Shuhaimi Baba won’t back down, Kit Siang to sue

By Noorsila Abd Majid

The controversy surrounding “Tanda Putera”, a historical epic by top Malaysian filmmaker Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba is getting more serious with DAP leader Lim Kit Siang filing a lawsuit against her for defamation.

The mess started when an old photo of the veteran opposition leader – allegedly taken after he had urinated at the flagpole in the house of the then Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris during the May 13 racial riot in 1969, accidentally made its way to the offical Facebook page of “Tanda Putera”.

“Shuhaimi has failed to give a satisfactory explanation why I had been featured and defamed in Tanda Putera’s original official Facebook page as having urinated at the flagpole bearing the Selangor flag at the residence of the then Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Harun Idris and provoking the May 13, 1969 riots,” the Ipoh Timur MP says.

“Shuhaimi’s explanation that the creators of the film had received many photographs from netizens which were shared on the Facebook page, including the offending picture, and that it was removed from the Facebook page after complaints were received about the photo, is neither credible nor acceptable.”

In her self-defence, Shumi (as Shuhaimi is fondly known in the local movie industry) says matter-of-factly, “Let him do what he wants to do. He’s barking up the wrong tree. We (the Tanda Putera team) are not politicians. We are filmmakers. We don’t do films for political parties.”

Maintaining that the questionable photo was not posted by her or her team, the prolific director reiterates, “When I was informed about Kit Siang’s photo, I called up my Facebook administrator and asked for the photo to be deleted. Kit Siang is not part of the film. His photo wasn’t supposed to be there.”

Essentially a buddy film, “Tanda Putera” – set against a volatile Malaysia in the late 1960s and 1970s, revolves around second Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (played by Rusdi Ramli) and his best friend, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman (Zizan Nin), who eventually became his deputy prime minister.

Rusdi Ramli and Zizan Nin aside, the political drama features a multi-racial cast that include Douglas Lim, Alan Yun, Kavita Kaur and Steven David Shorthose. (Yes, he’s Maya Karin’s ex-husband)

According to Shumi, the two-hour movie features a 10-minute snippet of the May 13 tragedy, which serves as a background story to explain why Tun Dr Ismail came out of retirement to join his bestie’s Cabinet.

“We are not doing a documentary on May 13,” she explains. “Our job is to interpret history and make a movie based on friendship, loyalty and love for the country. Tun Razak and Tun Dr Ismail saved the country. I know some people don’t want to acknowledge that.”

Sharing her frustration on how her movie has been misunderstood, Shumi adds, “The Facebook postings have shown that Malaysians are immature and cannot deal with history. I’m sad that our youngsters, especially, are racists.”

Even though there are calls for “Tanda Putera” to be banned, Shumi insists it’s her right to have freedom of expression. “They (the politicians) have a different agenda. We don’t see their point of view.”

“Tanda Putera” is slated for a nationwide release on Nov 15.