Malaysian rapper Namewee, who is currently in quarantine upon returning to the country, says he will surrender himself to the police over allegations made against his controversial film Babi.
The Mandopop artist (real name Wee Meng Chee) is under investigation by Malaysian authorities after Persatuan Seniman Malaysia, an association of Malaysian artists, lodged a police report against Namewee in December over Babi, a film that he wrote and directed.
In its report, Persatuan Seniman Malaysia alleged that the film had racist elements that tarnished Malaysia’s image, according to Malay Mail. Seniman secretary-general Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nafiah was quoted as saying after watching clips of Babi, he personally felt that the film contained elements of racism.
Namewee has claimed the film was based on a true event – a school riot in 2000 – which had been covered up by the Malaysian government.
Seminan’s report follows another police report, lodged in November 2020, by Perikatan Nasional Youth member Mohd Azwan Azmi. He claimed the film’s poster contained phrases and racial slurs offensive to Malay, Indian and Chinese communities.
After touching down in Malaysia last Sunday (March 15), Namewee posted on social media that he was identified as a wanted person and detained by airport police for two hours. During his detention, he was approached for photos and asked when he will release new songs, and where people could watch Babi. His only reply to these questions, he recalled, was “Welcome to Taiwan”. Babi was released in Taiwan in November 2020.
In the social media post, Namewee added that he has arrived at the hotel where he will carry out a mandatory seven-day quarantine for international travellers. The rapper also said he has agreed to surrender himself to the police at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, where the Royal Malaysian Police Headquarters is located.
Namewee yesterday (March 16) made another social media post to explain his decision to return to Malaysia and cooperate with the authorities.
Addressing his followers in Mandarin, he wrote: “An arrest warrant lasts for life. Even if I don’t return now, I will eventually have to, and the same will happen. I still have my parents waiting for me at home, and I did nothing wrong, so I should not run.
“I’ve had eight cases filed to the police against me before this, with three of them being arrest warrants. Each time, I surrendered myself, and I’ve never tried to run from the law. This has also been my defence in court each time, which they have been unable to dispute. If I run this time, it will become my wrongdoing.”
Though Babi has been banned in Malaysia, the film has been nominated in the Berlin International Film Festival, Bangkok International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards.
Babi is the second film directed and written by Namewee to be banned by the Malaysian authorities. In 2014, his action comedy film Banglasia was flagged by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia for 31 objectionable scenes ahead of its planned release on the eve of the Lunar New Year. The film was eventually banned in Malaysia.
According to Malay Mail, the Malaysian Home Ministry later explained that Banglasia was banned as it “mocked national security issues”, “includes allegations and negative perceptions towards government agencies related to citizenship” and “accentuates negative sociocultural lifestyles such as LGBT”.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion.
Banglasia was finally approved and released in Malaysian cinemas in 2019 after some scenes were cut and reshot.
As Namewee alluded to in his social media post, he has often found himself in conflict with the authorities in Malaysia throughout his career. His initial claim to fame was a 2007 YouTube parody of the Malaysian national anthem ‘Negaraku’. His parody, titled ‘Negarakuku’, was accused of mocking Islam and Malays.
Namewee had then defended himself by saying that the lyrics were taken out of context and misinterpreted by the media. He later issued an apology which was rejected by the Malaysian cabinet, and he was investigated under Malaysia’s Sedition Act.
His other most recent controversy stemmed from his 2018 music video ‘Like A Dog’, in which Namewee and other individuals were alleged to have danced indecently in front of the Putra Mosque, the principal mosque of Putrajaya, the seat of the Malaysian government. For this, Namewee was detained by the police for four days.
In 2016, Namewee was also remanded for four days after releasing a music video for his song ‘Oh My God’ which was alleged to have insulted Islam.