Uphold freedom of the arts in Penang, rep says after LGBT activists’ portraits removed from exhibition

A visitor at the ‘Stripes and Strokes’ exhibition in George Town August 8, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A visitor at the ‘Stripes and Strokes’ exhibition in George Town August 8, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 8 — The removal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik’s portraits from a photography exhibition at the George Town Festival (GTF) 2018 is unbecoming of Penang, the state legislative assembly heard today.

Referring to a Malay Mail report on the growing controversy, Heng Lee Lee (PH-Berapit) said such incidents should not happen in Penang.

“Penang has always placed importance on the freedom of the arts and yet this happened here,” she said in her motion of thanks to the Penang governor’s speech today.

She said Penang has always practised freedom of speech and freedom of the arts.

“This action of removing the portraits is now criticised by various groups on social media,” she said.

She asked that the state government explain who had given the orders for the portraits to be removed.

“We want a resolution on this issue. I want to know who gave the orders and what were the reasons for the portraits to be removed,” she said.

Nisha and Pang’s portraits were part of the Stripes and Strokes photography exhibition but were removed following protests by some Muslim groups.

The Stripes and Strokes exhibition at the Dewan Sri Pinang is an exhibit of 28 portraits of Malaysian personalities with the Jalur Gemilang.

Earlier today, Penang state exco Chong Eng said the portraits should not be removed.

Chong, who is in charge of the state committee for women, family development, gender inclusiveness and religions other than Islam, said there is no harm for anyone to express their love for the country.

However, she did not know who instructed the portraits to be removed and insisted she can’t order for it to be reinstated.