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Malaysian Bloggers Protest Banning of Documentary

The Last Communist

Malaysians like Aidid were eagerly waiting for a documentary-movie titled “Lelaki Komunis Terakhir” (The Last Communist) made by a local filmmaker Amir Muhammad. The documentary is a travelogue that traces the early life of Chin Peng, exiled guerilla fighter and leader of banned Communist Party of Malaya.

I want to be home on the 18th of May so I can watch Lelaki Komunis Terakhir because it sounds like a fantastic movie that will make me think. Anyone kind enough to send me a ticket home? I promise to love you long time. And buy you duty-free chocolate and clip on koalas.

The Malaysian Censor Board had cleared the movie and the filmmaker was looking forward to the screening

All seemed to be going well until Berita Harian* ran a series of articles criticizing the LPF's decision to approve the documentary. Berita Harian was the only newspaper in the country to do this. These articles appeared on May 3, 4 and 5 of the newspaper. These included interviews with politicians, filmmakers and academics who seemed appalled that such a documentary was approved for screening.

On the evening of May 5, Red Films received instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs to not screen Lelaki Komunis Terakhir anywhere in Malaysia. The reason cited was that “the public had protested.”

*Berita Harian is a Malay language daily.

Several Malaysian bloggers are questioning the ban. Blogger Sashi feels that the “public” was not consulted at all.

Well, I’m sorry to inform you, Mr Minister Man Sir, that a big time con job has been perpetrated under your very nose hair. See, I was NEVER consulted regarding this movie, and I am very certain that none of my friends and family members were either. So you see, there’s no way the public could have protested, when we, members of the public, were not consulted.

What I THINK must have happened is that a group of people pretending to be journalists interviewed a group of people pretending to be intelligent. Naturally, the results of such an endeavour can only be a joke.

Desiderata in a post titled “Where newspaper leads ministry” wonders if it was the communism related theme that offended the home ministry. He asks why communism is such a taboo subject when Malaysia is friendly with countries like Cuba and China.

When Castro visited Malaysia in the glory days once upon a time, or when a former Malaysian PM visited Cuba, there were bear hugs like the embracers were of the same faith or ideology. When the same leader visited China once upon a time, there was a planned timetable to reap maxium mileage with grandiose photo opportunities for the media so that the people back home — especially of a particular ethnic group — would be enthralled, besotted mayhaps, to have a “feel good” lasting feeling, and vote in the next GE for the leader's party. The question of the Communist bogey did NOT arise then. But it DOES now.

Returning to the flimmaker's blog, Amir Muhammad thinks the newspaper objected to his documentary because

In fact, central to Berita Harian’s objection to Lelaki Komunis Terakhir seems to be that Chin Peng is an ethnic Chinese. I was ‘advised’ in these articles to concentrate on Malay characters from now on; even if they are radical or communist it’s OK!

And he appeals to the Malaysians

This is what I humbly ask: If you feel the public has the right to see Lelaki Komunis Terakhir, please write to the press. The authorities do take note of reports in the media. (That's why the ban happened in the first place!)

Even if you feel this doesn't affect you, and you wouldn't even want to watch the documentary anyway: What's to stop the same newspaper from starting a campaign against some other local movie, book or song for being “not Malay enough”? That might certainly affect you in the future.

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