One of the most rewarding aspects of my line of work is that I get to meet some outstanding Malaysians. Really cool people.
Like Malaysia’s most famous political cartoonist, Zunar, and his wife Fazlina, who runs the Roti Kacang Merah blog.
A couple of colleagues – Ramakrishnan of Aliran and Kris, a human rights activist – and I caught up with them for lunch at a banana-leaf restaurant in Penang.
Zunar was in town on work. He is the editor of Suara Keadilan, which has just received its publishing permit, three years after their first application.
“Instead of saying thank you, Prime Minister, my thanks would go to our readers, vendors and printers, who have been intimidated in the past,” he told me. “We have been denied a permit for three years, so his announcement is three years too late … These reforms are half reforms, too late and too little.”
Contrary to earlier impressions, the sales of the fortnightly paper remain restricted to party members, though I guess the authorities will have a tough time enforcing this ridiculous and oppressive condition.
According to Zunar, Suara Keadilan’s circulation has jumped from 30,000 before the general election to close to 100,000 presently.
We had some good laughs. Zunar, who also contributes cartoons to Malaysiakini, has this hearty laugh that almost shook the walls of the restaurant. The man obviously has a great sense of humour and he has the gift of spotting the funny side of political life. Fazlina is bubbly and chatty and clearly appreciates his wit. Such a warm and down-to-earth couple. Check out her impression of our lunch together.
They were on a trip that took them from KL, past Perak to Penang and southern Kedah. “It was a good feeling to know that our entire journey was in Pakatan Rakyat territory,” they laughed.
I told them, yeah, you didn’t have to bring your (political) “passports” along! So it’s not just Celcom territory, eh…
How times have changed.