Dr. Mahathir’s Name Not Allowed?

Note: According to Five Arts Centre producer Marion D’Cruz, Election Day has been given a “verbal approval” by the Licensing Department of DBKL to proceed with its performance at The Actors Studio Bangsar from Thursday Feb 12 to Saturday Feb 28.


Datuk Bandar

Y.Bhg. Kol. Datuk Mohmad b Mohd Taufek

9th February 2004

Honorable Datuk,

Censorship by DBKL of ‘Election Day’

It has come to the attention of ArtisProActiv, a non-politically aligned group of people from the arts community, that the script for ‘Election Day’, a play to be produced by Five Arts Centre scheduled for 12-29 February 2004, has been rejected by the DBKL. We understand that Five Arts Centre has since submitted a revised script to the DBKL for reconsideration.

On investigation as to why the script was rejected, we were informed of the following:

  • That DBKL did not state that anything was specifically ‘wrong’ with the script
  • That words like – Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternatif (in fact names of all political parties), individuals’ names like Dr Mahathir, Sivarasa Rasiah, Dr Wan Azizah etc, swear words, names of places like Ampang Jaya, Guardian Pharmacy etc, were asked to be taken out. We find that the removal of these words ludicrous as most of them appear in the mass media on a daily basis and therefore should not be subjected to censorship.

Thus, ArtisProActiv is concerned for the following reasons:

  • We strongly object to the script vetting committee set up by DBKL. We believe that this body is counter­ productive to the cultural progress of Malaysia.
  • ‘Election Day,’ the play by Huzir Sulaiman, is a published work that is available to the public.
  • The revision of a published work tampers with the creative rights of the writer.
  • The play ‘Election Day’ was issued a license for performance by the DBKL in December 1999, almost immediately after the 1999 Malaysian General Elections. The script’s rejection now, 5 years later, is an inconsistent and retrogressive step by the DBKL.
  • If the performance of this play is not in violation of any laws of the land, then we feel DBKL should not play the role of moral guardians and tell the Malaysian public what they are allowed to see.
  • We believe that DBKL recognizes that members of the Malaysian public have the intelligence to make up their own minds and should be encouraged to do so.
  • We believe that free flow of ideas and information should be encouraged in this society, in line with the spirit of Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution, and echoed in the 19th Article of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights.

ArtisProActiv therefore calls upon DBKL to cease this process of vetting of scripts, which is an unacceptable form of censorship. We also ask that the DBKL review its position with regard to the script for “Election Day” immediately.

ArtisProActiv will be monitoring the developments of this situation with great interest. It is our hope that this situation between DBKL and Five Arts Centre will result in a progressive outcome, in line with the vision of the Honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi, who has called for a ‘mindset change among Malaysians, moving away from the physical landmarks (the “hardware’‘) of development to the “software” part of development with emphasis on human capital’ (The Star, 1st Feb 2004).


Fahmi Fadzil

Director Designate, ArtisProActiv

ArtisProActiv pro tem committee members:

Ghafir Akbar

Anne James

Tan Sei Hon

Vernon Adrian Emuang

Kathy Rowland

First Published: 09.02.2004 on Kakiseni

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