GEORGE TOWN, Aug 29 — Both Penang local councils issued a second letter to cinema operators here, retracting their “directive” yesterday not to screen “Tanda Putera” and replacing it with an advisory instead.
Local government state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said his initial letter to the councils yesterday was to advise the cinema operators not to screen the controversial movie.
“The councils were advised by their legal counsel to use the word ‘Arahan’ (directive) instead of advice as the letter was issued under the Entertainment Enactment and Bylaws,” Chow said.
He said the state government realised the letters issued by the councils had deviated from what the state government intended this morning so he had directed the councils to issue another letter stating that it was an advisory, not a directive.
The local councils, Penang Island Municipal Council and Seberang Perai Municipal Council, have since issued a letter that the state government was only advising cinema operators not to screen the movie in Penang cinemas and not ordering them.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng reiterated that the state government was not stopping anyone from watching the Malay-language film which opens in cinemas nationwide today.
“This is only an advisory so if the cinemas decide not to heed our advice, we will not take action against them,” he said at a press conference today.
Three major cinema chains in Penang have decided to scrap the showing of the film here following receipt of the first letter from the councils yesterday.
The movie is no longer listed in the Golden Screen Cinemas, Tanjung Golden Village Cinemas and Lotus Five Star Cinemas websites for cinemas in Penang but is still being shown elsewhere.
Lim admitted that he has not watched the film and that he had based his advisory on the various reports and reviews about the film.
“Even the film-maker has admitted that they used ‘creative licence’ in scenes that could cause racial tension,” he said.
The offending scene that Lim insisted is defamatory, based on lies and a threat to the harmony of various races is the one showing ethnic Chinese youths urinating inside the Selangor menteri besar (Datuk Harun Idris’) residence and on the Malaysian flag.
The scene has become the focal point of controversy last year when it was posted on Facebook with a photograph of the scene along with a caption alleging that “Lim Kit Siang telah kencing bawah tiang bendera Selangor yang terpacak di rumah menteri besar Selangor ketika itu, Harun Idris”.
The film director, Shuhaimi Baba, has since conceded that the film was a work of fiction and that she had used “creative licence” in certain scenes in the movies.
“Tanda Putera”, produced at a cost of RM4.8million, was originally scheduled for release in September 13 last year before it was postponed to November and then put on hold.
The movie premiered last week to a select audience comprising cast members and several figures of authority.