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       Wednesday, May 24, 2006

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Malaysian Home Ministry ban approved documentary

May 23, 2006 

Malaysian documentary The Last Communist was passed without cuts by the National Film Censorship board in March. On May 5th, Home Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad retracted the approval.

The ban comes after the conservative Malay daily Berita Harian printed a series of articles, from May 3rd to 5th, questioning the content of the film. The film is inspired by the leader of the disbanded Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng.

In the first article, prominent members of the government and institutions were asked to comment on the film. History Professor Emeritus Datuk Khoo Kay Kim called the approval "hasty". "Before passing it, let experts view it first." said Datuk Khoo.

All expressed concern that the Malaysian public is too sensitive to the topic of Chin Peng and the Malayan Emergency where over ten thousand Malayan and British troops and civilians lost their lives. "This film belittles our struggle," said President of the Former Armed Servicemen Association of Malaysia, Datuk Mohamad Ghani.

The article also misstates several facts about the production of the film. Puteri UMNO leader Datuk Noraini Ahmad opposes the film because it glorifies "the communist leader" when in truth, Chin Peng is mentioned only once throughout the film.

Home Minister and UMNO Secretary-General Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad picked up on the protest and issued a retraction of the approval on May 5, 2006. Deputy Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho described the reasons behind the ban as, "the public was not very happy about the movie."

In a statement on his blog, heavily quoted among English newspapers, filmmaker Amir Muhammed revealed that neither the journalists responsible for the series of articles or their sources had seen the movie. Berita Harian editor Akmal Abdullah confirms this in an editorial, saying it might not be fair to punish a film without watching it. Amir says he was asked to screen his film for Special Branch unit of the Royal Malaysian Police Force, who felt the subject matter would not make an impression on the viewing public. Amir also contends that Berita Harian habitually attacks films that portray adult relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims.

At the request of opposition Parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, the documentary was screened for ministers of Parliament. Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said, "The plot isn't controversial and there's nothing that could be deemed as offensive from the cultural viewpoint." Lim Kit Siang called the movie, "an eye opener for all".

On Monday, 22 May, Radzi announced that in the annual meeting of the UMNO supreme council, in June, the government are scheduled to decide whether to keep the ban on the film, or let the people decide for themselves.


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posted by Robert at 6:55 AM  


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