Friday, April 6, 2012

Ballet Ban - Get to the Bottom

I posted yesterday Ballet Ban and Something Does Not Smell Right, the Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, has reiterated "The Government has not banned a proposed ballet performance by a Singapore dance company at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) this weekend."

I asked how does MYDance come into the picture anyway?

I have gone through the reports by The Malaysian Insider and including the Side View article "The ban on Singapore Dance Theatre — Bilqis Hijjas" and nowhere can it found MyDance being an interested party apart from -
"On behalf of MyDance Alliance a membership society supporting dance and dancers in Malaysia I wish to express my outrage about this deplorable decision.."
It is only in a foreign report, "Too tight for Malaysia: Ballet tour banned over costumes" -
'Authorities in the mainly Muslim country called off the April 6 and 7 performances in Kuala-Lumpur, Agence France-Presse reports referring to the local branch of MyDance Alliance, which organized the shows.'
Begging your pardon, reading the the Side Views article and coming from a rabid opposition leaning news portal, I cannot be blamed for thinking and dismissing the article as nothing more than another case of Malaysia bashing by an "NGO", at the time.

Bilqis Hijjas, president of MyDance Alliance, retorts -
"Yesterday the dance community of Kuala Lumpur received the disturbing news that Singapore Dance Theatre one of the premier ballet companies in Southeast Asia has been denied visas to perform in Kuala Lumpur by the Ministry of Information Communications and Culture on account of the indecency of their costumes"
She then goes on a tirade condemning PUSPAL.

PUSPAL, The Central Agency Committee for Application for Filming and Foreign Artists Presentations, as the name suggests, processes and approves (or rejects) local filming and performance for both local and foreign artists.

Guidelines for any application is online here.

Before I proceed, I am not defending or criticising anyone, as I said before, something is not right.

Let's get to the truth of the matter.

Let's examine Datuk Faridah Marican's statement from the report "KLPAC insists Singapore ballet application was rejected" -
KLPAC executive producer and co-founder Datuk Faridah Merican explained in a statement here that the application was “personally” submitted to Puspal or the Central Agency for the Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artists on March 7 by KLPAC production manager Freddy Tan.

Tan she said was subsequently “advised” by a Puspal officer last Wednesday that the application had been rejected for two reasons – costuming and foreign performers.

“This was most unusual because we had applied for performances by the Singapore Dance Theatre on two previous occasions and both were approved ” Faridah said.

“In fact we have always found Puspal to be most helpful and understanding ”

It is believed that the two reasons given by Puspal were not communicated in great detail to Tan.

Faridah said that following the permit rejection an appeal was submitted on the same day.

But despite this she confirmed that the ballet performance titled “Ballet Illuminations” originally scheduled for April 6 and 7 at KLPAC had to be cancelled.
In the PUSPAL guidelines for application:
B. APPLICATION PROCEDURE AND PROCESSING PERIOD

1. The Secretariat prepares a verified summary for JK-PUSPAL’s.

2. JK-PUSPAL holds its weekly meeting and decide on the application.

3. In certain cases, the applicant will be called upon to give explanation in the meeting.

4. The application will be informed of JK-PUSPAL’s decision in writing or other methods deemed appropriate.

5. Minimum time required to process the application for artist performance is five (05) working days, provided the application submitted is complete.
From the PUSPAL guidelines, the many conditions for such a ballet show especially from Singapore (Dance Theatre therefore foreign) and featuring many dancers, I do not see how a month is enough for processsing and approval.

Be that as it may, note that it was only this Wednesday that KLPAC were informed of the rejection.

What was KLPAC doing the whole of March the last month after the application? Was there any follow up to the application?

As I said a copy of the application would suffice to verify Datuk Faridah's statements.

Coming back to Bilqis Hijjas, I find statements by her and Datuk Faridah contradicting each other, -
"Bilqis said she hoped the show would be allowed to go on “with better leadership” from the ministry as it was an act that would raise its prestige as an open and consistent incubator of the arts."
That was on Wednesday 4 April, the same day KLPAC was informed of the rejection but the next day (yesterday) 5 April Datuk Faridah is quoted
Faridah said that following the permit rejection an appeal was submitted on the same day.

But despite this she confirmed that the ballet performance titled “Ballet Illuminations” originally scheduled for April 6 and 7 at KLPAC had to be cancelled.
If Bilqis Hijjas still had hopes that the show could go on, what was her reason for the tirade in The Malaysia Insider Side Views, all on the same day?

In the Star report today it would seem that Datuk Faridah is bactracking -
In an immediate response, KLPac executive producer and co-founder Datuk Faridah Merican said it was unfortunate that the situation had been “blown out of proportion”

and

“It is obvious that there has been some serious miscommunication in the series of events that led to Puspal’s verbal notification of non-approval,” she said in a statement.
I think, there was not enough time to get the necessary approvals, tickets were sold and "The production, Ballet Illuminations by the Singapore Dance Theatre, has been postponed indefinitely."

UPDATE 2.05 pm:

"KLPAC hands over proof of ballet application"

Blogger note:

I am sure I speak for many to say that we have had enough of being ridiculed and made laughing stock of, at home and abroad, of inexplicable decisions by authorities influenced by religious considerations and sentiments.

Will we see situation such as "Indonesia to make miniskirt wearing a porn crime" over here?

Related reading "Blown out of proportion?"

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