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By Sabri Zain (BigO Books, 2000)

CLICK HERE for an interview with writer Sabri Zain

ISBN 981-04-2959-2

See ordering details below.

The sacking of Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998 made headlines around the world. His arrest and trial were equally controversial. These events also led to the rise of a Reformasi (reform) movement that saw thousands of citizens take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding change, something unprecedented in the modern history of Malaysia.

Sabri Zain's FACE OFF: A MALAYSIAN REFORMASI DIARY (1998-99) chronicles the sweeping political and social events that rocked Malaysia in those tumultuous days. Consisting of writings over the Internet in the year following the sacking, this is Sabri's eyewitness account of the winds of social and political change that swept Malaysia in its wake - the street demonstrations that were brutally put down by the authorities, the twists and turns of the Anwar trial and the euphoric pro-reform rallies by tens of thousands of people all across the country. Face Off captures, in words, the spirit, moods, colour, excitement and hopes of ordinary Malaysians caught in the wave of Reformasi demanding true democracy, freedom and change. As the author poignantly puts it, the book is dedicated to the OKTs (Orang Kena Tuduh) - detainees who were beaten and arrested during the demonstrations.

For English-speaking readers, Sabri Zain was the journalist who constantly stood out among the numerous writers who covered the event on the Internet. His observations were keenly noted; his sense of fair play highly vaulted and his playful satire much appreciated.

As prominent Malaysian social commentator Rehman Rashid (who now runs - a site for the thinking Malaysian - and whose own A Malaysian Journey is a must-read) says in the book's Foreword: "Sabri began writing even before Anwar was arrested, taken into custody and beaten black-and-blue by the then Inspector-General of Police. Posting his reports on the Internet throughout the tempestuous months that followed, Sabri became an icon of the Reformasi phenomenon. With a keen reporter's eye unclouded by professional cynicism, and wholly devoid of conscientious objectivity, Sabri sallied forth to the frontlines with notebook in hand (and discomfitingly often, hapless Significant Other in tow) to record what comes across as little short of the Second Coming.

"There is no ambiguity in what follows. None. There's a Hero and his cohort; a Villain and his. The thought that Anwar might be guilty as charged does not make even a token appearance. The question doesn't arise of Sabri Zain standing entirely on one side of the fence. There is no fence. And he doesn't stand. He capers merrily...

"The Reformasi Diary, however, is a classic. No one's ever done this in this country, or perhaps anywhere - perhaps because it simply couldn't have been done. This giddy mixture of narrative innocence driven by a righteous political conscience makes for a remarkable first-person chronicle of the most significant Malaysian political development in a generation.

"Sabri was there, and now here he is. You hold in your hands a gem of Malaysian narrative journalism. Engagingly, passionately written, it is both a record of and participant in the events it describes. Buy it, keep it, give it to your friends. Ten, 20, 50 years from now, someone will still be grateful you did."


Sabri Zain is, what they call, an independent Internet writer. His writing has appeared in a variety of Malaysian Internet news groups, Reformasi websites, email discussion lists and webzines. His articles have also appeared in Malaysian publications such as the Opposition newspaper, Harakah, and social reform magazine, Aliran. Trained as a civil engineer, he turned to writing when he joined the Star, one of Malaysia's leading English-language dailies, as a journalist. Since then, he has worked in the communications field for a multinational computer company and an international nature conservation organisation. Sabri now works in Cambridge, United Kingdom, but continues to write on political events in Malaysia on the Internet, especially political satire. He admits to being a devout Trekker, fancies himself as a scholar of Malayan history, flies World War II aircraft on his computer, looks after a pride of cats and, he claims, practically lives on the Internet.


"If one has read John Reed's Ten Days That Shook The World then Sabri Zain's reportage on Reformasi has shaken the Malaysian's chattering class world view. With sharp eyes, Sabri blends chic humour and satire to document and reconstruct Reformasi. After reading this, Malaysia will no longer be the same."
- Hishamuddin Rais, Malaysian filmmaker

"Sabri Zain is an original. He was one of the few and reliable voices on the events in Malaysia's Reformasi. His reports brought you into the drama of the actual event. They read like Tom Wolfe's new journalism, ace reporting that felt like exciting fiction. These rare reports in English are important."
- U-Wei bin HajiSaari, film and theatre director


BigO Books is proud to present FACE OFF, Sabri Zain's account of an event that not only rocked Malaysia but whose reverberations are still deeply felt and hotly debated today.

BigO Books is an imprint of BigO magazine, published by Options Publications Pte Ltd.


Since there are only a handful of copies left, kindly email us at [email protected] for ordering details.


Copyright 2001 BigO/Options Publications Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.