Cartoonist Zunar’s story is a wonderful life lesson about the power of the individual, says Robert Russell.
The government of Malaysia has to be congratulated for single-handedly creating the country’s latest national hero. It is remarkable what a single person with a pen can accomplish in Malaysia.
For nearly five years now Zunar has been a thorn in the side of the government, as he uncovers and then illustrates all the modern wrongdoings of a quasi-failed state. His cartoons focus on corruption, cronyism, lack of transparency, theft, illegal kickbacks, nepotism, election rigging and every other kind of reward that failed state political hacks seem to thrive on.
Zunar’s drawings could be used as a primer for any failed state crony who wishes to further harvest ill-gotten gains from under the noses of their citizens, while flagrantly thumbing the same nose at their own Constitution.
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Zunar must be recognised internationally and domestically as the patriot and hero that he is. Every Malaysian citizen should understand that he risks his life on behalf of everyone, and he does it in defence of the honour of Malaysia and in the name of the Malaysian Constitution. Zunar has deeply internalised the Constitution’s guarantee that he and every other Malaysian citizen who has the courage, the right to be such a patriot.
For more than 20 years, I have been monitoring the activities of political cartoonists who are in trouble because of the power and influence of their work. I am constantly in awe of them. They are not all as dynamic and feisty and stubborn as Zunar, but they all exhibit a courage and the dignity which exemplifies the best of the human spirit. As the famous American humorist Mark Twain once said, “Against the power of laughter, nothing can stand.” Zunar, along with so many of his associates who suffer along with him, are the hidden heroes of every modern democracy.
If the political leaders in Malaysia really understood what they were dealing with, they would just let him alone. They would allow him to publish his cartoons and thus stop being the source of so many wonderful stories about unethical and illegal censorship in Malaysia.
As they say on the French Riviera, you can never be too thin or too rich. A good look at Zunar’s cartoons will assure us that Malaysia’s leaders are certainly not too thin, but he does suggest that they are probably too rich.
Zunar’s story is a wonderful life lesson about the power of the individual. Whenever anyone asks the silly question of, “Well, what can I do?” The answer is you can do what Zunar does. You can do what Malalla does. You can do what Mahatma Gandhi did.
Stay safe Zunar. Malaysia needs you. The world needs you.
Robert Russell is the executive director of Cartoonists Rights Network International.