The Straits Times/Asia News Network
Tension within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition continued to escalate with Malaysia's Home Ministry yesterday announcing that it will seize copies of a pro-China comic book authored and distributed by Hew Kuan Yau, a former member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The Chinese-dominated DAP is one of the four parties within the ruling PH coalition.
The comic book titled Belt And Road Initiative For Win-Winism was banned on Wednesday after a public outcry in Muslim-majority Malaysia over its contents, which describe Malays who support ethnic Uighurs in China as radicals.
Reports say more than one million Uighurs have been forced into re-education camps by the Chinese government.
"If it is still in circulation, we will definitely seize them as we have decided to ban it. This is a serious matter, which is why I need to take immediate action," Malaysia's Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
After studying its contents, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said, the ministry found there is a "strong basis" that the comic book tried to promote communism and socialism.
"The ban was not due to any sentiment or action against any other parties. It is based on its contents, especially when it was distributed to schools," he said.
The furore also led to Hew quitting as the chief executive of the Malaysia-China Business Council. He said that it was time for him to focus on his own interests.
A group of 43 grassroots DAP members have come out in support of Hew.
NOT PROMOTING CHINA'S IDEAS
The controversy comes amid tensions between the DAP and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, after two DAP lawmakers and 10 other men were arrested for allegedly supporting the defunct Sri Lanka terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The two DAP lawmakers - Seremban Jaya assemblyman Gunasekaran Palanisamy and Melaka state government minister Saminathan Ganesan - were held under anti-terror laws.
The DAP, since coming to power in last May's election as part of PH, has been accused of masterminding an agenda to undermine the special privileges of the Malay Muslim majority.
The comic book was reportedly distributed to libraries in some schools without the knowledge of the authorities, triggering criticism that some parties were bringing politics into the classroom.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Home Ministry said the publication was found to have content that could "endanger public order and security" and also "distort the mind of the public".
"The contents of this publication are deemed to be insensitive towards Malaysians of multiracial and multi-religious backgrounds, and it is a worry that it could disrupt the harmony and unity of the people in this country," the statement said.
Responding to the controversy, Tun Dr Mahathir said on Monday that the government would not allow for the ideas and ideologies of China to be taught to "young minds".
"I believe China will be a great influence in the future but for the moment, it is not for us to promote China's ideas and Chinese ideologies but to find out how we can benefit from them," the Prime Minister told reporters.
"As much as we did not like the Western influence in our set of beliefs and schools, we do not want any other country to have undue influence on our young people."
Before the Home Ministry ban, the DAP and its youth wing had sought to distance themselves from the controversy.
"The comic book's contents are the personal views of the author... Whether the views are right or wrong depend on the reader's interpretation. However, the contents do not reflect the stand of the DAP or its Socialist Youth," DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee said in a statement on Monday.