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