KUALA LUMPUR: Members of Malaysia’s performing arts community have expressed concern over City Hall’s newly-formed committee to evaluate scripts for theatre performances.
The group, which included theatre performers, dancers, choreographers and scriptwriters said the stringent guidelines equal censorship.
The committee was formed after a controversy in July where City Hall banned the Instant Café Theatre’s show The 2nd First Annual Bolehwood Awards 2003 – The Director’s Cut following an offended viewer’s complaint to Utusan Melayu. Datuk Bandar Datuk Mohamad Shaid Mohd Taufek later allowed the show to go on.
“We are deeply disturbed that City Hall has decided to enforce this series of guidelines that severely limits the growth of a vibrant arts community in Malaysia,” said Jo Kukathas of the Instant Café Theatre at a press conference by the group.
“We are worried that these guidelines, although currently limited to the performing arts, could impact upon the growth of all forms of public expression and the arts from film-making to visual arts to literature.”
Kukathas and other members of the group said City Hall formed the committee without any consultation or negotiation with the arts community.
The 12-member committee is empowered to change, alter, modify or delete any part of the scripts submitted for application of performing permits.
Criteria for approval state that scripts do not touch on racial or ethnic sensitivities, religious edits and beliefs of any religion; institution of royalty; laws; policy and administration; and not use obscene/ vulgar and lewd terminology or act.
“I am joining this fraternity in expressing our concern over City Hall’s role to act as our moral guardians,” said dancer Ramli Ibrahim.
“This kind of action is no better than what PAS is doing in Terengganu and Kelantan. It is all about control. The Malaysian public has grown increasingly mature and willing to engage in debate and discussion. We shouldn’t underestimate the maturity and understanding of our society,” he added.
Kathy Rowland from arts portal Kakiseni.com said they would send a statement signed by 230 performing arts members and continue to seek a dialogue with City Hall.
“Theatre is not forced on anyone. You choose to buy a ticket and come in to watch a show on your own accord. You watch a show to be entertained, be provoked, be moved, to laugh and be laughed at. You can also choose to walk out if you don’t like what you’re seeing,” said Rowland.