Come clean City Hall
ONE'S disgust for City Hall's high-handed insensitivity in closing down the rerun of .The Vagina Monologues' is not based on my love for the play. Rather it is rooted in my genuine eternal love and admiration for the enigma of my home which is the beautiful cosmopolitan garden city of lights, Kuala Lumpur.
The sad truth is that City Hall has done, not a Kota Baru but an exterminated Kabul stunt on our progressive and dynamic city. This high-handed ban is almost Taliban-like in its swift judgement of execution for a mere play that could accommodate about 100 people at any one performance. It is like bringing an M-16 to shoot down a fly. If 100 people saw the show per night for five performances, it simply means that 500 people, including myself have been infected and corrupted; as if we were all innocent before we stepped in to see TVM, as if we were not already corrupted just living in beautiful, stressful Kuala Lumpur.
Had City Hall not come in with their M-16 another 500 people would have been infected. If we are to follow the seriousness of City Hall's decision in effecting the ban, it would only seem prudent and logical to summon, better still round-up those infected and fumigate their brains from this newly identified City Hall virus called TVMtitis. If we are to follow City Hall's logic, KL is in danger because 500 people have been identified and tested as positive carriers of TVMtitis. Are we to understand that City Hall banned TVM because they did not want this deadly virus to seize, grip and infect the rest of KL's 1.5 million uncorrupted population in the manner of an epidemic.
In a single blow, the infant Datuk Bandar of Kuala Lumpur has unwittingly allowed his officials to smear the international reputation of Kuala Lumpur as a friendly, fun-loving, exciting and above all a tolerant cosmopolitan society. This is just the kind of guffaw that serves as rich fodder for the foreign media to blissfully exploit, to make a mountain out of a molehill in their fascination to twist, distort and discredit Malaysia.
Is it not a sad day for KL and KLites that the very officials who are duty-bound to uphold and promote the good name of our beautiful cosmopolitan city of KL are the very culprits bringing KL unwarranted shame, discredit and disrepute! Given the state of our broken spoken and written English, perhaps it is worthy to stop and ask these high-handed officials at City Hall whether they know the meaning of the word .cosmopolitan'. That endearing word we rightly use to refer to KL in all our tourist brochures. For the benefit of these officials, let it be said that any dictionary of the world would accord only one meaning. Cosmopolitan simply means belonging to the world, its enigma is not local but universal. The definition alone damns City Hall's rash action for it seeks to change the character of our tolerant and divergent multi-cultural cosmopolitan psyche. Is it not ironic that whilst the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry is working overtime in actively promoting Malaysia as an irresistible tourist destination and succeeding in their efforts to bring tourists in droves to our shores, we have an insensitive City Hall who chooses to play the villain in throwing the spanner at all the good work done in promoting KL on the global stage.
What really irks one about City Hall's decision is its total lack of respect and sensitivity for what our Government is striving so valiantly and relentlessly to nurture and realise in the Malaysian psyche.
Whilst other nations can preach about multi-cultural tolerance, Malaysia is an exception to the rule.
We are a living testimony of unity in diversity. In multi-cultural unity, we are the enigma of the world. It is our cherished way of life.
Is it no wonder that after Sept 11, 2001, the world has increasingly looked upon Malaysia as a dynamic role model of a multi-cultural Islamic nation.
As much as Malaysians have and will always be critical of Malaysia, tourists who arrive by the millions every year are simply charmed, mesmerised and bowled over with Malaysia, to return over and again to soak in our warm hospitality of diversity in unity.
For these repeat tourists, Malaysia is one unique nation on planet earth where Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, Taoists - name it and we have it - literally living in everyday peace, harmony and respect for one another.
Dynamic Malaysia is what it is today because from the day we declared Merdeka, the Malaysian Government has succeeded in harnessing our multi-racial similarities rather than wasting time with our differences in its nation-building agenda.
At the root of Malaysia's divergent multi-cultural dynamism is respect and tolerance among the various multi-racial communities in the country. That was the wisdom of our founding fathers and it remains the cherished agenda of all our nation development programmes.
Against such a backdrop, KLites cannot comprehend how an authority accountable to an enlightened Government has the audacity and impunity to insult our universally acknowledged spirit of Malaysian tolerance by slamming shut a play for reasons best known to them. What City Hall was upset about TVM is still something only they know and refuse to divulge as if it has suddenly become top secret! So we are supposed to speculate. So it seems there was a complaint, or was it two? Who cares even if there were 10 complaints? They are all entitled to their complaints but there is no moral strength in one or 10 complaints put together that qualifies City Hall to make a fool of itself. We really don't mind these officials making a fool of themselves. But when you make a fool of KL and Malaysia, now that is totally unacceptable, So we are supposed to speculate. It was a directive from someone up there or out there. One cannot insult the pulse, psyche and dynamism of KL on the international stage and then hide behind so called ghost and phantom directives.
If this someone is so convinced with the mettle of his wise decision, please stand up and defend this ignominy committed on Kuala Lumpur. Failing which, City Hall has to apologise to all KLites for this cruel slur on Kuala Lumpur.
If it is the word vagina, it pays to remind the high officials at City Hall to act like mature adults and not immature schoolboys. We live in the 21st century and the Education Ministry is enlightened enough to understand the urgent merits of introducing sex education in schools. There is nothing dirty, vulgar, offensive or repulsive about the word vagina. It is to a woman what a phallus is to a man. One can understand if City Hall was upset of the title was .The C Monologues'. That sounds crude but the reality is that it is a universal everyday cosmopolitan word. Perhaps producer Marion D'Cruz should have called it .The P***y Monologues' to satisfy the schoolboy mindset of City Hall. It is only our pea-brained and cock-eyed mentality that make us view a word like the vagina as crude as if our woman folk do not have it, as if our men folk are not crazy about it or for that matter we all take immense pleasure from it. Come, come, without a vagina, none of us would have come into this world. Yet, one finds it hard to believe that was the reason for TVM's ban because the very next night Karen Loftus was delightfully wriggling, squealing and howling a broad panty-full of vagina jokes at her rip-roaring presentation of The American Woman.
Not only did she have a field day spewing fertile vagina jokes to an appreciative audience, she blissfully made humorous minced meat and humble pie jokes about her Catholic faith. Rani Moorthy in her Pooja had a field day with Hindu deities and rituals with her unfettered jokes laced with sexual overtones.
That inevitably brings to Hari Azizan's decision to sprinkle TVM with quotes and phrases from the Quran. If City Hall's ire is based on this particular element, then all they have to do is to ask the director to delete all such references. It would not have affected the straight-line construction format of TVM one bit.
Yet, if that is really the reason, then City Hall is guilty of not just insulting Kuala Lumpur but also being disrespectful to Islam because at the heart of it all Islam prides itself as a tolerant religion.
Do we really need to remind City Hall it was this tolerant and mature multi-cultural Islamic nation that granted Shahnon Ahmad the benefit of his literary Shit.
Now, how in City Hall's wildest imagination could TVM be worse than Shit. Their artistic taste suggests that they are a perverted lot. It is regrettable that silly things like this have a way of happening only when our beloved Prime Minister is not in the country. One remembers the over-zealous arrest of Muslim women for their attire by enforcement officers. That too, happened when our dear Prime Minister was out of the country. It seems every time he goes out there is some civil servant itching to cause unnecessary mischief. Surely our tireless Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister can straighten this silly arrogance of City Hall as easily as he straightens his bow tie. Or is it such a delicate matter that we have to wait for our beloved Prime Minister to return from his holidays to restore cosmopolitan KL's battered tolerance quotient image in the eyes of the world?
©Copyright 2002, The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia)