After Thirst fiasco, event promoters moot new system to vet concerts

The Serdang police's withdrawal of support for the “Thirst: We are all Stardust” 2015 concert that was scheduled to be held last Saturday had resulted in the cancellation of the event.
The Serdang police's withdrawal of support for the “Thirst: We are all Stardust” 2015 concert that was scheduled to be held last Saturday had resulted in the cancellation of the event.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — An association representing event promoters today pressed Putrajaya to urgently consider their proposal for a new approval system for large-scale concerts and events involving foreign acts, amid concerns that the Malaysian live event industry may be ruined following the spate of last-minute show cancellations.

The Arts, Live Festivals and Events Association (ALIFE) said the entire approval process should be limited to the board of the Central Agency for the Application of Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (Puspal), since it already includes representatives from all the relevant authorities.

“As long as there are no objections from all board members with regards to their areas of responsibility, then the event should go through,” Iqbal Ameer, the group’s secretary, said when met on the sidelines after a news conference.

Earlier during a brief presentation, Iqbal explained that the new system they are pushing for will expand and rejig the membership of Puspal’s board to include representatives from the Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac), police, Customs Department, Immigration Department, Inland Revenue Board, local councils and ALIFE.

This way, Puspal’s board will be able to deal directly with any and all issues related to plans to bring in a foreign artist or organise a large-scale event, he added.

“Once they give their approval, then they can’t cancel the event anymore because by then we would have fulfilled whatever that is required,” said Iqbal, who is also group chief executive of the Livescape Group.

Iqbal claimed that under the existing process, event organisers have to go through multiple layers of approval even after getting Puspal’s nod, and face the possibility of having their event canned by any of the authorities involved at any point of the process.

Currently, membership of Puspal’s board covers the police, local council, Customs, Immigration, Motac and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

When asked about Jakim’s exclusion from ALIFE’s proposed board structure under Puspal, Iqbal said there is no need for Jakim to be on the board as their role is purely advisory.

“On our end, Jakim is meant to give its opinions and views and it is up to the organisers to decide whether to follow it or not. Even Jakim themselves said that their views are not binding,” he said, referring to the federal Islamic body’s recent entertainment guidelines that imposes restrictions on live acts in Malaysia.

The ALIFE news conference comes just over a week after authorities withdrew approval for “Thirst 2015: We Are All Stardust” electronic dance concert at the eleventh hour, on grounds that the event organisers failed to fulfil permit requirements.

It, however, remains unknown which requirements were not met, though there are claims that the cancellation is related to an objection letter submitted by PAS’ Seri Serdang assemblyman Noor Hanim Ismail on April 24 — a day before the event.

Just a month before in March, Malaysian authorities banned English metal band Carcass from performing in the country. Other acts that were denied approval include Kreator (April 2014), Kesha (October 2013), Lamb of God (September 2013) and Beyonce (October 2009).

Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin, the director of My Performing Arts Agency (Mypa), said they have been lobbying Puspal over the past two years to better deal with what industry players describe as a “disconnect” between event organisers and the authorities.

“We are not here to go against the government. We are here to work together to fix (the system). Puspal is supposed to operate as a one-stop centre but it isn’t functioning as one.

“If this really doesn’t work out, we will have to bring our business outside of the country and we don’t want to do that,” said Izan, who is also an ALIFE council member.

Under Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the country is aiming to grow its gross national income (GNI) from international events to RM426.7 million aside from creating over 8,000 jobs by 2020.

Towards this end, the Malaysia Major Events unit (MME) was established and has since supported 47 “arts/lifestyle, entertainment and sports events” in 2014 and “up to 32 events” the previous year, according to the Performance Management and Delivery Unit’s (Pemandu) ETP website. 

Related Articles