Rabu, 4 September 2013

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Malaysia Today - Your Source of Independent News

Movie version of Malaysian race riot stirs unease

Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:52 PM PDT

(Reuters) - At a crucial point in the film "Tanda Putera", ethnic Chinese youths urinate on a pole flying the flag of a Malaysian state, setting off events that push the country into a deadly race riot that still haunts the national consciousness four decades later.

The publicly funded movie, which opened recently in Malaysia after a long delay, is stirring up racial sentiment at a sensitive time over its depiction of the ethnic Chinese minority as the aggressors in the violent events of May 13, 1969.

The "bumiputera" system of preferential treatment for ethnic Malays, who make up two-thirds of the population, was born out of the riots and continues to be the number one complaint among the country's ethnic Chinese.

The film, released as Malaysia marked its 56th year of independence and as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak prepares for a possible leadership battle within his party in October, plays on deep-seated fears at a time when Chinese disloyalty has been blamed for the government's depleted majority in May's election.

The predominantly ethnic Chinese state of Penang has advised cinemas not to screen "Tanda Putera" on the grounds that it crosses a line by using public funds to promote hate.

"Because the film is sponsored by the government, the film is effectively the official version of the riots," Penang's chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, told Reuters.

Creative licence should not be used to spread lies that may cause racial disharmony, he added.

That is a charge Shuhaimi Baba, the film's director, denies.

"Historical facts carry many backstories written by different sources on the same subjects," she told Reuters. "Film makers use creative licence to put them together in a story or else they become documentaries."

Lingering tension

The movie — whose Malay title means "Mark of a Prince" — was held back before the election in May for fear of alienating ethnic Chinese. Their votes went to the opposition anyway, sharply cutting the government's winning margin.

Hardliners in Najib's Umno party equated the disaffection of ethnic Chinese with betrayal and the intemperate mood has simmered. Najib's cabinet has only two ethnic Chinese ministers, both in minor posts.

Official versions of the 1969 riots are scant on detail.

About 200 people are said to have been killed in the clashes in and around the capital, Kuala Lumpur, after opposition parties supported by the ethnic Chinese community made inroads in a general election three days earlier.

Shuhaimi's film builds the picture of the looming disaster in a series of heavy-handed scenes, potraying the Chinese mainly as shadowy figures who bring mayhem. In contrast, the Malays show restraint and dignity even as events spin out of control.

"Tanda Putera" makes much of the role played by Abdul Razak Hussein, the deputy prime minister at the time and the father of the current prime minister, in securing peace in the face of personal tragedy.

Shown as strong, self-effacing and principled, Razak has no discernible fault in the film. He hides his terminal leukaemia, finally succumbing to it in scenes at a London clinic.

The film flays foreign correspondents for biased reporting on the riots and gives a nod to the theory that mainly ethnic Chinese communist elements had a hand in the trouble.

Better known for horror movies, Shuhaimi said the question of too much or too little creative licence did not apply in a feature film like "Tanda Putera".

She said she was "now in the midst of getting the film back on screen in Penang". 


‘I fought for my country, not for any race’

Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:16 PM PDT

A Malaysian hero reminisces on his dangerous life as an anti-communist fighter.

Alfian ZM Tahir, FMT

Death, or the threat of it, is nature's way of telling you to slow down, according to Terry Pratchett.

But how was Yuen Yuet Leng to know? He was an anti-communist fighter long before Pratchett began writing his novels. Despite being shot several times and surviving seven assassination attempts, he never slowed down until he retired from the police force in 1984.

He once even defied his superior's order and trekked into the deepest part of the Sarawak jungle for a powwow with the leader of the North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP).

Now 86, Yuen spends most of his time reading and relaxing, only occasionally accepting an invitation to deliver a speech at some event or granting a press interview.

During such an interview with FMT recently, he said he joined the police force precisely to fight communist terrorists. The British recruited him into a squad of police trainees composed of 22 Malays, 19 Chinese and 13 Indians.

"When I was a teenager, I was given the chance to go to China to study, and I went. However, I was shocked to see the political situation there. I did not finish my studies and came back to Malaya.

"I was a teacher in Seremban when I applied to join the police."

A few years after completing his training, Yuen was involved in a battle in Grik and was shot in the thigh, buttocks and his back. The bullet that went into the back is still there.

"After the attack I was rushed to a nearby hospital. There was no doctor there, only a medical assistant. They forgot to take out the bullet in my back. Perhaps they didn't even know it was there. There was no X-ray machine then."

He said he came to know about the bullet only in 1982 during a medical check-up. "The doctors were surprised to see a bullet still in my back after so many years," he said, smiling.

Yuen became a Special Branch officer in 1953 and was awarded the Colonial Police Medal in 1957 for his intelligence work, which he carried out at great personal risk. When he was assigned to Sarawak in 1971, he had already attained the rank of Assistant Police Commissioner.

He returned to peninsular Malaysia in 1975 to take up the post of State Police Chief in Perak. Subsequently, he served in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Kelantan.

He was moved back to Sarawak in 1981 to take up the post of State Police Commissioner.

During the interview, Yuen seemed to relish his memory of serving as an intelligence officer. He once headed the Special Branch.

A spy in the camp

"Many people don't realise how important the Special Branch is," he said. "It was because of us that the communists were halted. Not many know how hard it was for us to come up with vital information. Many of my men died during dangerous operations.

"When I was heading the Special Branch, no one knew where we were at any one time. Not even my family knew what I was doing. My men and those from other police units did not know one another. That was how good we were."



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