August 29, 2013 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Boycott Tanda Putera

August 29, 2013

After the general election, the government seems intent on polarising our society further by communalising issues. Tanda Putera seems to be set in this trend.


By Kua Kia Soong

I do not intend to pay to watch Tanda Putera since the government has already used part of our money to sponsor this film which seems intent on spreading untruths and enhancing polarisation instead of promoting truth and reconciliation.

My response to the film is based on published reviews of the film on the online press.

Who orchestrated the May 13 pogrom?

From the reviews of the film, the Chinese are depicted as the aggressors, insensitive to the extent of urinating on a flag pole outside the residence of the then state menteri besar Harun Idris, hurting the feelings of Malays and thus triggering the May 13 race riots.

The communists are also portrayed as having a hand in the troubles.

I am surprised that in spite of my having produced references in my 2007 title, the director insists on putting the blame on the communists:

“…as late as May 29 (the Tunku) was still voicing his conviction that communists had been behind the trouble… But on the same day, Tun Dr Ismail was admitting that he had been wrong to ascribe the riots to the communists, and during the New Zealand Defence Minister’s visit on May 30 and 31, the Tunku admitted that the earlier accusations had been incorrect. Three days later, Tan Sri Ghazali followed suit…” (Kua Kia Soong, May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian riots of 1969, 2007:51)

This can be easily corroborated by checking up on all the official wires on the dates I have quoted, a standard practice of any respectable scholar.

This film maker does not bother with such basic SOP of research. She (the director) is more interested in the “creative licence” (sic) to orchestrate the scene of the Chinese youth urinating on the flagpole outside the Selangor menteri besar’s residence.

After the 13th general election, the government seems intent on polarising our society further by communalising issues. It’s payback time, as some observers have also pointed out. Tanda Putera seems to be set in this trend.

Boycott the film

A government that is concerned about national rejuvenation would not shrink from setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to lay bare the truth once and for all without fear of retribution.

The new deputy ministers from the NGOs, Paul Low and P Waythamoorthy should call for transparency by declassifying all documents on the May 13 incident.

Let us also honour the victims by uncovering the names of all those who died or suffered injuries during that dark episode in our history.

For a start, truth seeking Malaysians should boycott the film.

We also call upon Finas (National Film Development Corporation) to justify to all taxpayers why their money should be used to spread untruths which are costly to national reconciliation.

Kua Kia Soong is Suaram advisor.

Open letter to Shuhaimi Baba – Sugasini Kandiah

AUGUST 30, 2013

Dear Ms Shuhaimi Baba,

Last night, I went to watch your movie Tanda Putera, despite the many calls to boycott it. I went to see the movie because– 1) You urged Malaysians to see it before criticizing and 2) I had hoped to learn something about the May 13th riots.

After watching the movie, as per your recommendation, I feel I learnt very little, if not nothing, about the May 13th incident. And I believe this is due to two reasons – One, the film tackles the incident in a manner so shoddy, it downright insults the viewer’s intelligence. Second, the director’s poor ability to translate historical interpretation into production leaves the viewer confused as to whether events in the film are fictional or not.

You fail to show how these incidents are related and instead seem to have a jolly good time insinuating that the Chinese were primarily responsible for inciting all forms of violence during the period while the Malays are portrayed as simply trying to defend themselves.

In fact, the scene where former Selangor MB Harun Idris gathers his men and urges them to drop their weapons and then faints when his mob runs riot is simply pathetic. The urination scene too was totally unnecessary especially since, by your own accord, it did not even take place.

Indeed, it is irritating that many fictional scenarios of Chinese belligerence were conveniently created to justify actual decisions made by the country’s leaders.

Ms Baba, you deliberately chose to portray the Chinese as disrespectful and violent knowing you could get away with it. All Umno leaders meanwhile are portrayed as holier than thou.

Your depiction of how Tunku Abdul Rahman “happily resigned” when he had in fact been ousted was also disappointing. Surely as a story-teller, you must realize having one-dimensional characters does your movie no justice whatsoever.

That being said, I must commend your feeble attempt to show how friends of different races stood up for each other during the racial riots. I think, however, there was a lot more you could have done with the subject which would have driven Malaysians to the cinema in droves.

I’m not sure I agree with the Penang government’s directive against screening the film, however, after seeing the film myself, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to watch it.

The last historical drama I watched was Lincoln which reflected on Abe Lincoln’s handling of the Civil War and perhaps I unfairly had that as a benchmark when I watched your film.

Still, when I think of how this film was showed in FELDA areas prior to the elections, I can see why the story had to be distorted even further than what we usually encounter in our history textbooks.

Ms Baba, Malaysia is a young country that has a long way to go in terms of generating honest discourse on racial issues. You unfortunately have in no way contributed to that.

* Sugasini Kandiah reads The Malaysian Insider.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Malaysian films stir up racial tensions of the past May 13 was not a racial riot

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