The new cross-border (book) trade between Malaysia and Singapore


Malaysia and Singapore are just simply two funny, intertwined brothers. Can’t find it here? Just cross the border and get it.

By Guan Sin

I see a new trend forming that demonstrates another good side of free trade.

Late last year, when author Barry Wain unveiled his book ‘Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times’, Malaysian Home Ministry went panic. The book apparently exposes many political excesses and hypocrisies in the 22 years of Mahathir rule. By implication, it also spells trouble for the ruling BN. But the home minister Hishamuddin has no guts to ban the book outright. He decided to play dirty, by withholding the few hundred copies of the book at Port Klang. His excuse was to review the book before clearing it for distribution.

And it took them months to read the 368 pages. Such is Malaysian government efficiency, which is commonly known. Of course we all know they simply sat on it or used the books as paperweight. But during those months, with the publicity created from the dirty trick, the rakyat got even more curious. Suddenly the book found its way to reach the customers – Malaysians got their copies from the book stores in Singapore. It sold like hot cake and many Singaporean booksellers could not stop grinning. Singapore has, in this case, made contribution to the freedom of Malaysians.

(For the record, similar dirty tricks were applied to two other books: ‘Where is Justice?‘ edited by Nathaniel Tan and John Lee, and ‘1Funny Malaysia’ by Zunar. Subsequently ‘1Funny Malaysia’ was banned months later, whereas ‘Where is Justice?’ is hard to find in book stores after nationwide intimidation by the ministry officials.)

And now it’s the time for Malaysia to reciprocate. Two days ago a British author Alan Shadrake was arrested in Singapore for alleged criminal defamation. His crime? Writing the book ‘Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock’! Interestingly, Alan Shadrake seems to do to Singapore authorities what Barry Wain did to Malaysian. The book is never banned by the authority. It was available for a while in some book stores and one of the largest book stores, Kinokuniya. But later after a few days from the Media Development Authority, book stores obediently removed the books from the shelves.

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