Tourism ministry to prioritise programmes over promotions

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik speaks during the George Town Festival press conference in Kuala Lumpur July 21, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry will focus more on revitalising the local arts and cultural programmes rather than inject money into promotions, deputy minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said today.

The Balik Pulau MP, who took office on July 2, claimed that arts and cultural activities and programmes had been long neglected under the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

“We should not spend more money on promotion of tourism when the arts and culture activities have been neglected.

“How can we push people to come to Malaysia, when we lack such activities to promote to the tourists? We need to rebrand some of our national assets,” he said, citing the National Museum, Istana Budaya, and the National Library as examples that were in dire condition.

Bakhtiar said his ministry has engaged with various departments under its purview, including the National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN), and found that many ideas had been hindered by the previous federal administration due to rigid terms and conditions, as well as a limited budget.

“Under the new Malaysia, we will work hard to make some of these programmes happen and we can cut half of the cost of the previous government.

“The only thing now is that the national debt is high, therefore we need to find ways and be creative on how to work around this,” he said following the launch of the George Town Festival (GTF) 2018.

Bakhtiar, who served in the Penang Island City Council, said the previous government had emphasised more on projects, which he said were mostly wasteful and for personal interest.

“We will put the people’s interest first and next year, we will focus more on developing the people in their areas of expertise as too many of these arts and cultural groups and associations have been neglected,” he said.

In GTF’s effort to promote the arts, culture and heritage, Bakhtiar announced the ninth installation of the GTF, hosted in George Town, Penang, which will be held from August 4 to September 2.

The annual event will showcase the Kelantan: A Living Heritage, alongside other programmes from the upcoming festival.

“The GTF has grown into a major Asian arts event, which helps the building of national pride and identity through homegrown arts, culture and heritage.

“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Penang state government, my home state, for their unwavering support for the festival and many other cultural festivals that have put Malaysian art, culture and heritage on the map,” he said.

The event will feature some prominent local and international artsmen, including Zamzuriah Zahari, the Prima Donna of Mak Yong — a traditional form of dance-drama, royal court dances Asyik and lnai, and a Dikir dance piece from New York-based dancer and choreographer Raziman Sarbini.

GTF is expected to attract artists from over 30 countries at George Town Festival with nearly 500 proposals received.

Co-directed by Joe Sidek and Kamal Sabran, the festival was created in collaboration with the ASK Dance Company, the National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy (Aswara), and JKKN.