Penang is a city that seems very exotic to me even though I visit it very regularly. It has food that is just different than in Kuala Lumpur (the taste always seems better), well-preserved history and an environment that seems to inspire me as a writer and filmmaker.
So when I was invited to be a participant at the 2014 George Town Literary Festival by the director, Umapagan Ampikaipakan, I couldn’t say no. The invitation was together with my graphic novel co-author, Arif Rafhan Othman, who is an illustrator.
Thought-provoking discussions on literature doesn’t happen that often in this country, and when it does, it can get very interesting. And so the festival kicked off on Saturday morning with a panel discussion called ‘What are you hiding?’.
The panel consisted of Ooi Kee Beng (Malaysia), Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh (Singapore) and Leila S. Chudori (Indonesia), moderated by Sharaad Kuttan. They spoke about their respective countries and how the political environment dictated what could and could not be written about.
The most open country of the three was Indonesia and even there, they had to go through several leadership and party changes in order to achieve their level of freedom of speech and expression, explained Leila, a veteran journalist and author with Indonesian current affairs magazine Tempo.
“It also seems that Islamic religious voices seem to be getting stronger and stronger,” she added.
Sudhir, author of the non-fiction book ‘Floating on a Malayan Breeze’, talked about the political hold of the Lee family in Singapore and also about his experience and observations after cycling around Peninsular Malaysia sourcing for his book.
“As a writer, I don’t think about what to say or what not to say, but how to say it,” said Ooi Kee Beng when asked about restrictions when it came to writing in Malaysia. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]