Nov 25 2011

“Human rights in outer space” and the struggle for democracy in Malaysia

Published by at 2:45 pm under Events


Most visitors to Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market are probably unaware that they are close to one of the city’s most subversive organisations. It might not look much from the outside, but the Annexe Gallery plays an important role in the fight to make Malaysia a more free, equal and democratic society.

A hotbed of activism ... honest.

A hotbed of activism ... honest.

The latest manifestation of this is a week-long international film festival from December 5-11 called Human rights in outer space: Malaysia we have a problem. One film is being shown every night at 20:00, except on the final day, when things kick off at 15:00. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Human rights, an alien concept?

Human rights, an alien concept?

The offerings include the Oscar-winning documentary on the 2008 financial crisis, Inside Job (December 7), and The Lives of Others, a psychological thriller set in the former East Germany (December 11). All the films are free to get in, but tickets must be reserved in advance by emailing cijmalaysia[at]gmail.com with the heading “Outer Space”. Give your name, how many tickets you would like, and the film title.

A heist movie with a difference.

A heist movie with a difference.

The festival’s lead organiser is the Centre for Independent Journalism, which does more than any other pressure group to highlight the appalling state of press freedom in Malaysia. According to the latest rankings (2010) from Reporters Without Borders, it lies 141st out of 180 countries rated.

Another artistic challenge to the status quo in Malaysia will be a stage production of George Orwell’s Animal Farm at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. The show seeks to use Orwell’s critique of communism to highlight the corrupting effect of five decades of essentially the same government in Malaysia. Animal Farm (in Mandarin, with English subtitles) will be shown at 20:30, from December 8-11, with matinee shows at 15:00 on December 10-11. Tickets are 48 ringgit.

The corruption of power, an age-old truth.

The corruption of power, an age-old truth.

In a world where many regimes still use tanks against their own people, to complain about the human rights situation in a nation that appears as peaceful and free as Malaysia may seem somewhat strange. But appearances can be deceptive, and below the veneer of multicultural harmony and electoral democracy, this is a country that curtails virtually every freedom listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yellow, the colour of change.

Yellow, the colour of change.

The true state of affairs was laid bare in July, when a peaceful rally calling for electoral reform was put down by police with tear gas, water cannon and baton charges. More than 1,600 were arrested, dozens were injured. Far from killing off the struggle for genuine democracy, the protest has helped cement the organisers, Bersih 2.0, as the country’s foremost civil rights movement. Check out this funky video offering, to see why yellow is the new black for many Malaysians.

Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre
Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 4047 9010 (enquiries); (03) 4047 9000 (box office)
www.klpac.org

The Annexe Gallery
1st and 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur
www.annexegallery.com

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2 Responses to ““Human rights in outer space” and the struggle for democracy in Malaysia” ...

  1. Duncanon 27 Nov 2011 at 2:49 am

    Interesting stuff Pat… Although you do see copies of Animal Farm in the bookshops around my way, I’d be very interested to see that Mandarin version actually being performed onstage here ;-) Keep up the good work!

  2. Paton 27 Nov 2011 at 11:46 am

    Indeed. Chinese-language stuff gets away with the least censorship here – because the people in charge of censorship for the most part only speak Malay – a complete reverse of the situation in China!

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