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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The truth, the whole truth, and only my version of the truth

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This is not news, per se, but Amir Muhammad's sequel to Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (The Last Communist), Apa Khabar Orang Kampung has been banned. Read Amir's blog entry for the "official" reasons why we cannot view this film.

Image taken from the AKOK blog, hosting by PhotobucketHistory, it seems, has repeated itself
(original image taken from the AKOK blog)

Then after that, read Amir's letter of appeal. Walski couldn't help but snicker a little. Sock it to 'em, Amir.

In any case, after almost two decades of the Berlin Wall's falling, despite the obvious failure of the communist world, despite China no longer having any expansionary visions (except for being a global economic power), it seems that even the perceived spectre of communism still sends shivers down the spine of those in government. Or even a shadow of a spectre. Or even a whiff of a shadow of a spectre.

An advanced nation by year 2020? At this rate, we'd be lucky to scrape even the top-rung of Advanced-Infrastructured Third World.

And given a chance, the powers that be would prefer that any memory of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) be stricken from the minds of all Malaysians. Historical "truth", it seems, can only have one version - the official version.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), this time, Amir's sequel didn't even make it past the Censorship Board, unlike The Last Communist, which was passed by the board, but shot down no thanks to a Malay language press crusade led by none other than Jabba the Newsman.

It's almost as though the forward-thinking board from last year was totally removed, to be replaced by a regressive ultra-nannified one. To borrow some thoughts from what Amir wrote, it appears that movies about Mat Rempits are okay, but not an alternative view of history, seen from those that lived it - what about the respect for the victims of the Rempiteers?

History is rife with those who have led persecutions of those professing communistic ideals. The National Socialist German Workers Party of Germany (1933 - 1945), for example, was very anti-Communist. Oh, you probably know them better as the Nazis. Nice company to be in, huh? But even in the America of the 50's, Senator Joseph McCarthy led a witch hunt of anything and everything deemed 'commie'.

Incidentally, the Nazi's Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, throughout Hitler's Nazi Germany, was another Joseph - Dr. P. Joseph Goebbels.

Walski really wonders if there's anyone named Joseph on the Malaysian Censorship Board. All good things, as the Chinese would say, come in three's.
(more monocular truth in the full post)

But even if there weren't, there is one person in the Malaysian Cabinet (which might as well be a faux wooden cabinet) who should really change his name to Joseph. Or Joe, for short.

Came across this interesting article posted by Bibliobibuli in the Manuscripts Don't Burn collective last week. Essentially about another case of book-banning, the first two paragraphs read thus (emphasis by myAsylum):

Image taken from Manuscripts Don't Burn, hosting by PhotobucketI learned about Shamsiah Fakeh's memoir when I was at the IIU seminar recently and Prof. Dr Ruzy Suliza Hashim was talking about the paucity of memoirs written by Malaysian women. She referred to Shamsiah Fakeh's book as one very important example: the author was former head of Communist Party Malaysia's Women's Wing. Dr. Ruzy mentioned that the book was now banned, and of course I was curious to hear another Malaysian banned book story.

But this time there's a twist - it isn't the KKDN (Ministry of Home Affairs) that's the villain of the piece, it was the Minister of Information who ordered the publisher UKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) to withdraw the book from sale.
(source: Manuscripts Don't Burn)

Image taken from U. of Missouri-Kansas City Law School website, hosting by PhotobucketMalaysia's very own Minister of Propaganda
(click on image to view original Goebbels pix)

Yes, folks none other than our own Zainuddin "call me Joe" Maidin, or Goebbels, as my good blogger friend KTemoc is fond of calling him (for damn good reason, too). The Minister who wants everybody else's portfolio (by being his meddlesome self). And this is one individual that has been very antagonistic in trying to obfuscate the role of the CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) in Malaysian history. Granted, it's not a very pleasant part, but a part of history nevertheless. Unless Joe has his way.

This is the man that accused memorials remembering Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity who fell to the Japanese during WW2, as being dedicated to communists. Not to mention being one of the ones very supportive of the Government's decision to uphold the ban on The Last Communist.

And today, The Star reported that Joe announced RTM will screen "official" documentaries depicting the role of non-Malay freedom fighters. And likely, only pertaining to those that fit into the official version of history. And so, trudge along the Propaganda Machine continues.

The clincher, however, is a statement that Joe himself made, which Walski had written about earlier in a post entitled "Unclear on the concept...":

"As information minister, I am part of history, I bear witness to history, I understand history. Therefore I definitely haven't made a mistake or misunderstood history," he said.
(article source: The Sun, Thursday, December 21, 2006)

And in all likelihood rewrites history in the process as well.

Well, Walski for one hopes that his fantasy does come true - and becomes history (see important disclaimer at the end of the post). Soon. Otherwise, in time to come, we may have a totally different picture of our own nation's narrative. Seen only from one viewpoint. The officially sanitized one.

But Joe's not the only problem. This sort of protectionistic myopia is rife among the civil service and body politic. Too quick to ban things for the sake of appeasing grassroots grumblings, nary a thought for the serious repercussions to Malaysian minds in general.

And in reality, banning this, that and the other is futile. Information is freely available on the Internet. Wanna know why Shamsiah Fakih's story is so unsavory? Read about who she is. For the benefit of those unable to read Bahasa Malaysia, Walski's translated it below.

Shamsiah Fakeh was the leader of AWAS (Angkatan Wanita Sedar), a right-wing political party formed in Malaya, in February 1946. The party's purpose was to fight for independence from British colonial rule. Her cooperation with Ahmad Boestamam, head of API (Angkatan Pemuda Insaf) inspired a number of youth to take up arms in their fight against the colonizers. Because of this, AWAS was banned by the then government, in 1948.

Shamsiah then entered the 10th Regiment, which was the Malay wing of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). She led a very trying and difficult life. Her struggle was carried out in many places, from the jungles, to the international arena. With her husband, Ibrahim, she was stationed in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, in her efforts to fan the flames of nationalism among the peoples of South East Asia who were still under colonial rule.

After separating from the CPM, she continued to reside in China, working in a steel mill. She and her family finally returned to Malaysia on July 23, 1994, after the solemnization of the Peace Agreement between the CPM and the Malaysian and Thai governments, which was signed in Haadyai, Thailand, in 1989.

And it's this kind of history that is likely to get swept under the carpet.

What Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (or its English title Village People Radio Show) is really trying to do is simply to give us a glimpse of another view of history, from the eyes of the people we once considered "the Enemy". Not to rekindle the spirit of Communism (which is as unresurrectable as squashed roadkill), nor to glorify the CPM, as the Censorship Board and people like Joe would want us to believe.

But not if these self-appointed guardians of Malaysian thought have their way. Nope. For them, there is only one historical truth - the one seen from their eyes, and their eyes alone.

Walski's important disclaimer: Wanting ZAM to "be history" could be misconstrued, so allow Walski to explain. Walski doesn't wish for any harm to befall the dude, merely that somebody else with a more enlightened mindset take his place as Minister of Propaganda Information. Understanding Walski's statement in any other way, is therefore your own problem.