Thursday, September 18 2003

TV documentary on Malacca has leaders fuming

By Sharanjit Singh

Sept 18: HISTORY has recorded that innumerable ships used to sail the Straits of Malacca to dock at this little city which was at one time a world famous trading centre.
Malacca's illustrious past has earned it various accolades and this includes its reputation as the birthplace of the country's multiculturalism.
However, a recent label given to it by a broadcast over prime time television on ntv7 has got the State Government all steamed up.
Melaka Syurga Pondan (Malacca, a transvestites' paradise) was what the report called the State.
To add injury to the insult, the coverage went on to show a religious enforcement team rounding up transvestites in skimpy outfits, thick make-up, heels and stockings.
The camera also zoomed in on an overweight middle-aged man in shorts seemingly on cloud nine as he walked out of a room allegedly used by transvestites to service their clients.
The smiles may have been on the faces of those who used the services of the transvestites but word is that the State administration is far from amused.
It is especially enraged with the news report, which it deemed to be lopsided and an exaggeration.
But the authorities have acknowledged that transvestites, especially out-of-towners, have been frequenting Malacca especially during the weekends to offer their services.
This has caused the authorities to go into overdrive to clamp down on the activities.
Enforcement teams, accompanied by reporters and cameramen, have gone on innumerable raids at known prostitute hang-outs and entertainment outlets.
The much publicised raids often end up with guest relations officers, prostitutes and transvestites being hauled up and subjected to embarrassing questions.
In a recent raid, two transvestites who were caught with their clients pulled off a daring stunt by jumping off a three-storey shophouse in the buff.
Fortunately, they only suffered minor cuts and bruises before being arrested.
However, such raids have seemingly failed to dampen the spirits of those involved in the flesh trade.
Nevertheless, the only thing the authorities can do is not to let down on enforcement to ensure the situation is kept under control.
It is also about time the authorities concentrated not only on the GROs, prostitutes and transvestites but also their clients.
Often, it is those suspected of being involved in the flesh trade that are treated like freaks while those who solicit their services get away scot free.
There have been suggestions the authorities follow the message advocated by wildlife conservation groups that when the buying stops the killing will too.
In this case, if those who frequent known transvestite or prostitution joints can be frightened into knowing they risk public exposure then there will be a better chance of containing the problem.
It cannot be denied that the problem of transvestites and prostitution is also common in almost every other State.
However, because of the news report, historic Malacca has had the misfortune of being placed under the spotlight and it is incumbent on the authorities to put things straight.
Otherwise, Malacca could end up suffering the indignity of being stuck with the Syurga Pondan label.