The Asian Voice

Worst yet to come?: The Star columnist

The outrage over Hew Kuan Yau's Belt & Road Initiative For Win-Winism comic book has yet to cool down even though the Home Ministry banned the book on Wednesday.
The outrage over Hew Kuan Yau's Belt & Road Initiative For Win-Winism comic book has yet to cool down even though the Home Ministry banned the book on Wednesday.PHOTO: HEW KUAN YAU/FACEBOOK

In her commentary, the writer says that Malaysia's comic book fiasco could not have happened at a worst time for Pakatan Harapan as race tensions are at its worse in years.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - These are turbulent times for "Superman" as Hew Kuan Yau is known by.

Yesterday (Oct 24), the firebrand activist famous for his coarse oratory and left-leaning views was called in for the third time by Bukit Aman to be questioned about his controversial comic book. Hew has not been wearing his trademark Superman T-shirt and he seemed rather sober as he stopped to speak to reporters.

He told the media that he has been on a fast since Tuesday (Oct 22) so that he can better reflect on what has happened.

It has been a crash landing for Hew who was a superstar on the Democratic Action Party (DAP) campaign stage during the general election and who had been flying high since then.

The outrage over his Belt & Road Initiative For Win-Winism comic book has yet to cool down even though the Home Ministry banned the book on Wednesday, one of the grounds being that it "promotes communism".

This was one comic book that had very few people amused. Instead, it left a number of ministers red-faced, riled up communal feelings and it has put DAP in a tight spot.

The book, published earlier this year, was a decidedly pro-Beijing look at China's policies including its handling of the issue of the minority Muslim Uighur community plus a highly partisan sprinkling of Malaysia's politics.

The book also carried a foreword by Lim Guan Eng in his capacity as Finance Minister and DAP secretary-general.

However, all that might have passed without much fanfare had Hew not used his DAP connections in the Education Ministry to distribute the Bahasa Malaysia version of the book to more 2,000 schools.

A photograph of Hew and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching posing with copies of the book has been making its way through cyberspace.

 
 

It was what some have called a "big blunder" to try to disseminate political literature in schools. Some even associated it to spreading China's communist ideas in schools.

But it was not until Bossku, that is, Datuk Seri Najib Razak highlighted it in his Facebook that everything went Boom!

That was when the government realised that the comic book was one of the "mementos" Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad presented to Chinese president Xi Jinping when they met in April.

Pakatan Harapan leaders try to ignore what Najib says on Facebook but they could not ignore this one and there was an immediate scramble to do damage control.

The Education Ministry pulled back the book in schools, the Prime Minister's Office distanced itself from it and the Home Ministry ordered an investigation.

Hew initially tried to defend the publication but he could sense the enormity of the issue and deactivated his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Yesterday, he resigned as chief executive officer of the Malaysia-China Business Council because his position was no longer tenable.

The appointment was widely seen as a reward for his role in the general election campaign but the comic book issue had called into question his sense of judgement and understanding of government and power.

"He is supposed to be the bridge between Malaysia and China but the issue has affected his credibility as the representative for Malaysia, " said a Penang lawyer.

Hew's appointment to the council had raised eyebrows because Hew got in trouble and had to resign from DAP a few years ago for declaring that the South China Sea belongs to China.

The future of the state-funded Asia Comic Culture Museum in Penang and of which Hew is CEO, is also in the balance.

Hew is known as an ideologue. He is also some sort of Chinese influencer - his Facebook had some 400,000 followers - and top leaders in DAP try not to offend him for fear being attacked by him.

The comic book fiasco could not have happened at a worst time for Pakatan - race tensions is at its worse in years while ties between DAP and Bersatu have deteriorated to the point where politicians openly criticise each other's party.

There has been a deafening silence on the part of top DAP leaders, leaving the impression that Hew has been hung out to dry.

"DAP used him to campaign from coast to coast in the general election. He helped DAP to win big but now they are giving him the cold treatment. It is ethically wrong for DAP to disown him like this, " said former DAP parliamentarian Jeff Ooi.

Only a few DAPSY leaders have come forward to lend Hew moral support.

Hew told the Chinese vernacular press: "Some (leaders) send their best wishes, some cut off from me. It has made me learn more about human nature and see everything more clearly."

He had also borrowed a saying from the Han Dynasty, alluding to a sword dance where the sword is pointed at one man but is actually meant for another.

The thing about politics is that people tend to remember the bad stuff rather than the good things and Hew's reputation for cursing, swearing and using vile language on the ceramah stage has returned to haunt him at his most vulnerable moment.

Some in DAP disapprove of his style and had frowned on what they saw as "showing off" on his social media.

"Everything he does, he uploads on Facebook - from trips to China to sight-seeing and even when somebody sponsors a TV set for his office, " said a Selangor DAP politician.

Ooi senses some power play going with DAP smack in the centre of it all.

"The claim that the book was banned because it promotes communism has far-reaching consequences. I have a feeling that the issue is far from over, " said Ooi.

The writer is a columnist with The Star. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.