KUALA LUMPUR: Members of the Malaysian arts and culture community are calling for the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to reinstate a dedicated Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.
In the online statement, the community is seeking for endorsement of their call by fellow arts and culture community members.
"This is not a public petition, and is looking for endorsement by community for now - although we hugely thank you for the support," read the statement which was initiated at a breaking fast get-together event hosted by the Malaysia Design Archive yesterday.
In a bid 'to restore the standing of arts, culture and heritage in Malaysia', the arts community said this can be done by guaranteeing a ministerial portfolio dedicated to these sectors in the new Cabinet.
The statement remarked that having a dedicated Ministry will help ensure that arts, culture and heritage can fully play its unique and critical role in supporting Malaysia’s journey towards transformation.
The arts community stated that should arts and culture be reinstated as part of the Cabinet portfolio, they look forward to engaging with the appointed minister in the spirit of openness and common good.
"In an inclusive Malaysia, we believe that creative expressions, cultural traditions and our tangible and intangible heritage can play a vital role in fostering a sense of shared identity and social cohesion," the statement read.
Citing PH's manifesto in which the creative arts and industry were identified as an engine of growth, particularly for the youth, the arts community said, "culture and heritage have the potential to contribute to the economic growth of the nation, given sufficient planning and support."
"Importantly, PH has placed great significance in restoring our ability to exercise freedom of expression, thought and opinion in Malaysia as part of its mandate, recognising this to be an important factor in a healthy and functioning democratic nation."
The statement noted how arts in the country as well as culture makers, workers and educators from the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak have been the critical voice of honesty, hope and change from the early days of the anti-colonial movement, through to every major social, economic and political shift in the nation's history.
"Malaysia needs its arts and culture communities now, more than ever," read the statement, adding that the 'abuses of power, neglect and cynical use of the instruments of state to foster distrust amongst the people needs to be redressed'.
"Cultural diversity flourishing within a framework of democracy and mutual respect between peoples and cultures - that also values indigenous knowledge and practices - is essential for peace, well-being and development at the local, national and international levels."
Previously, culture was a portfolio under the Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry.
However in 1987 it was separated from youth and sports and put together with tourism, resulting in the birth of the Tourism and Culture Ministry.
Arts was added in 1992, and the ministry was renamed as Culture, Arts and Tourism.
In 2004, arts and culture were separated from tourism and it was then known as the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry.
Heritage was later dropped from the portfolio, and arts followed suit a couple years later. The current ministry handling culture is known as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.