By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, October 10, 1995:
DAP welcomes the statement by Mohamed Rahmat that the Information Ministry could reconsider the TV ban on the Justice Bao series
I welcome the latest statement by the Information Minister, Datuk ‘Mohamed Rahmat that the Information Ministry is prepared to reconsider the TV ban on the Justice Bao television series if MetroVision makes an appeal.
This is very different from his first public statement on the issue last Thursday, which was very uncompromising, where he even said that he would ‘not be speaking on the subject again.
At least, Mohamad has come to realise that as a Cabinet Minister in a parliamentary democracy, he is not like Zeus handing down decrees from Mount Olympic; which could not be ques¬tioned, scrutinised or even challenged by ordinary mortals, and that he is a political mortal himself subject, to the principles of responsibility, accountability and transparency.
Mohamad said that the government is open to negotiations but that it is unfortunate that MetroVision did not approach the Ministry of Information to discuss Justice Bao but went instead to the press.
According to the MetroVision press statement yesterday, this did not appear to be the case, as MetroVision claimed that “In several, meetings with the Ministry of Information (before 20 Sept 1995}, we were verbally informed that the ‘No Chinese Costume’ was specific only to Chinese Opera performance . This was the interpretation given at that time and was the gener¬al understanding among all TV stations.”
Full support to Mohamad Rahmat that MetroVision and TV3 must telecast Chinese news to respect the right of the Chinese community to be informed on current events.
It is not my role to defend MetroVision, which should be more than capable of explaining its own case. However, I am very interested in the challenge which Mohamad Rahmat threw to MetroVision when he spoke to reporters in Angkasapuri yesterday after receiving RM580,000 from various corporate bodies and charitable organisations for the “humanity run” in aid of Bosnia.
Mohamed Rahmat said : “ I challenge you to ask MetroVision when it plans to screen the news in Mandarin. This is more important than Justice Bao as the Chinese community has the right to be informed on current events.”
I give full support to Mohamad Rahmat that MetroVisjon must telecast Chinese news to respect the right of the Chinese community to be informed on current events. In fact, it is not only MetroVision but TV3 too which must be required to telecast news in Chinese as well as Tamil to respect, the right of the-Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia to be informed on current, events .
As Mohamad Rahmat is fully conscious or the right of the Chinese community to be informed on current events, I cannot understand how he could allow TV3 to escape from its social and national responsibilities in the over ten years he had been Minister of Information, both before his “political fall” and after his “political comeback”.
This will be a fit. and proper subject, for a Cabinet directive and I hope Mohamed Rahmat would raise the issue in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and that MCA and Gerakan Ministers will gave their full support, for a Cabinet decision making it mandatory for local television stations to telecast news in Chinese and Tamil in keeping with the multi-racial , rou l t.i -lingual and multi-cultural characteristics or Malaysia.
Better still, TV3 and MetroVision should realise the error of their ways, and publicly announce before Wednesday’s meeting of Cabinet, that they would telecast Chinese and Tamil news over their stations.
As the ban on costume drama is an Information Ministry guideline, it could be amended by the Information Minister himself without having to go to Cabinet
Coming back to Justice Bao, since the controversy had focussed on the utter indefensibility not only for the television ban on the series but the Information Ministry guideline banning costume dramas, Mohamad Rahmat should rise up to his Ministerial challenge to introduce amendments to bring them more in line with Vision 2020 objectives of a more open, liberal and modern socie¬ty
Mohamed Rahmat should not stand on ceremonies and rules and want a MetroVision appeal before he is prepared to reconsider the Information Ministry guideline – as the issue is no more Justice Bao series but the archaic, indefensible , philistine and anti-history Information Ministry guideline banning foreign costume dramas.
As the ban on costume drama is an Information Ministry guideline, the television ban on Justice Bao could be lifted by the Information Minister himself without having to go to the Cabinet.
No reason why television series like Justice Bao, Three Kingdoms, Dream of Red Chamber, tec. Should not be screened on television for their historic, cultural and moral values and lessons.
The Justice Bao controversy has highlighted one great weakness in the Ministry of Information in particular and the government in general- that the bureaucratic mind-set of yesterday has not caught up with the modern era of privatisation and deregulation in the information era.
Privatisation in telecommunications, broadcasting and other areas in government is meaningless unless it is also accompanied by deregulation to create an environment in which telecommunications and broadcasting services are constantly improved and upgraded in a competitive situation.
The Cabinet should not get involved in the nitty-gritty at broadcasting, as ‘issuing a Cabinet. decree that prime time news must be 8 p.m., but should Leave it to the television stations and the viewers to decide which news programme could get prime time audience both because or the timing and the quality of the programme.
What the Cabinet should decide is at the level of policy, as for example, That all local television stations must respect the plural society by having Chinese and Tamil news broadcasts ‘daily.
Up to. now, Mohamad Rahmat has not been able to advance one good reason to defend and justify the Information Ministry guideline which banned television stations from telecasting Justice Bao, or why so many other ‘costume dramas’ had been screened over television in the past.
He knows that the reasons which had been given by the Information Ministry Secretary-General, Datuk Zawawi Mahmuddin last Wednesday for the ban had made the government, the Information Ministry and himself the Laughing stock in the country, and the Minister is himself not prepared to repeat those reasons.
In these circumstances, he should take the initiative to change, the Information Ministry guideline banning costume dramas of foreign countries over local television.
There is no reason why television series like Justice Bao, Three Kingdoms, Dream of Red Chambers, the Yang Woman Gener¬als, Chien Lung tours the South, Empress Wu, Empress Dowager, the Last Emperor, and others should not been screened on local television for their historic, cultural and moral values and lessons.
The ban on these television series sound, anachronistic as these series impart core Asian values which top government Ministers had been exhorting Malaysians to emulate, with Malaysia even hosting conferences. like the Islam-Confucianism Civilizational Dialogue.
The ban becomes a bad joke at a time when the Home Ministry is considering lifting the ban on “X-films”!
Let Datuk Mohamed Rahrnat prove that he could lead the Information Ministry from the mind-set of the sixties and seven¬ties into the nineties and the 21st century!