Monday, June 16, 2008

Political Hands in Museum Director Removal?

The new political landscape following the 12th. General Elections in Selangor may have a hand in changing the Director of Perbadanan Muzium Selangor (PMS) - The Sunday Star- Jun 15, 08. PMS is the museum authority overseeing the Shah Alam Museum and the Bukit Melawati Museum in Kuala Selangor and several Royal Burial sites in the state.

While the new Mentri Besar was quick to refute any claim of political victimization, many would view this development with trepidation. Such a move is likely to signal how the Pakatan led state government want a new approach in museum establishments under the auspice of PMS.

For the political pundits, the removal of the state museum director is akin to the tug-of- war between UMNO and PKR. However for museum aficionados this is another worrisome trend to position state museums as vehicles to propagate myopic interpretations of history.

These public funded museums supported by our hard earned money will continue to be feted with vested interests groups who have no qualms about distorting historical events and cultural practices. Some are even guilty of cultural cleansing in this country. Their overzealous endeavors to champion a particular race or a political party, and to completely sideline the other communities have made local museums into a mockery institution.

Changing of the top guards in Malaysian State Museums according to the whims and fancies of the political masters is nothing new. Nevertheless, Malaysians should be aghast with these subtle interference. Only with restraint can we be hopeful that Malaysian museums would become the rightful institution that embodies the richness of our multi-racial and multi-religious heritage.

Malaysians museums as political fall guys are not completely a strange phenomenon. A quick check on museums in Penang, Malacca and Sarawak over the last decades would reveal astonishing political vendetta in play. One can only conclude that the latest development in Selangor is a political boomerang which has come back to haunt the once perpetrators from UMNO. Like the old saying, what goes around comes around.

In 2006, Penang Museum Curator and conservationist, Khoo Boo Chia - The Sun, March 24, 06 - was removed from his post prematurely by the state executive in charge of culture and arts, a rising UMNO political stalwart himself. The museum under Khoo's tenure was besieged by calls to showcase more of the communities from Penang's mainland side, previously an UMNO powerbase. Few but loud disgruntled voices from their members also lamented about the SMuseum so-called 'over-emphasizing' communities from the Penang Island.

Further south, in Barisan stronghold state of Malacca, PERZIM, the state museum authority went a step further in galvanizing this prominent political establishment when it opened a dedicated UMNO Museum in the tourist belt in Banda Hilir.

A check revealed more bleak outlooks. Visitors to the Historical Museum in Stadhuys will be disappointed to find lopsided interpretations of the key political players and their contributions, in the historic state and also the country. Prominent role played by non- Malay communities in their collective fight for Malaya's Independence were overshadowed by the 'heroic' political struggles from their UMNO brethrens. Needless to say, the exhibitions on the state's colorful and vibrant minorities are best patronizing and mischieviously inaccurate.

Hopefully the change we are witnessing in Selangor marks a departure from the old ways where museums are merely a propaganda tool. Let set our sight to elevate museums into a reputable heritage cum historical establishment that all Malaysians can proud of.

Jun 16, 08

The Sunday Star - June 15, 2008

Khalid tells why Maimunah was removed

SHAH ALAM: The sudden termination of Maimunah Mohd Saidas Selangor Museum director was to give way to young and fresh ideas in its exhibition methods, said Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim yesterday.

Commenting on the termination, he said the decision was made in consideration of the needs and demands of the future community.

On Friday, Maimunah said she had received a letter that stated her two-year contract with the museum, which had another five months to complete, was terminated on June 9.
State Secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud signed the letter.

State Islamic Affairs, Malay Customs, Infrastructure and Public Amenities chairman Datuk Dr Hassan Ali was reported as saying that Maimunah was not sacked or terminated but had to be removed as she had reached the age of 60.

Khalid said that although the contract was terminated early the state government could offer compensation to Maimunah.

Asked whether he thought a 60-year-old could no longer come up with fresh ideas, Khalid said: “Of course they can but naturally young people will have a 10-year plan while a 60-year-old has a one-year plan. I don’t want the museum’s officers to be its own artefacts,” he said.


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