PETALING JAYA: After years of lampooning Rosmah Mansor, political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque misses her now that the wife of the former prime minister has dropped out of the limelight.
In an interview with FMT, Zulkiflee, better known by his pen name Zunar, said he liked drawing cartoons of Rosmah because she was very “cartoonable”, or easier to caricature, being more dominant and interesting than her husband Najib Razak.
“For a cartoon, you need a leader who is dominant because they can be characters, they need emotions. With Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, it’s easy… with Rosmah and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it’s easy. But Najib is difficult because he isn’t dominant.”
Rosmah was a person who spoke her mind, defended what she had, and had interesting physical attributes – from her hair to her reputed love of handbags and rings – which made for good cartoons, he said.
“On the other hand, Najib doesn’t talk much on issues like 1MDB or Jho Low, he only talks about food. He talks about stolen chocolates, quinoa, and kangkung,” Zunar said waspishly, making reference to the state-owned investment company 1MDB, and remarks that the former premier has made.
Penang-born businessman Jho Low is a central figure in the financial transactions behind the scandal.
“Given a choice, I would have wanted Najib to resign but have Rosmah stay on – that’s for the sake of my cartoons,” he quipped, adding: “But they both had to go for the good of the country.”
For the present, Zunar said he would still be able to draw Rosmah cartoons during the transition period while the new government settles in, and with continuing events related to her, although this would only be for a while more.
Once the dust has settled, Zunar said, he would carry on with “criticising the government of the day as a political cartoonist should”.
But Zunar said he was willing to give the new government “a bit more time”.
“PH didn’t just replace a government but a regime, so they are rebuilding from scratch, and it starts with them cleaning the house of corruption. Those who wanted change have to help them rebuild and clean house first, we can’t criticise them straightaway.”
He wasn’t sure how much slack he would give PH, but he would continue to criticise those in power, as he always had.
“I am happy with the change in the country, because now we have hope, especially for freedom of expression. Whether the hope meets reality, we have to wait and see, but the early signs are good.”
Zunar is no stranger to the long arm of the law, having been detained by the authorities before. He also faces nine sedition charges for allegedly insulting the judiciary in tweets regarding former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction in February 2015.
Nine of his books were also banned by the home ministry, namely “Sapuman: Man of Steal”, “Gedung Kartun”, “1 Funny Malaysia”, “Isu Dalam Kartun (Vol 1, 2, 3)”, “Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar”, “Perak Darul Kartun” and “Pirates of Carry-BN”. These works feature the likes of Najib and Rosmah.
The Najib-led federal government came under criticism from the United Nations regarding the sedition charges against Zunar and for a travel ban imposed last June. The travel ban was lifted after the May 9 general election.