Malaysian culture minister pans documentary

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

"About 20 [Ministers of Parliament] but 40 journalists including photographers," said filmmaker Amir Muhammed about a screening of his controversial documentary at the National Film Institute on Sunday, May 21.

Among the ministers to comment on the film, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim has been widely quoted in the press.

On May 21, Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama, filed a story entitled, "Rais finds the 'Last Communist' not offensive." With reference to the May 18th screening, Bernama reports Rais said, "The plot isn't controversial and there's nothing that could be deemed as offensive from the cultural viewpoint."

Commenting on interviews with former members of the Malayan Communist Party, "they were vague, not conclusive for any quarters," he said.

The national daily New Straits Times also reported on the screening. It reports Rais said the film is "not important enough to be controversial".

The daily followed up with an article where Rais is reported as saying the film "indeed 'glorifies' former communist leader Chin Peng", filed May 24. "Amir should have interviewed the security forces, the Home Guard, the families of the home guard who were killed by the communists, and government officials of the time," said Rais.

The Bernama article incorrectly attributes the source of the ban to the Internal Security Ministry, it was widely reported that the Home Ministry was responsible.

The film has picked up controversy because it is inspired by the Malayan Emergency.

Chin Peng himself is living in exile in North Thailand. He released an autobiography last year entitled, "Chin Peng: My side of history."

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