'Monkey' remark misinterpreted, author of banned book explains

29 Sep 2023 08:30pm

SHAH ALAM - Author Cheeming Boey says a story of his now-banned book entitled ‘When I Was A Kid 3’ that describes an Indonesian maid as a ‘monkey’ has been misinterpreted and taken out of context.

He said the remark which sparked controversy was actually a compliment to the maid for her superior climbing skills and was not a derogatory comment.

"It was not a derogatory comment. Animal comparisons to illustrate amazing human feats have always been a norm.

“As fast as a cheetah, for example. So to climb, it was as a monkey and that was it. It was a praise.

“This does not mean that the person is a monkey, it is to describe a feat so great it is like that of an animal that is best at the action.

“If I said she was as fierce as a tiger, is she a tiger now?,” he told Sinar Daily.

He said it was upsetting that his book was banned in Malaysia as he has always been careful with what he wrote adding that his goal with his books have always been to educate the people and to put the country on the map for the right things.

He said anyone who has read his books would know this.

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In a story in his book which had offended some parties, Boey described how his father back then said their Indonesian maid was akin to a monkey to show the maid’s remarkable tree-climbing skill.

"My dad’s intention was to describe her (Indonesian maid) superior climbing skills, which is what I was trying to depict in my story.

“Dad did not have much education, so obviously he won't have the vocabulary to compare a fast climber to Spiderman. He did not grow up with Spiderman nor does he have the money to buy toys.

“What does he have? An ordinary real-life example of monkeys on the streets of Penang. He is trying to describe this to his young son,” he said.

He also apologised to those who had misunderstood the remark.

Boey said his books have never been banned before and he received encouraging feedbacks all these years since his first book in the series was published.

“I have nothing but praise from the public all these years, something I am proud of because I have always wanted to shed a different light on comics,” he said.

It was reported that the Home Ministry has banned the graphic novel, following protests by an Indonesian non-governmental organisation (NGO).

The ban came into force on Sept 15 after the ministry found that the book contained material that was ‘likely to be prejudicial to morality’.

The sale of the book has been ordered to cease under Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

It was also reported that in June, dozens of Indonesians, led by an NGO called Corong Rakyat, protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta against the book claiming that it contained a page in which an Indonesian maid working in Malaysia was unfairly criticised.