No whitewashing any issue in Malaysia

No whitewashing any issue in Malaysia

If there's a prize for over-reaction, then the winner has to be the Johor Baru City Council for removing artist Ernest Zacharevic's artwork with a coat of whitewash. Well, for many Malaysians, it is a whitewash for sure.

The graffiti artwork, deemed offensive at least in the eyes of the council, showed a character holding a knife and apparently waiting to attack a female victim.

Most of us would have just chuckled at the drawing, nothing more than that. But to the super-sensitive council and some politicians, the cartoons have the potential to trigger off an alarm, resulting in panic-stricken tourists staying away from Johor.

It's unbelievable but nothing here surprises us any more. We would have expected our authorities to worry about real life robbers - and not a cartoon character on a wall.

But that was precisely what has happened. There are thousands of stencil-sprayed illegal advertisements offering "volcano massage" and "honey massage", with mobile phone numbers provided, but I do not see the same kind of zeal being displayed.

We all know that such illegal advertisements cannot just be about simple massages to rejuvenate tired bodies. These clandestine services are mostly likely to be the kind that will make you more exhausted once the explosion of the volcanic massage is over.

Well, from a warped angle, maybe such graffiti are welcomed in Johor because it may actually attract tourists.

But the two cartoons by Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic has thrown the council into a frenzy as its workers quickly whitewashed the wall, just because one or two politicians are worried that it would tarnish Johor's image.

Well, with the news being spread around the globe, including by major media like BBC and The Jakarta Post, one wonders how the state's image will actually be affected.

The reality is that many Malaysians have the perception that Johor has a problem dealing with crime. Whether the graffiti work is there or not will not make any difference.

Almost every single one of my colleagues who has been transferred to Johor Baru from Kuala Lumpur and other states have fallen victim to crime after reporting for duty. But in all fairness, crime happens everywhere and in every state, not just Johor.

Johor politicians also get defensive and all riled up when Singapore leaders tell us that we have a problem with crime.

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