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Koh’s reckless defence of ‘Tanda Putra’

April 1, 2013

FMT LETTER: From Ravinder Singh, via e-mail

It’s a shame that Koh Tsu Koon, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and President of Gerakan, has seen it fit to bend backwards to support what he calls “private screening” of “Tanda Putra”.

While it is understandable that KTK has to support the ruling party’s efforts to win big, it is unacceptable of a statesman to justify the screening of a racist film to brainwash the viewers made up of one particular race while the film depicts a different race negatively. This is totally at variance with the much hyped about 1Malaysia and racial unity that KTK himself subscribes to. Is this a way to promote harmony among the various ethnic groups in Malaysia?

He reasons that what the Cabinet had banned was the “public screening” of the film and therefore there is no ban on its “private screening”! Good polemics, might be, but childish.

When you gather 3,000 Felda settlers, or hundreds of students at a university, who are concurrently also members of the public and voters, in a hall, and screen the film to them, how does it become a “private screening”? Is it because they are all of one ethnic group?  KTK would have been more correct to say that there is no ban on screening the film to audiences of a particular ethnic group.

It is not the fault of the audiences, but of those who get them together behind locked doors and screen the film to them. Thus they are forced to view the film, even enticed to do so as in the case of the university students who were given certain points for watching the film. Could KTK please tell us why students of other ethnic backgrounds could not see the film and earn some points as well? Could KTK please rationalise why “private screenings” to non-Malays are not allowed?

Why does he not arrange a “private screening” of the film to his Gerakan members of different ethnic backgrounds? If the requirement is that it must be done behind locked doors, it should be no problem for Gerakan, or any other party, political or otherwise, to screen it.

KTK has chosen to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the essence of the complaints against the screening of this film. The essence is that this racially biased film is being screened to voters of one particular race, i.e. Malays, while the film depicts the Chinese in a negative way.

KTK’s argument that the screening of the film has not caused any racial breakouts is atrocious to say the least. Does he not believe that prevention is better than cure? Does he not know that films can have a powerful impact on people’s emotions? So he needs to wait for proof in the form of racial violence before acknowledging the worst scenario that could happen if people’s racial emotions are fired-up? This is a very reckless defence of the racist film.

This film did not come about by accident and neither is it a work of “creative licence” as claimed by its director. Creative licence does not mean it is fair game to pit one race against another in a multi-racial society contrary to the government’s stated policy of creating 1Malaysia where all the people of different races and religions live in harmony.

From the days of Mahathir’s rule, it had become standard practice to screen “Bukit Kepong” before every general election. As a result of the 2008 tsunami, the stale Bukit Kepong had to be replaced with something ‘better’. That’s how the idea of “Tanda Putra” must have got mooted. The making of this new film was therefore to replace the stale “Bukit Kepong” and was to be a part of the “at all costs” campaign to regain the two-thirds majority.

It is extremely sad that a government that openly and loudly tells the world about its 1Malaysia that is founded on racial harmony, should have had a hand in the making of this film through Finas and MDEC at a cost of RM4.8m to the taxpayers, and now its screening despite the Cabinet’s decision that it should not be screened to “the public”, meaning the population at large.

It smacks of how the Education Ministry had not very long ago tried to belittle the Indians by making the book Interlok  (which used a derogatory word to describe them) a compulsory literature text for students in Form 5. Very subtle way of driving wedges between people of different ethnic origins.

When will all this religious and racial bigotry end for the sake of 1Malaysia? Why is Najib  so helpless? Should he not stand firm to ensure that his 1Malaysia is a success and not a mere slogan?


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