PETALING JAYA: A rights group has accused Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and other government leaders of being hypocrites for praising Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win amid an ongoing probe on a locally produced film.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) director Zaid Malek said it was distasteful for Putrajaya to “ride on the coattails” of Yeoh’s historic win as the producers and actors of the controversial movie “Mentega Terbang” continue to be investigated by the police.
“Are Anwar, communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil and other leaders not aware that, in Malaysia, Yeoh’s movie would have led to a criminal investigation for ‘offending sentiments’ or ‘breach of religious sensitivities’?
“Yeoh herself would likely have been hauled up for police questioning due to the LGBT themes in (Everything Everywhere All at Once), as is now being done to the ‘Mentega Terbang’ actors,” he said in a statement.
Anwar had congratulated Yeoh yesterday after she snatched the Oscar for best actress, with the prime minister expressing hope it would spur the local entertainment industry.
Women, family and community development minister Nancy Shukri, youth and sports minister Hannah Yeoh, and former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob were also among the host of politicians who congratulated the Ipoh-born actress.
Zaid questioned if Putrajaya will now direct the police to drop their investigation against the “Mentega Terbang” producers and give film producers greater artistic freedom.
He said Fahmi’s pledge of improving Malaysia’s national film policy was an empty promise in light of the investigation into “Mentega Terbang”.
“Local filmmakers and producers have long been shackled by the excessive censorship the previous governments imposed on them, and the supposedly reformist government led by Pakatan Harapan has shown they are no different,” he said.
Last week, police recorded the statements of the director and one of the actors involved in “Mentega Terbang”. Zaid is representing the duo, Khairi Anwar Jailani and actor Arjun Thanaraju.
The case is being investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for statements that lead to public alarm and distress, and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 for improper use of network facilities.
“Mentega Terbang”, which touches on the differences and similarities of the major religions in Malaysia, has drawn criticism from the public as well as artistes. The movie has been available online since 2021.
Religious affairs minister Na’im Mokhtar said the Islamic development department (Jakim) had reviewed the film’s content and found that it went against the Islamic creed.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said the Viu platform had taken down the controversial movie on Feb 27.