Extremism That Threatens Our Freedom

On page 42 of the Tuesday March 16, 2004, edition of The Star, you will find a small black and white ad in the lower right corner. It is a picture of a smiling couple doing ballroom dancing; a motion blur effect has been applied to give the picture an appearance of movement. The ad is titled ‘Freedom of the Arts’. Under the picture, it reads “EVERY VOTE for DAP only weakens Barisan Nasional’s ability to fight the extremism that threatens our freedoms.” And below that, a ballot box with a cross next to the BN logo.

Does this mean that if we don’t vote for the ruling party, we won’t even get to engage in some wholesome foxtrot now?

Anyway, I suppose if they are serious about fighting extremism and all that, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to make the pledges below.

The following is a letter by Artisproactiv, a nonpartisan group of Malaysian arts practitioners who are active in championing for freedom of expression in the arts. Their last letter was to DBKL concerning the initial ban of Huzir Sulaiman’s Election Day. Whether it was due to the intervention of the letter or not, we won’t know, but the play (with revisions made to DBKL’s demands) was subsequently approved for public performance. In this letter, Artisproactiv urges MP candidates running for the coming general elections to pledge for freedom of expressions among other things.

But will our MPs take this letter seriously? After all, they are protected from criticism of any kind, and we are not able to mention them by name in our theatre. I never understood why we can’t address our own reality in our expressions. Is this country built entirely on fantasy? What kind of art will our young inherit from us? More patriotic songs? Sycophantic pantomimes? If you feel this situation is NOT the most conducive for the growth and harmony of this nation, perhaps you could use whatever voice you still have left to urge your favourite election candidate to pledge the following.

–  Pang Khee Teik


16th March 2004

RE: Pledge for MP Candidates and Arts Community To Work Together for Malaysia

Tuesday, March 16, 2004, Kuala Lumpur: ArtisProActiv has produced a 10-point Candidate’s Pledge for the 2004 General Elections. This Pledge will be faxed and/or emailed to all the candidates who are running for the Parliamentary seats in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur for their endorsement.

As an important element in realizing Vision 2020 as well as other national aspirations, the problems and concerns faced by the Malaysian arts community need to be heard and addressed. To that end, this Pledge was created to increase cooperation between future MPs and the steadily growing arts community.

ArtisProActiv hopes that through the circulation and endorsement of this Pledge more MPs will take up the cause of championing the arts and recognizing the role that the arts and Malaysian artists play in creating a more tolerant, harmonious, and progressive Malaysia.

A copy of the Pledge is attached for your official media use. For candidates who are interested to acquire a copy of this Pledge, and for further media enquiries, please contact Fahmi Fadzil (019-3103768) or Lorna Tee (012-3966863).

ArtisProActiv is a nonpartisan group of Malaysian arts practitioners that believes that questions must always be asked without fear or favor.

Sincerely, Fahmi Fadzil

Director Designate ArtisProActiv



If you are elected, will you pledge to take actions on the following issues:

Freedom of Expression in the Arts

  1. Safeguard the artist’s right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Federal Constitution
  2. Oppose any attempts to control creativity or dictate artistic content by individuals, government and non­government organizations at local council, state or national level
  3. Dismantle all existing restrictions imposed by the State Government on traditional performance artists in Kelantan and Terengganu

The Arts in Society

  1. Advocate for a paradigm shift amongst policy makers towards re-establishing the importance of the arts in every aspect of Malaysian society.
  2. Advocate for a holistic Education Policy which places equal importance on both the Arts and the Sciences
  3. Promote a Malaysian education curriculum geared towards enhancing the creativity of students
  4. Open public spaces such as public parks to artists so that they can take their work to a wider audience

Arts Infrastructure

  1. Create the infrastructure for consultative processes between artists and members of government on issues related to the creation and consumption of the arts
  2. In place of State-imposed censorship, advocate for a self-regulated rating system where artists are given the responsibility to rate works meant for public consumption
  3. Advocate for a transparent and equitable State arts funding process

First Published: 16.03.2004 on Kakiseni

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