you imagine Teresa’s parents reading your most insensitive cerpen? You better pray that nothing untoward happens to her. Unlike literary giants like yourself, we, the common folk will see blood on your hands.
Should the Muhammad cartoons then be taken as ‘just a cartoon’? Who’s he kidding? Journalists and writers who spew forth without considering the context in question are either ignorant or dishonest. Defend free expression we must, but be quick to condemn irresponsible ones.
Since Chamil has said this story has nothing to do with Teresa Kok, then that is fine.
I am surprised to learn that the Nut Graph choose to interview this coward.
Memalukan and I will never come to read this site again!
Of course YB T is not YB J, otherwise she will be like what Chamil said in the interview:
“YB J is a manifestation of politicians who politicise race issues and have no respect for the rights of all communities,”
Suing him is another way of admitting that she is a racist politician. Clever move.
I see. So how come Chamil doesn’t join the free RPK movement? I mean, if he can write his fanciful murder-inducing stories under the guise of “fiction” and freedom of press, surely RPK should have the same freedom afforded him?
By the way, I’m off to write a “cerpen” on a certain politician who gets involved with a woman, but it ends badly when she is killed. Fortunately, there is a happy ending when the truth is revealed and the politician gets his comeuppance and is sent to jail for the rest of his sorry life. Let’s see if Utusan will publish that one.
To jambu – I respect your decision, but at least the Nut Graph had the guts to give this “coward” a space to present his point of view, no matter how unbelievable or twisted. It’s also a chance for us readers to present *our* take on Chamil’s supposed defence, giving *us* readers a voice. It’s more than any other news site would do – kudos to the Nut Graph for that.
Just a comment on the ending of his so-called “political” cerpen. YB J was shot by a Chinese youth who later killed himself….all in the name of racial harmony. What can be more ridiculous! Chinese do not run amok, nor do they go around killing themselves for political reasons. Chamil Wariya has a long, long way to go if he aspires to be a published novelist and not remain a “cerpen” writer who gets published in a newspaper owned by a political party!
Mustapha Kamal says
Is this the best that the so-called literary “giants” of Malaysia can produce ? Is it a wonder that the best of our writers get published elsewhere, but these Umno apologists live off the fat of our land? There’s lots more that I want to say, but let me just say this – the path leads from a bankrupt, corrupt politician, to an equally bankrupt “newspaper” columnist, to a propaganda news sheet for Umno, to this person. So, what is he? Debate anyone?
How much were you paid for writing the ‘cerpen’
Don’t you see you have instigated youngsters to kill politicians if they do not like a particular person active in politics?
Redhuan D. Oon says
This article is trying to paint certain politicians along racial lines. YB J is painted as a fighting for her race and thus facing a lot of backlash. And the end result is tragic. All the characters in this cerpen are painted along restrictive roles. YB J is Chinese and doesn’t understand fully the Malay sentiment towards her. The driver is wiser and knows what is the solution to the perception. The youth is willing to commit an assassination for the sake of race and country.
To me this is all very mischievous, as the above assumptions and insinuations are stereotyped along Melayu vs Cina as she belongs to POC (Parti Orang Cina) and faces condemnation from POM (Parti Orang Melayu). Casual mention of the May 13 Tragedy is trying to reinforce that this is the prevailing conflict and and dominant fear.
To me this is not the reality of the political culture of the day. Even though this cerpen is clearly trying to draw similarity to Teresa Kok, it is only attempting to sell the idea that its analysis is correct and that its forecast is real. Thus this article is seditious in nature and trying to draw attention and support of its theme based on very restrictive and shallow storyline.
My reading of the present political scenario is that the rakyat is dissatisfied of the status quo along economic and governance issues, and not racial or party lines. The cerpen also painted the youth who shot the YB J as an accepted reaction of political achievement to sacrifice for the good of the country and his race. This in itself puts down the youth as having a tendency to react violently.
Even though the cerpen tried to balance the Malay character by showing YB’s driver as someone wiser and knows what the YB should do, it again paints the Malay person negatively as someone who needs not possess a high position in society to offer a “safe” solution of trying to pacify both races instead of one. To me the pacifying characteristic is a stop-gap attempt that sweeps the sentiment under the carpet without examining the real issue, which is what I described above.
As a whole this cerpen should not have been printed and has a loaded and suspicious political agenda behind it. Readers should ignore its subtle insinuations and remember what are the main issues and realities.
Well, being an Indian Malaysian I strongly believe we should leave race and religion aside and lead a normal and healthy life. The degree of a person’s imagination depends how much the person wants to relax his or her mind.
But before going into a ‘wild’ zone all us are given the ability to rationalise our thoughts and its pattern. Writing something that could be perceived as related to a current event with a negative overtone, especially race and religion, in a multi-racial society reflects on the writer’s wisdom. This is no matter what he or she aspired to do.
Everybody must play a positive role to ensure public order in our country is upheld at all times. If anybody is found to be a threat, it does not matter what race or religion he or she represents, the person must be properly dealt with so that others will not emulate them and disrupt this country’s peace and harmony.
Nobel Hargon says
All writers whom I have came accross say their piece has no relation to the living. A mind cannot be creative without the existence of knowledge within the sub-conscious mind. If this is the living experience that we have gone through, how can one claim it has nothing to do with the living or even the dead for that matter?
On the other extreme, if one wants to associate oneself to every novel/cerpen that is around, they can easily do it without lifting the haystack.
On one end we have a hyprocrite who says what’s written is not related to the living and on the other end we have a naive who thinks everything that is written is about them.
Hwa Shi-Hsia says
I agree that it’s fiction and bears no resemblance to reality in that anybody would find the idea of someone from the CHINESE community assassinating Teresa Kok for “betraying” them to be ludicrous.
But the author’s statement that the YB J character is not intended to be connected to Kok is equally ludicrous.
Hwa Shi-Hsia says
(Sorry to double-post, but I have to clarify.) I didn’t mean in my last comment that Chinese people are angels – I certainly don’t believe so. What I meant was that in *this* particular situation we’re in and that’s portrayed in the story, the idea of a fanatical pro-Chinese (Sinitist?) assassin as described doesn’t make any sense.
Wouldn’t it be “sinotist”, since that is the standard prefix? (The closest meaning that “sini” carries to what you are trying to convey is “a form of Chinese Islamic calligraphy” — which, I’d say, is obliquely resonant to the context). I’d suggest “sinophile”, though that carries some improper (though delicious) connotations.
If articles like this and racial comments by some politicians do not invoke violence, why did some people resort to violence by throwing Molotov cocktails into Theresa Kok’s home, damaging her home, creating and instilling fear in her family? Why were she and the Sin Chew reporter arrested and held under ISA when they were not at fault? Give us an answer to these questions.