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PRESS STATEMENT: Response to recent inaccurate coverage of “A People’s History of the Malayan Emergency” Event

PRESS STATEMENT

For Immediate Release

8 August 2018

Issued by,

Gerakbudaya, Imagined Malaysia, Pusat Sejarah Rakyat, Malaysia Muda, KLSCAH Civil Rights Committee, Projek Dialog, Students in Resistance, Amateur, Persatuan Persahabatan Berpanjangan KL-Selangor, Persatuan Persahabatan Abad ke-21

RE: Response to recent inaccurate coverage of “A People’s History of the Malayan Emergency” Event

“A People’s History of the Malayan Emergency” was held on the 27th to the 29th of July, 2018 in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Malayan Emergency, a central period in the struggle for Malayan independence. 

The event featured an exhibition, a series of forums, documentary screenings and performances of songs and poems from the period. The event sought to generate a people’s perspective as well as challenge conservative and elite-driven narratives of the Emergency. 

This bottom-up approach can be seen by the involvement of historians from our local public universities, students, civil society activists and those who experienced the Emergency period. Our forum panellists attended in their private capacity to present their research and personal stories of the Left-Wing nationalists’ role in the struggle, and there was no agenda to promote any specific political party, past and present. 

On the evening of the 28th a Facebook user by the name of Tun Carlos began to circulate an old copy of our flyer for our third forum, ‘Should We Rewrite Our History Textbooks?’, with an additional line stating “Semua dijemput hadir ke forum perbincangan mengiktiraf komunis, Orang Melayu dan bekas tentera juga dijemput hadir”. This post was subsequently shared 1,800 times. 

By the morning of the 29th Perkasa requested for PDRM to cancel the forum for its insults to ex-servicemen. In response to such false narratives several individuals attended the forum in expectation that the panellists were speaking to defend the role played by Parti Komunis Malaya. One turned up before the forum screaming at panellist Fahmi Reza, most others arrived after the panellists had spoken, giving them no chance to listen to their presentations which spoke about the pro-UMNO bias of the textbooks, and the need to remember other anti-colonial movements such as the PUTERA-AMCJA coalition. 

During the Q&A session there was initially disruption from those who had arrived based upon the false posters but after discussion the forum calmed down and the panellists were able to speak with them afterwards.

In the aftermath however Utusan Malaysia ran three days of prominent and front-page stories on the forum, with headlines such as ‘Nilai semula buku Sejarah, iktiraf PKM’, ‘Wajarkah perjuangan PKM ditulis semula’, ‘Komunis bukan pejuang’. The organising committee refutes this misrepresentation of the forum’s content which has served only to stir-up anti-communist sentiments against the panellists, Fahmi Reza and Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and questions the motives behind Utusan’s reporting. 

We note that an Utusan journalist was present throughout the entirety of the forum to listen to both speakers presentations, neither of which supported PKM, but their reporting has focussed heavily on the topic of communism and that they released only the portion of video from the Q&A session.

For this reason the organising committee is making a video recording of the third forum is available online for the general public to evaluate the veracity of these allegations. 

Moving forward the organising committee would like to reaffirm the need for a deeper understanding of the Emergency and a revision of the country’s history textbooks, particularly in reference to the independence struggle. As panellist Fahmi Reza noted in the current Form 3 textbook 10 pages is given to the role of UMNO in the independence struggle, whilst only one small paragraph mentions PKMM. 

The organising committee believes that it is important in the aftermath of GE14 for political bias to be removed from the Sejarah curriculum and that it be made more inclusive and critical to allow students to reflect on alternative and widely forgotten narratives of the struggle for Malayan independence.

END OF STATEMENT