By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
The Malaysian Insider
Feb 23, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan questioned today the motive behind the recent private screening of “Tanda Putera” to Malay FELDA settlers here, saying this meant the movie was likely racist portrayal of the bloody May 1969 riots.
On February 18, over 3,000 settlers from the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) programme were shown a surprise preview of the controversial film in what the opposition has alleged was an attempt to “brainwash” them against voting for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in Election 2013.
“My issue with Tanda Putera is why did they want to show it only to FELDA settlers.
“Show it to all of us. Let us all judge and believe me we will judge it… why only let a select few of people watch it? That shows what the issue is about,” the former Bar Council president said at a forum on racism held at the Civil Servants Golf Club here.
“Tanda Putera” depicts second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his deputy, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, during the post-May 13 period.
It was produced by Pesona Pictures Sdn Bhd in collaboration with the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), which provided the financing together with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC).
Abdul Razak’s eldest son, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is the current prime minister.
Putrajaya had decided last October to put off the public release of the film indefinitely due to its controversial depiction of the events surrounding the bloody racial riots in 1969.
PR leaders, especially those from the Chinese-based the DAP, claimed the film was intended to stoke racial hatred among the Malay majority in a bid to mitigate the growing support for the opposition.
Observers noted that the possibility for the opposition bloc to form the new federal government at Election 2013, which must be held by June, is high.
Ambiga said such tactic reflects what she described as “institutionalised” racism.
The lawyer, who also co-chairs polls watchdog group Bersih 2.0, added that the roots of racial problems in the country could be attributed to a political system that promotes segregation through the existence of race-based parties.
“It permits everything that happens in this country,” said the Bersih leader, referring to the various racial-charged incidents that have cropped up throughout the years.
She cited as example the alleged racism instilled through the education system in the form of the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) programmes where instructors had been reported to have told participants that the non-Malays are unwelcome immigrants.
Ambiga added that among the major factors behind the problem is the existence of political interference in the education system – where politicians, instead of educationists, are in charge of the learning institutions.
“What they are doing to our children is a crime,” she said, adding that her schooling children have also experienced the very same system that she claims has caused communal strife in Malaysia.
The former Bar Council president said combating these problems should be one the chief issues political parties must address in Election 2013 but pointed out that the leadership have remained silent on the matter.
She claimed politicians refrain from tackling racism out of the fear that it would alienate support from their respective races.
Ambiga said the best way to deal with them is to vote them out at the coming polls which must be held by June.
“I want a statesman, not a politician,” she said.