Long time critic of Prime Minister and government corruption in Malaysia, cartoonist Zunar was forced to cancel his exhibition north of the capital after a pro-government angry mob assaulted him and his caricatures – on Friday 25th November.
As the cartoonist was inaugurated a 3-days exhibition north of Kuala Lumpur, a crowd of 30 to 50 Penang Umno Youth members (the government party) disrupted the show. They demanded to see Zunar, to express their disapproval on the artworks featuring caricatures of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak – labelled as seditious.
The situation turned bad when Zunar refused to see them. Tensions escalated and policemen had to intervene. Zunar was then forced to cancel the display and some 20 drawings were taking down within a strong police presence.
Penang Umno Youth chief Rafizal Abdul Rahim said the wing would monitor the situation to ensure Zunar would stick to his words.
Read Zunar’s statement:
“Today (25th Nov 2016) I was forced to call off my exhibition in Penang, 4 hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia due to an attack by pro government thugs. I was verbally abused, physically attacked, and my artworks were vandalized.
More than 30 thugs stormed into my newly launched exhibition in a public area. They were aggressive, hostile and abusive. Some of them assaulted me. I was fortunate that a few members of public came to my rescue. The few policemen who turned up were unable to control the thugs and they had to call in the anti riot unit.
The thugs demanded that I take down the exhibition and some of them proceeded to destroy my artworks.”
Zunar has been arrested November 26th, under Sedition Act, according to a statement made by said George Town OCPD – Officer in Charge of Police District – Asst Comm Mior Faridalathrash Wahid on Saturday.
“I can confirm that Zulkiflee Bin SM Anwarul Haque (known as Zunar) was arrested at IPD Timur Laut”
He said that Zunar’s arrest was made under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948. An investigation is also being carried out under Section 504 of the Penal Code that is offence to insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.
Zunar explained that the artwork from last weekend’s exhibition is in police hands – 20 drawings.
In December, he was arrested again when he organized a sale of his books to compensate for the financial loss resulting from the exhibition’s cancellation. As a result, he is now being investigated as a threat to parliamentary democracy.
He is already facing up to 43 years in prison on nine counts of violating the Sedition Act, which violates freedom of expression by making it easy to prosecute journalists and cartoonists for supposedly “seditious” content. The pretext for Zunar’s prosecution was nine tweets critical of the government.
His trial has been postponed twice in the past two years and is now due to start on 24 January.
Last year he received the Cartooning for Peace Prize for his courage and determination.