APA Press Statement on Lelaki Komunis Terakhir
Artis Pro Activ (APA) is concerned by the banning of Amir Muhammad’s film “Lelaki Komunis Terakhir” by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The organisation feels that this is again another example of the increasing curtailment of Freedom of Expression in Malaysia.
“Lelaki Komunis Terakhir” is a semi-musical road movie documentary tracing the towns in which Chin Peng (the exiled leader of the banned Communist Party of Malaya) lived from birth until independence in 1957. Unlike various books freely available in Malaysian bookshops the film does not even include any interviews or photographs of Chin Peng and he is only mentioned once during the interviews.
The movie was passed uncut by the Censorship Board and was given the rating of U, meaning suitable for all ages. Due to the potentially ‘sensitive’ subject matter, a special screening was organised for 20 Special Branch officers who, according to the movie’s director, raised no objections to the film.
APA is surprised that the decision to ban the film was based solely on a series of articles which appeared in Berita Harian even before the movie was screened. Ludicrous as it seems not one person in Berita Harian or the people they interviewed for their opinion of the film had actually seen it. As Malaysians we find it is inconceivable that the voices of the few with
particular ultra-conservative agendas can drown out the many voices of reason and fair mindedness.
However we are concerned that increasingly the authorities appear to be giving these conservative voices credence: not least by heeding their call for a ban on “Lelaki Komunis Terakhir”.
APA is also concerned at the seemingly arbitrary manner in which the ban was placed on the movie. In the era of the 9th Malaysia Plan, the ban’s rationale should be forthrightly substantiated so as to allow an increasingly sophisticated and intellectually mature public to gauge the matter for itself.
APA believes strongly that freedom of expression, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a cornerstone of every civil, progressive and democratic society. APA also believes that reasoned judgment, maturity, and foresight should be used when applying this freedom.
We at APA support Amir’s call for his movie to get a fair showing- screenings where all Malaysians regardless of religious or political beliefs can use reasoned judgement, maturity and foresight to engage with the work of this extraordinarily talented, internationally feted Malaysian artist. We believe that Malaysians have the right to make choices about what they want to see or read. We abhor the continuing attempts by ultra conservative individuals and the State who persist in playing the role of gatekeepers.
APA is a non-politically aligned group of people from the arts community, which was established in 1998. We believe that the arts community needs to come together to play a more pro-active role in developing a more open society for our country.
Fahmi Fadzil, Director, Artis Pro Activ (012 281 1150)
Anne James, Director, Artis Pro Activ (012 294 3154)