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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 261

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yesterday, Senator Robert Ray asked me a question about a statement by a Minister in the Malaysian Government. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the full text of an answer from the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

Senator Evans —On 22 August Senator Ray asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, without notice:

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to statements by the Minister for Information in the Malaysian Government wherein he stated that the Malaysian Government was against the screening, portrayal or musical presentation of works of Jewish origin? Will the Minister take action to indicate to the Malaysian Government our abhorrence of the anti-semitic statement by that Government?

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

I am aware of a statement by Malaysia's Minister for Information that the Malaysian Government would not encourage any screening, portrayal or musical presentation of Jewish origin in the country. The statement referred to a work of music entitled 'Schelomo-a Hebrew Rhapsody', which the New York Philharmonic Orchestra had intended to include in its program during a tour of Malaysia. Other items in the intended program by Jewish composers had not led to any Malaysian objections. According to advice from the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Minister for Information has subsequently stated by way of clarification, that he had only been giving his initial views and that he had in any case been speaking not as a Government Minister, but in his capacity as chairman of a semi-government drug rehabilitation organisation, which was a co-sponsor of the orchestra's visit. I understand that Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has also pointed out publicly, in relation to this incident, that freedom of worship is guaranteed in Malaysia. The Malaysian Government has rejected, in the past, any suggestion that it is anti-semitic. The fact is that musical works by Jewish composers are regularly performed in Malaysia, including by Malaysian orchestras. Indeed excerpts from 'Fiddler on the Roof' were performed by a Malaysian orchestra during a visit to Malaysia by the former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser.