Saturday, June 14, 2008

Museum chief shocked over sacking - The Star

SHAH ALAM: Jun 14, 2008

The director of the Sultan Alam Shah Museum is shocked and perplexed over her 24-hour sacking by the Selangor Government.

Maimunah Mohd Said said she received a letter signed by state secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud at 10am yesterday informing her that her two-year contract, which had another five months to run, was terminated.

“No reason was given for my removal,” said Maimunah, adding that on Tuesday, a state secretariat staff had initially informed her of the termination over the phone.

“Tuesday was my 60th birthday and it was the worst gift in my life.

Actually, I have another five months before my contract ends and I see no reason at all to hasten my departure,” she said.

It is learnt that 75 of the museum’s 85-strong staff have signed a petition criticising the move, and sent it to the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Islamic affairs, Malay customs, infrastructure and public amenities chairman Datuk Dr Hassan Ali and Ramli.

An irate Maimunah said she wanted an explanation from the Pakatan Rakyat government because the termination could affect her credibility as an academician.

“I am not a politician or a member of any political party. So I am not a threat to the state government,” she added.

She claimed there was a political motive behind her sacking and that the state government wanted to put the current senior curator in charge.

Maimunah who retired as the Museum and Antiquities deputy director of the National Museum, and served as a senior consultant for private museums with several financial institutions, is credited with reviving the Sultan Alam Shah Museum.

Meanwhile, Dr Hassan clarified that Maimunah was not sacked or terminated but had to withdraw from the position as she had reached the age of 60.

“On her side, she had not made any attempt to send in a letter of appeal to extend her service.

At the same time, we were in the process of appointing new board members and decided that a new person would helm the post,” he said.

Ramli could not be reached for comment.

1 comment:

Burgerkhim said...

Political Hands in Museum Director Removal?

The new political landscape in Selangor may have a hand in changing the Director of Perbadanan Muzium Selangor (PMS) - The Star Jun 15, 08.

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 hope that Malaysian museums would become the rightful institution that embodies the richness of our multi-racial and multi-religious heritage.

Malaysian 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.