KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 ― The Penang government will pen a request today seeking the cooperation of all cinemas statewide to refrain from playing the controversial “Tanda Putera” movie, which is scheduled to hit the silver screen tomorrow.
At a press conference in Penang this afternoon, state executive councillor in charge of local government affairs Chow Kon Yeow announced the state’s decision and said the request will be issued today.
“We have no control over the content of the film, (which is the prerogative of) Finas (National Film Development Corporation Malaysia).
“However, in view of the sensitive nature of the movie, we are directing the two local councils (in Penang and Seberang Perai) to write in to ask the cooperation of the cinemas to not screen the movie,” Chow was quoted as saying on news portal Malaysiakini.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also at the same news conference, was reportedly asked later for the state’s next course of action should the cinemas refuse to comply with the instruction.
But according to Malaysiakini, the DAP secretary-general did not offer a direct reply to the question.
“The film has scenes which are slanderous, based on lies, and it is a threat to the harmony between the different communities in the country.
“Those scenes of Chinese youth urinating inside the Selangor menteri besar (Datuk Harun Idris’) residence and Malaysian flag can create chaos in society,” he said, Malaysiakini reported.
Lim also insisted that the incident had been made up, pointing to a witness testimony on how heavily guarded Harun’s residence had been at the time.
The Bagan MP also reportedly said that the “creative licence” of filmmakers in their depictions of true historical events should not be used as a “licence to lie”.
“If this trend continues, what if one day they make a film suggesting that Altantuya Shaariibuu was murdered by Anwar Ibrahim or Lim Kit Siang?
“We cannot understand how the government can spend money to sponsor such a malicious and dangerous film,” he was quoted saying in Malaysiakini.
Lim’s father, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, has been engaged in a war of words with “Tanda Putera” director Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, for the past year since news broke of an “inflammatory” scene of a Chinese man urinating on a flag pole at the Selangor mentri besar’s residence in the historical film.
The offending scene became the focal point of controversy when an administrator posted on Facebook a photograph ostensibly of the scene along with a caption: “Lim Kit Siang telah kencing di bawah tiang bendera Selangor yang terpacak di rumah menteri besar Selangor ketika itu, Harun Idris, (Lim Kit Siang had urinated at the foot of the flagpole bearing the Selangor flag at the then Selangor MB’s Harun Idris’ house)”
Lim had last year threatened to sue over the photograph and the caption, which “Tanda Putera” executive producer alleged was posted by a fan on the film’s Facebook page without the producers’ knowledge.
“Tanda Putera” was produced at a cost of RM4.8 million provided by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and the Multimedia Development Corporation (Mdec).
It had originally been scheduled to be released on September 13 last year, before being postponed to November 13 and subsequently put on hold indefinitely.
Since then, it has been shown in private screenings to an assortment of viewers such as a gathering of FELDA settlers in February and at an invitation-only event for International Islamic University students a month later.
The movie premiered last week to a select audience comprising cast members and several figures of authority and earned brickbats again when it was learned that the urinating scene had not been removed.
Shuhaimi was forced again to come to her movie’s defence, explaining that “Tanda Putera” is essentialy about Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his deputy Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman - “two men who gave up everything, including their lives for the country”.