The Penang Club has called off Kee Thuan Chye’s book launch-cum-forum, which was scheduled for today, for what appears to be a bizarre reason.
Among those who have spoken in the recent past at Penang Club are Ambiga and Tengku Razaleigh.
This is Thuan Chye’s statement:
The day before yesterday, I announced on my Facebook page that Penang Club had cancelled my book launch and forum at its premises scheduled for Feb 28, but I did not state the reason.
Since then, many people have been asking me why. So I’ve decided to explain what happened.
It was cancelled because Penang Club approached me at virtually the last minute to say they would not allow the Chief Minister of Penang , Lim Guan Eng, to officially launch my book.
They said they did not want to be seen to be politically aligned.
I refused to stand for this.
Penang Club knew from the start I had asked Guan Eng to do the honours but had said nothing against it till now.
Besides, he is the Chief Minister of Penang. And an honorary member of the club, to boot! What political alignment?
They said complaints had come from a few club members that the line-up of speakers of the forum did not comprise anyone from Barisan Nasional (BN). I told them we had approached BN politicians but they had turned us down. We had tried.
I could not understand why Penang Club was more concerned with the “few” complaints than the club members who had signed up to attend the launch-cum-forum. When I checked with the club last week, I was told 60 people had already signed up. Didn’t these people and their interest in the event matter?
More important, Penang Club had printed the poster advertising the forum and its speakers a month ago. This must mean that it had already endorsed the line-up. So what’s the meaning in coming up with this excuse?
Besides, the topic of the forum was a non-partisan one: “After GE13, Where to, Malaysia ?” This must surely be a topic most Malaysians would be interested in regardless of their political affiliation, mustn’t it?
I should also say here how the whole idea for the event came about.
A couple of months ago, Penang Club invited me to be a speaker on its Lim Chong Eu Lecture Series. I asked if they were paying a professional fee for it. They said no, that they would cover only transportation and accommodation. I told them they couldn’t expect people to do things for free. This, I said, was a Malaysian habit that needed changing.
So I offered them a deal. Why not host my book launch, which would be accompanied by a forum featuring other speakers, and I would waive my professional fee? They readily agreed.
I told them whom I would be asking to launch my book. There was no problem.
I then thought since it was a book launch, they would arrange for the media to cover it. But they said no. It would be a members-only event. No media allowed. I had to agree. I compromised. I kept my end of the bargain.
Now, if no media was going to be allowed, why should Penang Club be worried about Guan Eng launching the book? It wasn’t going to be publicly reported, anyway. I therefore saw no reason for their telling me not to have him launch my book. So I refused to entertain their condition.
I still don’t see it. I’m also exceedingly puzzled that the club would not allow the Chief Minister to officiate at an event it was hosting.
As far as I’m concerned, the Penang Club Committee did not keep its end of the bargain. The fact that the entire episode should end like this is nothing less than shocking.
Whatever the reason for the cancellation of the book launch and forum, it is a real shame. And yes, shocking too. I was looking forward to it. Also, one of the other speakers had turned down an important international engagement as consultant for a workshop because he was scheduled to speak at the Penang Club.
(As disclosure, Thuan Chye had kindly invited me to be one of the five speakers at the forum.)