Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Despite trouble from censors, group insists on screening ‘No Fire Zone’

Despite trouble from censors, group insists on screening ‘No Fire Zone’


Malay Mail Online
July 24, 2013
PETALING JAYA, July 24 – Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) will go ahead with its screening of the controversial documentary “No Fire Zone” tomorrow, despite the prospect of trouble from Malaysia’s censorship hawks.

In an emailed press invite, the group acknowledged that a similar screening on July 3 by another human rights group, KOMAS, had resulted in the arrests of three staff members and the subsequent questioning of the group’s director Tan Jo Hann.

The Malay Mail Online understands that KOMAS may even be hauled to court for their alleged oversight of screening the film, an investigative documentary on the killing fields of Sri Lanka, despite the Sri Lanka High Commission’s request not to do so.

But LFL insisted today on going ahead with tomorrow’s screening at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), saying the “truth should not be silenced”.

“We believe that the truth should not be silenced and this documentary will be screened once more on the 25th of July 2013,” the group said in the press invite for the 8pm event.

“No Fire Zone: In the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” covers the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war and depicts the war crimes commited by the Sri Lankan Army on thousands of Tamil people, including the alleged close-range killing of Balachandran Prabhakaran, the 12-year-old son of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The feature length documentary directed by British film maker Callum Macrae debuted in Palais des Nations in Geneva in late February and was screened during the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

According to Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran, the film drew much criticism from the Sri Lankan government, which insisted that it was an inaccurate depiction of actual events, containing “lies, half-truths and numerous forms of speculation”.

The lawmaker said in a statement today that the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Ibrahim Ansar, upon catching wind of KOMAS’s screening plans on July 3, had issued a letter to the Malaysian government before the event to request that no such screening is permitted.

According to Kulasegaran, the letter had read:

“I would like to inform you that it has been brought to our notice that a group of sympathizers of proscribed LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorist organization have been making arrangements to screen a documentary film entitled ‘No Fire Zone’ that is based on false and distorted facts.”

“Our Mission has already requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia and the Censorship Board of the Government of Malaysia to ensure that no such film is screened in this country against the people and the Government of Sri Lanka.”

The DAP deputy chairman said KOMAS later extended an invitation to the High Commissioner to attend the screening, to which the latter allegedly agreed to.

But on July 3, a large group of between 30 to 40 Home Ministry officials barged into the screening and arrested three KOMAS staff members, claiming the film was yet to be approved by the Film Censorship Board.

Kulasegaran said after Tan’s questioning, he too was approached for a statement at 10.12am yesterday by four ministry officials under Section 39(4) of the Film Censorship Act.

He alleged that the officials were acting on orders from the deputy public prosecutor’s office to engage him as a witness in court.

“Not only can this be seen as a form of harassment, this is also an unwarranted waste of time, energy and resource directed to the director (Tan) and I, but also a waste of public funds to further pursue this ludicrous matter in court,” Kulasegaran said in a statement here.

“It is disappointing and yet, surprising at the same time to see that even a foreign High Commissioner can exude a towering presence over our ministry’s workforce, in what could be seen as an act to suppress and censor creativity and truth, which is deemed unfavourable to some foreign power,” he added.
The lawmaker later urged Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry to “reprimand” the Sri Lankan High Commissioner for “meddling” in Malaysia’s local issues.
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