Johor MB Khaled should advise MBJB to end its “wild goose chase” and stop harassing tenants and landowners over cut-outs of Zacharevic wall graffiti which gives 'vandalism' a good name

Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said on Sunday that things might have turned out differently about street artist Lithuanian-born Ernest Zacharevic’s “high crime” street mural in Johor Baru if he had been asked the question by the press earlier, but the issue had become academic as the mural had been wiped out by the Johor Baru local authority.

This is a most extraordinary statement, considering that Zacharevic’s street mural had dominated not only Johor but national headlines for almost a week, and even hitting international coverage, before it was “white-washed” by JB city council workers.

Khaled must be the only potentate in Johor State blissfully unaware of the boiling controversy over Zacharevic’s “high crime” street mural Joho Baru in the week before it was white-washed by JB council workers.

Could this be true, when DAP State Assemblywoman for Johor Jaya, Liow Cai Tong had even spoken on the subject in the Johor State Assembly during her debate on the 2014 Johor state budget and even tried to move an emergency debate on Zacha’s wall graffiti before it was “white-washed” by the JB council workers?

The people of Johor Baru and Malaysia today received another shock in the long-running saga over Zachas’ street graffiti when they learn from the media that the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) had given tenants and landowners one week to remove the paper cut-outs of Zacha’s street mural pasted on the walls outside their buildings or risk being slapped with a compound fine of RM500, allegedly for committing vandalism.

JB Mayor Ismail Karim said notices were issued to tenants in Taman Molek a few days ago where the cut-outs of Zacha’s street mural were seen on the walls and that notices would also be issued to owners of premises where similar cut-outs have appeared, such as on the walls outside the Chinese cultural museum on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and in an alley on Jalan Maju.

Tenants or shopowners who fail to remove the cut-outs within one week will be fined a compound of RM500 and if they refuse to pay, they will be brought to court.

Khaled cannot now claim ignorance of the latest twist in the controversy over Zacha’s “high crime” street mural, and he should advise the MBJB to “let matters be”, end the “wild goose’s chase”, stop harassing tenants and landowners over cut-outs of Zacharevic wall graffiti, allegedly on grounds of vandalism.

The MBJB is in fact giving “vandalism” a good name as the majority of the people in Johor Baru would support such “vandalism”.

Only a handful of those in authority would regard Zacharevic’s street mural as an act of “vandalism”, and I commend the Johor Baru MP, Shahrir Samad for being enlightened and open-minded in describing the MBJB’s action in white-washing Zacharevic’s grafitti as “an over-reaction and misinterpretation”.

I have no doubt that if the views of the people of Johor Baru are sought, the overwhelming majority would support the retention of Zacha’s wall grafitti, even regarding it as a social and national service in highlighting the need for greater effectiveness in reducing crime in Johor Baru so as to eradicate its reputation as the capital of crime in Malaysia as well as its power to draw instead of scaring away tourists.

Is Khaled prepared to ask MBJB to end its unhealthy obsession with Zacha’s wall graffiti and the cut-outs and instead, use the opportunity to provide the leadership to rally all stakeholders in Johor Baru to make the Johore capital a safe and secure city with low crime rate?

This should be the focus of the MBJB and even the Johor State Government, instead of going on a wild goose’ chase to wipe out Zacha’s street mural and the cut-outs.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah