HAKAM notes with grave concern the National Art Gallery’s decision to take down 4 paintings of visual artist Ahmad Fuad Osman’s exhibition titled “At The End Of The Day Even Art Is Not Important (1990-2019)”.
Ahmad Fuad Osman’s installation ‘Mak Bapak Borek, Anak Cucu Cicit Pun Rintik’ (2015-2018). Photo: Handout – Source the Star
This was reportedly pursuant to a complaint by a board member of the National Art Gallery itself. Some of the 4 paintings depicted politicians or contained political elements. This lead to Ahmad Fuad’s request to close down the entire exhibition.
HAKAM condemns the National Art Gallery’s decision to curtail & censor artistic expression. Freedom of artistic expression is part & parcel of the freedom of speech protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Politics plays a big part in our everyday lives. Art, in turn, is a reflection of life. Politics should not in any way be deemed as “sensitive”, “unsuitable” or “undesirable” in the arts. In fact, the arts should readily comment, critique & satirise politics in order to produce an enlightened electorate. The National Art Gallery – of all bodies – should hold true to these principles.
Ahmad Fuad Osman’s ‘Dreaming Of Being A Somebody Afraid Of Being A Nobody’ (UV print on mirror, 2019). Source The Star/Ong Soon Hin
HAKAM therefore urges the National Art Gallery to revoke its decision to take down Ahmad Fuad Osman’s 4 paintings.
HAKAM also requests for the National Art Gallery & the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture’s commitment to not censor artistic expression in the future & to fully respect the freedom of artistic expression.
Lim Wei Jiet
10.2.2020 – HAKAM Urges the National Art Gallery to Uphold Freedom of Artistic Expression
HAKAM urges the Attorney General’s Chambers to review the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate Court’s recent conviction and sentence to 7 months jail of a disabled man for attempted suicide.
Such charges under Section 309 of the Penal Code should never have been instituted in the first place. There is a serious lack of compassion and humanity in the criminal justice system if a disabled man who has reached such a desperate position in life is punished even further with a jail term. The law should not only be concerned with penalties, but must be tampered with mercy and kindness.
HAKAM calls for the disabled man to be given psychiatric assistance in a suitable institution, and not imprisonment where his mental health would likely deteriorate further.
HAKAM further calls for the Government to consider repealing the offence of attempt to commit suicide under Section 309 of the Penal Code. Other Commonwealth countries such as the UK, India and Singapore have already done the same. Malaysia is one of the only few countries which still retain this archaic law in our statute books. This recent conviction encapsulates everything that is wrong with such law.
Lim Wei Jiet
HAKAM applauds Malaysia’s best score and rank to date on the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Democracy Index. Malaysia is now placed 43rd out of 167 countries, with a score of 7.16 from a maximum score of 10. This is a marked improvement from being scored 5.98 to 6.88 in the previous years since the index started in 2006.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world has regressed in human rights – this year saw the worst average global score since the index started in 2006. That Malaysia has beaten this global trend is a testament of the many strides the Government has undertaken to improve democracy since GE14.
HAKAM nonetheless urges the Government to not rest on its laurels and to expedite its reform agenda. It is reported that Malaysia’s score on the functioning of government (7.86), political participation (6.67), political culture (6.25) and civil liberties (5.88) have remained stagnant. Steps must be taken by the Government to improve Malaysia’s score on such crucial fronts.
HAKAM hereby urges the Government to steadfastly proceed with the following human rights reforms in Malaysia as a first step to improve its performance in EIU’s Democracy Index:
- Establish an effective Independent Police Complaints & Misconduct Commission (IPCMC);
- Abolish laws which restrict freedom of speech such as the Sedition Act 1948, Section 233 of the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 & the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984;
- Abolish oppressive detention without trial laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) & Prevention of Crime Act 1959;
- Abolish the death penalty in all forms;
- Improve the living condition of prisons & immigration detention centres;
- Enact a Freedom of Information Act; and
- Comprehensively overhaul the education syllabus to educate the young on the importance of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Malaysia has the opportunity over the next few years to be a beacon of democracy in a world where democracy is slowly dimming. Let us all not squander such chance.
Lim Wei Jiet
Secretary-General of HAKAM
HAKAM Statement – 3.2.2020