Boey Chee Ming, a Malaysian artist now based in the United States, said he was shocked to learn that his book When I was a Kid 3 was banned by the government almost a decade after it was released in 2014. It was his third book in a series of graphic novels about his childhood in Malaysia.
The Home Ministry has said the book contained material that was “likely to be prejudicial to morality” and issued the ban on September 15, local media reported.
Indonesian non-governmental organisation Corong Rakyat staged a rally outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta in June to protest the book, which it said belittled Indonesian helpers, Malaysia’s national Bernama news agency reported. Home Ministry officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Boey said he believed the ban was triggered by a chapter in which his father likened their Indonesian domestic helper to a monkey because she could climb a tree swiftly to pluck coconuts. He described it as “unfortunate.”
“My intention wasn’t to denigrate but to praise the impressive speed at which our helper had scaled the coconut tree – like a monkey. I returned to the tree on my own later that evening because I too, wanted to see if I could scale the tree at that speed,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I deeply apologise to the parties that took offence to this, and the people I have unintentionally hurt,” said Boey, 45. “This storytelling journey has been fantastic and I have learned so much from it. With its ups comes the downs, and this is a lesson I will learn from.”
Indonesians account for the bulk of more than 2 million foreign workers in Malaysia. More than 200,000 of them are employed as domestic workers in Malaysian households, earning better wages than they would get back home.