For Malaysian arts to grow, the red tape must go!

Reading’s insightful and enlightening article on the taxes and permits that local arts companies are subjected to here, I could not help but feel a little miffed by the lack of effort on the government’s part to resolve these permit issues.

How can they expect us to nurture the growth of our performing arts industry when there are so many licensing and permit issues that are restricting and hampering the industry? Malaysia cannot be an arts and cultural hub with all this paperwork to do and the taxes are simply ridiculous!

While I understand that the government only intend for the red tape to prevent the staging of productions and performances that are deemed to be unsuited for Malaysian public audiences, but unfortunately, in their zeal to do so, they wield an ironfisted power over the innocent arts companies who simply want to entertain audiences, not start a revolution or riots!

This is simply another ploy for the government to “nanny” the public, ensuring that the “sensitivities of society” are “protected” and “safeguarded.” Echoes of parents telling their kids “It’s for your own good!” comes to mind.

Obviously, the government feels that Malaysia as a scoiety is still a naive society who does not know better and therefore, needs to be told what is good and what is not.

Hello, you baboons in the Internal Security Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry, Information Ministry and the Mnistry of Culture and Arts… the MALAYSIAN SOCIETY… are NOT a bunch of kindergarten children! We are perfectly capable of thinking on our own and we don’t need your incessant nannying and telling us what we can hear, see, read and say! We just want to enjoy good music, interesting dramas and plays, exciting films and imaginative stories that suit our own tastes and interests. We don’t really care about whatever hidden messages (if there are any in the first place) that are contained in films, dramas and music… leave that to the experts and professionals.

And even if there are hidden messages, more power to the people behind them for cleverly disguising them (that’s what i call creative!). Do you really expect us to do horrendous things just because we listened to songs and inspired by plays, films and books? Ridiculous! You are simply underestimating the intelligence of the collective Malaysian society!

Like’s article pointed out, these taxes and permits existed way back in the times of the British and Japanese occupation and also during the Emergency period. The British understandably imposed permits and regulations when the Malays put on their sandiwara for fear they will stoke nationalistic and patriotic feelings among the public. Similarly, the Japanese also did the same for fear these plays would give rise to anti-Japanese sentiments. Then, during the Emergency period, our own Malaysian government also imposed restrictions on Chinese opera because they feared the communists, who were predominantly Chinese in those days, would use them as a propaganda vehicle to raise support for communism.

Now, tell me, are these regulations, permits, taxes, limitations or whatever you want to call it… still workable in this time and age? We are in the 21st century now, a time when most people should be intelligent and wise enough in not going to the extreme. Let the people make their own decisions. We don’t need a government that tells us what to do and not to do, we have the law for that already thank you very much. What the government ought to do is to champion for the rights of our artistic and creative people for it is them that would bring in the revenue for the government through their performances.

The government should nurture the talents of these individuals and help them for some of them barely make ends meet while plying their trade in their arts. We are talking about the rich culture and heritage of our country, of our people. Do you really want to see it destroyed through red tape and bureaucracy shenanigans??

I long for the day when the Malaysian arts community are freed from the shackles of bureaucracy by a government that are more in tune and in favour of promoting the culture and heritage of our country. Unfortunately, that day still seems to be very, very far away.



  1. Goodness. Reading all the requirements for a “cultural exchange” made my head boggle. There goes all hopes of bringing Up With People here I suppose… 😛

    There’s always going underground. Which I suppose the best work will end up.

  2. Indeed, there’s always the underground scene, but what good will it do for the industry and for the country if no one but a select few knows about it underground? The chance to thrive and to be known remains in the mainstream arts circle and while people like The Actor’s Studio, Five Arts Centre & Gardner and Wife are doing the best they can to conform to regulations, the best solution is still to abolish the red tape and back off from the arts community, giving them the chance to grow to the stature of West End and Broadway.

    To me, it seems the arts community are always performing with the officials breathing down their necks. Ever tried working when someone is constantly breathing down your neck and watching over your shoulder? Do you remember that time several years ago when the arts community wanted to stage the Malaysian version of The Vagina Monologues?

    Bureaucracy and censorship… bleh!

  3. Samster

    Okay…too tired to read the article but I wonder…

    Is there a middle ground we can reach?
    Naturally, the restrictions are archaic and very irrelevant to today’s society but let us remember that the “Freedom of Speech” thing has been used to the death for the silliest thing i.e. the Muhammad cartoon.

    See, over here and in communist countries, we face bureaucracy but over at the other side, people lose their common sense and restrictions are made only AFTER the thing is produced.

    Perhaps if the ol’ people that smell of urine bags and oil-slicked wheelchairs would have the decency to move over and let people with a more relevant scope amend the rules to ensure proper nurturing of the arts, THEN we’d finally get somewhere.

    Just a thought. 😛

  4. I fully concur with you Sammo. Except that it’s now late and I can’t think of anything else to say in reply. :b

  5. Actually I have always felt that the Malaysian culture is to always “close everything” up to avoid confrontation in controversial issues or new items or subjects. Because of old fashion believes and failure to understand that new things are NOT all bad. In fact new things are there for discovery and a result of adventure and research. If they refuse to so call “cover” then how can this country advance? Other countries are advancing because they are open minded and more acceptable to new things. Okay not trying to rub it in, but even if America’s well…we all know how the president is handling his country..still they advance because they are open and creative. As well as adapting an ability to actually sit and listen. To do is far far better than to say that you wanna do. Why are they even sensoring stuff that people will access through internet anyway? It’s like what my friend tells me ..”Why are you putting the cookie jar at a higher place, and giving the child a firmer warning? It’d only make him want to get it even more.” Instead approach it with a more liberal view and experience the awesome difference. One can only hope that Brokeback mountain will start a revolution of how people percieve sexuality not only in one country but worldwide. Viva gay-ness. WHoo hoo pride power!.

    Oh..okay where was I again?

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