— Ravinder Singh
The Malay Mail Online
September 9, 2013
SEPT 9 — “Tanda Putera” was not a natural birth. In contrast, I believe, “Bukit Kepong” was.
“Bukit Kepong” was a film made in 1981 and based on an incident in Bukit Kepong in 1950. It portrayed a historical fact and was not produced with any ulterior motive.
However, certain vested interests saw how it could be put to political use. It became the prime weapon in the election campaigns of the ruling coalition. For the next several elections it became “mandatory” viewing by the electorate starting a few weeks before each election, and almost to the eve of the election.
The TV screening of the film was calculated to “motivate” the voters into supporting the ruling coalition to ensure a “peaceful” future. If not, another Bukit Kepong could happen again.
Impulses reaching the brain through the sense of sight are very powerful. They account for about 80 per cent of all that the mind absorbs. So, screening of the film at the critical hour before the elections was a calculated strategy to condition the minds of the viewers to believe something and react accordingly at the ballot box. It was mind-conditioning.
Having been used for campaigning purposes at a few elections, it had become stale. This is when someone got a brainwave to produce a designer movie to replace Bukit Kepong. This brainwave, I believe, did not originate in Shuhaimi Baba’s mind. It had to be the mind of a master strategist, as far as election campaigning goes, that came up with it.
After the brainwave, it had to be realised. If Finas itself produced it, it would be too obvious that it was a government propaganda film from the outset. So Finas had to take the back seat, while it provided all the funding to the tune of RM4.8 million of public funds. A willing producer had to be sourced, and was found in the person of Datuk Paduka Shuhaimi Baba.
Shuhaimi Baba therefore does not have to lament the box-office failure of “Tanda Putera”. It was never meant to be a film that would attract audiences. Its purpose was to send messages to people’s minds that would turn into votes for the BN.
Hence, despite a Cabinet “ban” on the screening of the film before the elections, it was “forced shown” to about 3,000 Felda settlers attending a function at the Putra World Trade Centre, and after that at a few institutions of higher learning. It is significant that the audiences to whom the film was “force shown” were from a certain ethnic group.
The question is, if we want to talk of 1 Malaysia, of unity and solidarity, of good inter-ethnic relations, then why was “Tanda Putera” financed by the government? Why was it shown to rural audiences just before the elections despite a Cabinet “ban”? Why was it shown only to people of a particular ethnicity?
Bukit Kepong was not produced with any motive of manipulating people’s minds. But when those in power saw the power of the movie to transmit fear into people’s minds, the movie was abused for that purpose. When it became stale, it had to be replaced by something new to carry on that motive of fear mongering. So another incident in the nation’s history came to the rescue.
Any movie re-enacting history has to be truthful. Shuhaimi Baba herself has admitted “Tanda Putera” is not truthful, and excuses it with the phrase “creative licence.”
Creative licence is not a licence to tell untruths. Spoken untruths may be forgotten after some time, but visual untruths get etched in the mind and people will actually believe they are truths. This has already happened as some who viewed the film say it is just depicting the truth and nothing but the truth!
So, what was the ulterior motive of producing “Tanda Putera?”