KDN and Police shuts down KOMAS film screening

On the evening of the 3rd July (Wednesday night) KOMAS a human rights NGO together with the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC) co-organized a film screening of the moving documentary film called “No Fire Zone” directed by Callum Macrae.

At about 8.30, after 30 minutes from the time the screening started, KDN officials, Immigration officials and the police were present in mass numbers in the venue of Chinese Assembly hall and requested to enter the venue to check the film. The organizers negotiated with them to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening is over.

However, after the screening, they insisted that all participants’ IC had to be checked before they left the venue. This is a clear abuse of power as it was not necessary for them to harass the audience who had just come to watch the movie.

Later on after the film screening, the KDN and Police team numbering about 30 officers ordered the organizers namely the 3 KOMAS representatives, Ms Anna Har (KOMAS Board of Director), Mr Arul Prakkash (Executive Director) and Ms Lena Hendry (KOMAS Programme officer).

The KDN team had requested for a copy of the film which we as the organizers willingly cooperated and downloaded the soft copy of the documentary “No Fire Zone”.

Later, we were taken to IPD Dang Wangi to have our statement recorded. We asked the officers if we were being arrested and they said no over and over again. We were only informed that we were being arrested midway through the statement taking and questioning session by the investigating officers at the Dang Wangi Police station.

They were joined by Mr Tan Jo Hann (Board of Director of KOMAS) and Lawyers Mr New Sin Yew, Ms Seira Sasha And later joined by Mr Farez Jinnah At the Dang Wangi Police station where they were were questioned for almost 3 hours by the investigating team from the KDN.

We believe the manner in which our arrests were made is also against police procedures which require the police to inform a person if he/she is being arrested. We were very shocked and amazed at the officials for carrying out this action without proper basis, proper warrants or notice being issued.

At About 2am in the morning they were finally released on police bail. The arrest was according to the Seksyen 6 of Film Censorship Act which says no one should screen any film or related publicity materials which is not approved by the board.

In fact earlier on on July 1st 2013, KOMAS staff, Ms. Lena Hendry had received a call from the Censorship Board, Ministry of Home Affairs who had asked us as the organizers to stop the screening because the film had not gone under censorship. We answered them that the screening is a private screening and invitation was by invitation only.

Furthermore, there were also strong attempts by the Sri Lankan embassy to stop the screening. They had faxed a letter to the KLSCAH to state their intention, and also we were informed that the embassy representatives had also appeared in person at the KLSCAH in an attempt to meet with the organizers and persuade them to stop the film screening. They were told to return at 6.30 pm to meet the organizers but they never showed up.

Malaysia has always taken an interest in issues affecting people around the world, for example the Palestinians, Rohingyas and many other issues. This particular documentary film provides a very effective platform for discussing the urgent concerns which are prevailing in Sri Lanka today. KOMAS merely provided the platform and opportunity for the Malaysian people to become aware of these issues.

In any democratic nation, differing views and even dissent are resolved through debates and discussions. However it is truly sad to see that in Malaysia who claims to be a democratic and modern nation, the authorities had used an iron fist to clamp down on this basic right of freedom of expression. It has used strong arm tactics to curb free discussion and debates even-though it has been guaranteed under article 10 of the Malaysian constitution.

We urge the Sri Lankan government through its Malaysian Embassy to in fact boldly hold a dialogue session with the Malaysian people so that it can also express its views and have meaningful dialogue with the Malaysian people. We also urge them to not hide behind the Malaysian government using undemocratic and crude repressive tactics to repress freedom of expression and free speech.

We also would like to ask the Malaysian government especially the Ministry of Home Affairs, who is actually in charge of our country? The Sri Lankan government?

As citizens of this country, we have every right to have our freedom to express and dialog on issues that is the threat to humanity. Sri Lankan war crimes was a clear threat to humanity and the number of lives that were lost deserves the voice of the world to speak that. And as a responsible government, they should allow this discussion and not clamp it down using the enforcement agencies.

By Pusat KOMAS