KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar faces a possible 43 years in prison for sedition, but the defiant artist says that looming threat won’t stop his hard-hitting caricatures lampooning the ruling establishment.
“You can chain my hands, you can chain my legs, you can chain my neck or my body. But I will keep drawing,” said Zunar, 52, holding a cartoon showing himself shackled yet still working with a pen clenched in his teeth.
“I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink,” he added during an interview at his Kuala Lumpur office.
Malaysia’s best-known political cartoonist, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, has become a symbol of a widening government drive to throttle its critics that has seen dozens of people hit with sedition investigations over the past year.
Zunar has been arrested previously and his works, which skewer the government’s recurring corruption scandals and alleged repression, have repeatedly been seized by police in what he calls a “political vendetta”.
But the pressure escalated dramatically on April 3 with the filing of nine sedition charges—a single-day Malaysian “record”, according to his lawyers.
They could potentially land Zunar in jail for 43 years, his lawyers say, though the penalty is not expected to be that harsh.
Few have actually been jailed in the sedition blitz, which political analysts view more as a bid by the 58-year-old government to cow and silence adversaries as it loses ground to a reform-minded opposition.
Tightening the screws, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government this month pushed through even tougher sedition penalties and an anti-terrorism bill that allows detention without judicial review.