A Tribute to the Rakyat

Kee Thuan Chye

Veteran journalist Kee Thuan Chye returns with his ‘happiest’ book yet.

Not all heroes wear capes or wield swords, some wear glasses and wield the pen. Such is the case of Kee Thuan Chye, the local activist whom my colleague even likened to Superman’s Clark Kent here. The man of many hats is now back in the scene with his latest book The People’s Victory: How Malaysians Saved Their Country (also known as the souvenir of Barisan Nasional’s much-awaited fall).

The name Kee Thuan Chye is by now synonymous with politics – the civil rights activist has released 10 books altogether (including the latest) just on Malaysian politics, so, if you don’t have at least one of them get to it. His Bullshit! and Unbelivably Stupid series were lauded for their honesty and truth in tackling the subject matter at a time when most writers and publishers were still in fear of witch hunts, and quickly catapulted him to become one of the leading political commentators in the country.

Kee Thuan Chye
Before becoming a renowned civil rights activist, Kee Thuan Chye was once a traffic clerk in Subang Airport.

Surprisingly, not a single book of his got in trouble with the authorities and it’s safe to say it comes back to his ethos in writing: “To never say or write things that are seditious, libellous, or slanderous including impugning a person’s character. The smart way to do it is to only speak out against someone’s actions,” shares Kee.

Of course, having been in the editorial scene for close to 30 years serving the nation’s biggest titles leaves you with some important takeaways. And some memos too, especially if your stance is to comment and criticise without fear or favour. Thankfully all that is behind him now; now he only answers to himself (and occasionally the publishers).

Kee Thuan Chye
Kee is currently on his multi-city book tour with scholar and political commentator Zaharom Nain.

His latest book – The People’s Victory – is an opus of gratitude for the people of Malaysia for their unwavering resolve and realisation of their own powers in a democratic country. It is also his political piece with the most positive tone so far.

“I wrote it as a testament of the spirit and determination of the Malaysian people who have fought for a change for so many years. This is my souvenir to mark this historic occasion,” says Kee.

In case you were not aware, Kee Thuan Chye, being the poly-threat that he is, also writes and produces plays that critique local political situations. His most famous stage works include Swordfish + Concubine and 1984 Here and Now, both satirical yet serious takes on the local political climate that are still relevant until today albeit the latter having been staged as far back as 1985.

Kee Thuan Chye
A scene from his play Swordfish + Concubine.

With his latest book, Kee falls back on his playwriting skills to present a three-part arc encompassing Despair, Hope, and Euphoria, the three stages of emotions that Malaysians endured leading up to the momentous election results, when the Barisan Nasional coalition ceded power for the first time in Malaysian history, and the following joy that pulsated throughout country.

Kee has poured his heart and soul into the work and hopes that it will be appreciated by those to come. “I wrote it as a memento for the future generation. I wanted to document everything that happened surrounding this piece of history for them,” Kee also reveals.

In celebrating the book, however, one mustn’t neglect the irony of it all: The change Kee longed for was achieved at the helm of Prime Minister YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who led the government which Kee was critical of in the 80s and 90s. However, Kee is quick to point out some facts when that is brought up.

“Yes, I agree that Mahathir played a significant role in helping Pakatan Harapan finally achieve victory in the elections. However, to say it was only because of him would be fallacy. I truly believe it was possible because of the people who themselves wanted change. That’s what I point out in the book as well, that it’s the rakyat who realised this win.”

Kee Thuan Chye
Kee hopes for a Malaysia that is harmonious and more united.

As content as he is with the change, Kee is not without demands from the current government either. “I want to see the PH government getting rid of the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act. And not replace them other acts that are still similar,” says Kee referring to the replacement of Internal Security Act with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act in 2012.

Nonetheless, Kee still has a positive outlook for what’s to come under Pakatan Harapan, and has a message for Malaysians who may have already become impatient.

“At the point where we are now, it is important to tolerate shortcomings. The current government is still new and we need to bear with them for a while as they settle in. Let’s give them a chance because if you think about it, they’re still better than what we had before,” he advises.

Now that Kee has witness what he’s always wanted, what else would he like to see?

“I would like to see greater racial harmony and integration amongst Malaysians,” he starts, “but I’m sure it will not happen in my generation or even perhaps few generations to come,” he concludes laughingly.

Kee Thuan Chye is currently on a multi-city book tour to promote The People’s Victory: How Malaysians Saved Their Country. His next stop is on 1 December 2018 in MPH Bookstore in MidValley Megamall at 3pm. Follow his Facebook page here for more information.

*All images by Kee Thuan Chye.

Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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