How many of those who filed no less than twenty politically motivated police reports yesterday against a painting they claimed ‘insulted’ the Malaysian tiger emblem have likewise filed a police report against tiger poaching?
How many of them have filed a police report against illegal logging?
Sarawak Report asks this because one wonders if a single one of those posturing protectors of national pride actually cares a jot that the animal portrayed in the emblem of their country is about to become extinct thanks to decades of conservation failure?
Unless dramatic action is taken NOW, within less than ten years the real reason for Malaysia to be a laughing stock will be that the emblem of the country will represent a proud and beautiful animal that the people of the country didn’t bother to save when they had the chance.
Tourists might certainly be invited to scrub plantations where tigers once lived, amidst a once exotic plant, bird and animal paradise. However, thanks to human greed and hypocrisy there will be nothing left to see. We all know such tourists will sneer at the ‘opportunity’ and instead travel to a country which treated its nature with more respect.
So, perhaps those marching now to police stations and aggressively accusing astonished writers and artists of ‘insults’ that were never meant should instead be uniting to make sure that such a real national humiliation does not happen?
Tiger NGOs are scrambling together at this very moment to try to seize the slim opening offered by the pause in exploitation and poaching created by the Covid lockdown. They want the authorities to build on the protection this animal needs to recover and breed – and they need the support of the nation in order to rescue Malaysia’s living national emblem.
They have told Sarawak Report that they fear there are less than 200 tigers now surviving in the wild along the depleted forests of Malaysia’s Peninsular spine. It is almost too few to hope to revive a genuine native population of the animal now targeted by poachers, threatened by lack of food, pollution and disease…. but it’s worth a try.
Who could not have felt heartsick as the media traced the last pathetic dying days of one of those sick creatures just last year, who had wandered out desperately into surrounding villages as it faded from disease?
Who has not seen the horrible pictures of tigers slain by foreign poachers seeking the $US2 million bounty that each animal can raise once chopped up and sold to witch doctors and charm ‘healers’ in places like China?
So, when are Malaysians going to unite for once and defend their proud national symbol, instead of using a drawing of it as an excuse to once again accuse and fight each other?
Meanwhile, an East Malaysian female artist spend much of yesterday understandably distraught to find herself the target of aggressive hate and chants of retribution over a dreamy painting that she had created back in 2014 to symbolise her vision of a better and more united Malaysia as she saw it.
This lady had never thought to insult anybody it is quite clear and what’s more no one felt insulted for six whole years. She had explained the meaning behind her painting for the public record during a public exhibition in KL dedicated to paintings depicting “The Good Malaysian Woman” back in 2014. Her remarks were published in newspapers and on Facebook and were available along with the picture there to see for the authorities who doubtless examined the propriety of the event.
Sarawak artist Shia Yih Yiing explained to all who were interested that her painting was seeking to explore the topics of the exhibition which were Womanhood and Malaysia and what it means to have that identity herself. She came up, not altogether surprisingly, with a visual representation that melded a female figure with the national emblem in her painting.
Her ‘vision’ (artists are expected to have visions) depicted a more equal Malaysia, Shia Yih Yiing also explained. Being an East Malaysian woman that dream included more equality for East Malaysians as well as women and hence she included the female face and the crocodile, which is Borneo’s own national fierce animal (a creature that is also in need of careful protection from crocodile handbag makers such as those behind the Birkin brand).
Anyone is entitled to criticise the merits of her painting and the desirability of that vision. Indeed, bets are off that most of the angry men who marched down to police stations yesterday think a woman’s place is in the kitchen and East Malaysia is a colony of West Malaysia.
Instead, they have chosen to make up a crime of ‘insulting’ the national emblem.
Let’s be clear, there is a law protecting the national emblem from false representation, i.e. forgery and fraud for the purpose of committing a commercial deception. Yet, there is no evidence that the person who bought this painting thought they were buying the actual national emblem or were somehow duped out of their money by any misuse of the emblem.
Likewise, the academics who used the picture as the cover for their intellectual book knew it was merely a painting to represent some of the visions they saw represented in the changes of 2018.
So, if none of the buyers are complaining why is a Home Minister seeking to find a way of making this painting a crime? More to the point, if this painting is such an ‘insult’ to the national emblem and the pride of Malaysians, why was it not reported by shocked people who saw it at the exhibition and saw it written about in all the newspapers and on Facebook way back in 2014?
After all, Najib Razak was Prime Minister at the time and his culture police would all have been examining this high profile exhibition on display in central KL and subject to so many articles. So, why is he only now thundering about it on his Facebook instead of going after this lady painter at the time?
The only answer can surely be that the painting offended nobody until certain political opportunists, who presumably didn’t like the content of this book (which was about the election that threw their party out of office in 2018) decided to tell their followers they should consider themselves offended.
These witch-hunts should stop. They are distractions from the real crimes that need dealing with, including kleptocracy trials that Najib is desperately determined to distract attention from and crimes such as poaching tigers and illegal logging.
Malaysians should concentrate on joining hands to help those NGOs who want to save the country’s glorious emblem and lead a national effort to save the real Malaysian tiger by reporting poaching and preserving the rest of the country’s wonderful landscape from greedy loggers with their friends in high places.
This is how Kean Wong, the Editor of the book “Rebirth: Reformasi Resistance and Hope in New Malaysia” has described the reason for selecting this long established image for the cover of the book:
“As you probably know, it was a striking painting exhibited/sold as part of a series in 2014, a personal Sarawak woman’s tribute/love of her nation – Shia like many Sarawakians (regardless of religion/creed/race etc) felt Sabah & Sarawak needs to be respected and not be sidelined in any Malaysian nation. We wanted an East Malaysian imagination to grace the cover, liked the series we saw, and found this painting a tribute to the incomplete ‘new Malaysia’ alluded to in the book’s title.”
Hopefully, that new Malaysia will continue to include tigers and crocodiles rather than just angry people arguing in a wasteland destroyed by greed.