Current Affairs

BN manipulates ‘creative freedom’ for mischief

By Yeo Bee Yin

“Creative freedom” should not be the exclusive right of the Barisan Nasional. Khairy Jamaluddin should apply the same standard of “manifestation of democracy through creative freedom” that he preached about to every art in Malaysia or he will be a mere sounding gong of the Barisan Nasional government.

Despite the Prime Minister Najib Razak’s singing the song of “national reconciliation”, Barisan Nasional has again proven itself to be the agent of separation rather than agent of reconciliation by allowing the controversial movie Tanda Putera to be screened just a few days before Merdeka Day, not to mention the lack of justifications of using taxpayer monies to fund this RM 4.8 million project, which in no way help national reconciliation.

In response to the Penang state government move to discourage the screening of Tanda Putera, the Youth and Sport Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, even go as far as to suggest to send mobile cinemas to all fields in Penang to screen it in case it is not allowed in Penang cinemas. He stressed the importance of the ‘historical value’ of the Tanda Putera. He was also reported saying that when it affects the DAP, there is no longer freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and ‘manifestation of democracy through creative freedom’.

Despite the fact that Tanda Putera is obviously a manipulated creative piece designed to fit certain agenda, Penang government has clarified that it can be screened in Penang cinemas. Saving his time to sending mobile cinemas to Penang, minister Khairy Jamaluddin should now move to allow the ‘manifestation of democracy through creative freedom’ that he preached about to different creative arts in Malaysia.

If Khairy really cherishes history and ‘creative freedom’, we urge him to help to make the play ‘MERdEKAnya KITA’, which has been staged in Singapore and Indonesia, to be able to stage in Malaysia theatres too. The government has previously barred the play on the ground that it ‘touches on local sensitivities’ and is a ‘threat to national security’. We urge Khairy to use the same scale he measures Tanda Putera to measure ‘MERdEKAnya KITA’ and speak up for the group’s ‘creative freedom’ as he has spoken up for Tanda Putera.

We would also like to urge Khairy to speak up for the ‘creative freedom’ of Ng Sek San, whose works of Malaysian Spring was not allowed in M50 Selamat Hari Malaysia Art Exhibition to avoid controversy and can only compromise to exhibit outside the exhibition gallery. If the reason of such compromise is that pro-Pakatan Rakyat individuals adopted Malaysian Spring in the 13th General Election, then where is ‘manifestation of democracy through creative freedom’ that Khairy is talking about?  Or is ‘creative freedom’ the exclusive right of the Barisan Nasional?

In addition, Khairy should also consider speaking up for the ‘creative freedom’ of artist Anurendra Jegadeva whose piece ‘I is for Idiot’ was taken down by the police from M50 exhibition because there is an alleged religious insult by certain people’s interpretation of the art. Where is ‘manifestation of democracy through creative freedom’ when our artist need to worry and be so careful to avoid so that his or her art in no way can be interpreted to have insulted Islam?

As Youth and Sport Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, if he will, is in a good position to champion ‘creative freedom’ in Malaysia. He will prove himself a mere sounding gong of Barisan Nasional if he chooses to speak up only for Tanda Putera and keep mum for the ‘creative freedom’ of other artists in Malaysia.

The greatest resource of Malaysia is not the natural resources but the diversity of humanity. Malaysia has no lack of creative artists, what we lack is a genuinely free environment for them to express themselves without fear and manipulation through arts in different forms and colours. Creative arts should be allowed to flourish in Malaysia.

As Merdeka Day is approaching, in the midst of racial and religious tension, let us be reminded that in 1957, our forefathers who came from different parts of the world, despite their differences in race and religion, decided to unite together to fight for independence. It was through unity that we enjoy the freedom we have now; it is also only through unity that our nation can march forward to be a great nation – a multi-racial, multi-religion, free, fair, vibrant and prosperous nation.

 

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