These are human rights activists whom I feel privileged to call friends.
It’s therefore outrageous that George Town Festival organiser Joe Sidek and photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad were forced to take down photos of Pang Khee Teik and Nisha Ayub from the Stripes and Strokes exhibition.
Everyone featured by Mooreyameen represent the values we hold dear in Malaysia: courage, hope, justice, determination, strength.
Not too long ago, Malaysians were outraged by the targeted persecution against cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, better known as Zunar.
But how different is that from removing photos of Pang and Nisha?
This incident is indicative of a larger issue, where we continue to deny the LGBT community their rights, opting instead to marginalise and discriminate them.
As Pang aptly said, it’s as if “there is no space for them in Malaysia”.
This is heartbreaking as we all believe that we are now citizens of a New Malaysia or Malaysia Baru.
We may have different sexuality and gender identities but that doesn’t mean that others, whom we perceive as different from us, are denied a space in our country, especially as we prepare to celebrate Merdeka.
Malaysians, including Pang and Nisha, voted in the Pakatan Harapan government believing it would uphold the rights of all its citizens as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
But we have failed them, yet again.
Whether it’s because of a directive from the Prime Minister’s office or due to pressure from some LGBT-hating people, the photos must be reinstated without further delay.
I pledge solidarity with fellow human rights activists Pang and Nisha, friends who have fought and will continue to fight for an inclusive Malaysia.