THE Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim was right to say that the social rights of non-Muslim Malaysians were contained in the Federal Constitution. However, he was extremely wrong to claim that the government must issue the sports betting licence for non-Muslim rights to be recognised and respected.
In a recent Anti-Gambling at Internet Cafes signature campaign organised by the Klang and Kapar MCA divisions, more than 2,000 signatures were collected in two hours. That seems to contradict Rais’s view that gambling is a precious part of “non-Muslim culture”.
If Rais was serious about recognising the rights and lifestyles of non-Muslims, [who are predominantly non-Malays in Malaysia], there is something he can do immediately in his capacity as information, communications and culture minister.
Currently, Finas incentives in the form of the Compulsory Screening Scheme and a 20% tax rebate only apply to films with 70% of the dialogue in Bahasa Malaysia (BM). Malaysian-made films in other languages do not enjoy these incentives.
As such, local Chinese- and English-language films like Tiger Woohoo, Ice Kacang Puppy Love and The Malay Chronicles (The Chronicles of Merong Mahawangsa), though fully produced in Malaysia, are not entitled to the exemption on entertainment duty.
Since the rights of non-Muslim Malaysians are contained in the Federal Constitution, then all Malaysian-made films, irrespective of the language used, should be entitled to the same incentives.
The Chinese-language movies Tiger Woohoo and Ice Kacang Puppy Love proved that Malaysian productions can compete with films from Hong Kong and China. Both movies collected more than RM5 million at the box office — the most successful non-BM films in Malaysia to date.
There is a market for locally-made non-BM films. Unfortunately, not many producers are willing to make them because of the risks involved. Giving non-BM films the same incentives will definitely help to promote the local non-BM film industry, spur local creativity and inspire budding filmmakers to greater heights.
Umno leaders should stop pretending that they are sensitive to Chinese [Malaysian] rights. There are sufficient gambling avenues available to non-Muslims to indulge their habits. The non-Muslim communities have never requested for more opportunities to gamble.
Since Rais has admitted that the rights of non-Muslim Malaysians are constitutional, he should immediately abolish the restrictions on locally-made films which do not adhere to the “preferred language” condition.
He should also stop pretending he is an expert on non-Muslim lifestyles and stop using non-Muslims as scapegoats to pursue the government’s move to legalise sports betting.
Teo Nie Ching
Teo Nie Ching is Serdang Member of Parliament and DAP assistant national publicity secretary.