KUALA LUMPUR: Klang MP Charles Santiago wants the portraits of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists Pang Khee Teik and Nisha Ayub to be reinstated at the Stripes and Strokes exhibition in Penang.
He said the removal of these portraits showed the government had failed to protect the rights of all citizens, including those in the LGBT community.
“These are human rights activists whom I feel privileged to call friends,” he said, adding that it was “outrageous that George Town Festival organiser Joe Sidek and photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad were forced to take down the portraits of Pang and Nisha.
“Everyone featured by Mooreyameen represent the values we hold dear in Malaysia: courage, hope, justice, determination, strength,” he said in a statement.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa admitted in Parliament today that he had ordered the portraits of Pang and Nisha to be removed “as they were promoting LGBT activities, which were not in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s policies”.
Santiago said not too long ago, Malaysians were outraged by the “targeted persecution” of cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar.
“But how different is that from removing photos of Pang and Nisha? This incident is indicative of a larger issue, where we continue to deny the LGBT community their rights, opting instead to marginalise and discriminate against them.
“As Pang aptly said, it’s as if ‘there is no space for them in Malaysia’. This is heartbreaking as we all believe that we are now citizens of a New Malaysia or Malaysia Baru.
“We may have different sexuality and gender identities but that doesn’t mean that others whom we perceive as different from us are denied a space in our country, especially as we prepare to celebrate Merdeka.”
He said Malaysians, including Pang and Nisha, voted in the Pakatan Harapan government believing it would uphold the rights of all its citizens.
“But we have failed them, yet again. Whether it’s because of a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office or due to pressure from some LGBT-hating people, the photos must be reinstated without further delay.”