The Malaysian Insider
September 01, 2013
I is for Idiot and unlike established artist J Anu, there is little need to lob that label on former US president George W. Bush when there are enough politicians in Malaysia who have doctorates in idiocy.
The artist was forced to explain the concept behind his artwork after a mosquito Muslim group lodged a complaint, saying that the painting insulted Islam. In fact, the government yesterday demanded the piece be withdrawn from the Selamat Hari Merdeka exhibition at Publika Kuala Lumpur.
Anu said the artwork was in reference to Bush’s adventure in Iraq.
But really, why look thousands of miles away for an idiot? Malaysians are spoilt for choice at home.
Look at Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (pic). He enjoys that work of fiction called Tanda Putera and tries to pass it off as historically accurate and well-researched. Never mind that the director of the film herself conceded that she took artistic licence with the events surrounding the race riots of May 13, 1969.
Nazri yesterday offered the discredited Umno version of the riots, saying that it was sparked by a few Chinese individuals.
“The Chinese community as a whole is not responsible for what happened in 1969, only the individuals, they are the ones who should feel guilty,” he said.
Well, well, what magnanimity by the minister. Today, most Chinese should be at peace and sleep easy. Because Nazri has singled out only a few Chinese for starting the riots.
But idiots never stop when they are on a roll. So this is what Nazri added: “Why should the present generation of Chinese be troubled by it now? It is a historical fact that the riot was sparked by Chinese just like Nazis killed thousands of Jews during the Second World War.”
Yes, Chinese, why be offended? The minister has only blamed you for the blackest episode in Malaysian history.
Nazri’s comments are precisely why many right-thinking Malaysians have been wary of Tanda Putera.
There was more than a suspicion that Umno politicians, Malay nationalists and the intellectually-challenged at Utusan Malaysia would use the movie as fodder to continue demonising the Chinese and the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Let us not forget a few facts. The movie is funded by the Umno-led government and the plan was to screen it before the general election, with the hope that it would boost patriotism among Malays.
But most of the Cabinet ministers vetoed the plan, fearing that it would hurt Barisan Nasional’s chances with the Chinese voters.
After the results of May 5, with the mantra in Umno and the government being “punish the Chinese for voting for Pakatan Rakyat”, there is now little concern about the film upsetting the Chinese community.
Indeed, the prevalent mood seems to be to hammer the community at every turn, in the style of the schoolyard bully.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Malaysians were not encouraged to speak openly about May 13. Teachers discouraged questions on it; parents were uncomfortable when asked about it and newspapers, well, they didn’t write essays about it.
Perhaps the general reticence could be explained by the fact that many people of that generation saw the bloodshed and loss of life firsthand and witnessed how close the country came to going up in flames.
But on hindsight, keeping mum about May 13, 1969, may not have been the best policy, for it created a cottage industry of speculation and conspiracy theories about the causes of the race riots.
One theory which has been gaining traction in recent years is the role played by Umno politicians. Others blamed a procession by successful opposition politicians after the 1969 elections for sparking anger among Umno politicians.
Malaysian politicians have also blamed the communists for the trouble in 1969 but declassified government documents showed that Malaysians leaders later admitted that the accusations had been wrong.
But it would be asking too much of Nazri Aziz and his ilk to read official documents. They prefer fiction and a storyline which supports their political agenda.
I is also for Imagination. Run wild. – September 1, 2013.