Malaysian MP urges city council to reverse indefinite halt of live shows at Merdekarya

Merdekarya has put live performances on hold for the indefinite future due to "licensing mishaps" and contradictory messaging

A Malaysian parliamentarian has urged the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to reverse its decision to suspend live music venue Merdekarya from holding shows for the indefinite future.

Responding to the recent events that led to the establishment hitting pause on performances indefinitely, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah on Thursday (February 24) urged the MBPJ to reconsider its action against Merdekarya, as the venue owners have done their best in following COVID-19 procedures set by the federal government.

In their statement, Maria said the venue and its patrons have continually complied with standard operating procedures and regulations by the National Security Council (NSC), adding MBPJ should assist with the venue’s business “instead of making things more confusing and complicated”.

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Maria also said the pandemic had caused many to struggle to make ends meet, and called on the MBPJ to not make it difficult for artists and musicians to make a living.

“Instead of pulling the rug under their feet, MBPJ can play a mediator role with MKN (NSC) to assist the outlets to further comply with SOPs and allowing to operate per (the) norm,” Maria said.

“MPBJ has to exercise discretion when it comes to supporting local Petaling Jaya businesses which have become a hub for the art scene,” Maria added. “Merdekarya has done so much for the arts scene, especially as a platform for local bands to start their careers. It would be saddening for them to not have performances because of licensing mishaps.”

In a statement to NME, Merdekarya founder Brian Gomez said: “We welcome the decision by MBPJ to review their stand on this, and appreciate YB Maria Chin’s and councillor Derek Fernandez’s efforts to get this done. Hopefully, MBPJ’s interpretation of the SOPs will provide some clarity, unlike the utter mess published by MKN.”

He continued: “We also hope, should MBPJ allow us to resume live music, that it will be recognised by other enforcement entities, namely the police. On our part, we will continue to fight for nightlife to be taken off the negative list by MKN, and put an end to all this ambiguity once and for all.”

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Merdekarya recently lamented its months-long struggle to secure a permit for live music from local authorities. On February 17, the venue announced the closure of its live bar – which had scheduled performances from founder Brian Gomez among others – citing red tape and contradictory messaging related to SOPs and permits for live shows.

Merdekarya announced that it would wait to stage gigs until the National Security Council (NSC) “completely lifts all current restrictions”, as it faces a RM25,000 fine if it proceeds with live music events.

merdekarya shelves gigs licensing woes
Courtesy Merdekarya

The venue went on to detail the confusion that it faced with inspection officers who “had no idea” what permits were needed to stage performances. In December, Merdekarya was told by inspecting officers that it could apply to renew its entertainment license.

The venue did so and was told on December 28 via email that it was approved. But Merdekarya says two weeks later, on January 13, it got a notice saying that the license was still pending MKN’s approval.

Merdekarya was then reportedly told that it should apply for temporary permits for live performances, which would be renewed monthly. However, Merdekarya was informed that its application for the appropriate temporary permit was rejected as “busking activities in premises were a prohibited entertainment activity”.

Merdekarya concluded by asking those who wished to support them to drop by for food and drink, and promising that live music would return to the venue.

Addition reporting from Surej Singh

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