Foreign ministry must summon Sri Lankan Embassy and reprimand the High Commissioner for getting involved in Malaysian local enforcement laws

The recent debacle of the documentary “No Fire Zone” being screened in KL on the 3rd of June, 2013 by human rights NGO, Komas and filmmaker, Callum Macrae raises a lot a questions, with the prominent one being “Who rules Malaysia? The Malaysians or the Sri Lankan government?” The documentary itself neither represent a movie sympathizing the LTTE nor highlight the killings of the Tamil Tigers and civilians alike, but rather a look into human rights and the justification of these killings.

As with Mr. Macrae’s previous documentaries which had shown scenes of indiscriminate shellings on shelters and hospitals, as well as a boy whose left leg had to be amputated without anesthetics, “No Fire Zone” was a documentary about the killing of Balachandran Prabhakaran, the son of a slain Tamil Tiger, Villupillai Prabhakaran, in which close range burns indicated that he may have been shot close range. This incident asks for a morality check, is it justified to rob a young boy of his future and life for an organization that he may have no knowledge of or whether the cause was his father’s affiliation.

Since the documentary’s debut in the Palais des Nations in Geneva on the 30th of February, 2013, it drew flak and criticism from Sri Lanka, to which the Sri Lankan government had deemed it as “lies, half-truths and numerous forms of speculation”. More recently, before the screening of the documentary on June 3rd, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Ibrahim Ansar, issued a letter to the Malaysian government, which states the following:

"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."

Not only the letter itself being an attempt to hide the truth of the lives of our fellow man being killed indiscriminately, but the unfair labeling of the Komas as LTTE sympathizers is childish and an insult to human rights. The NGO, Komas, upon receiving the letter, then humbly offered an olive branch to the commissioner, to let him and his men to be part of the screening and let him tell and explain his part of the story, to which the reply was a yes.

Soon after, it was not the High Commissioner who came, but rather an odd number of 30-40 enforcers under the Home Ministry who came, who had demanded the film be stopped, as it has yet to be reviewed under the Film Censorship Board, the whole predicament ended with 3 organizers detained for questioning. It did not end there, however, as on the 17th of July, Komas director Tan Jo Hann received a fax by the ministry to appear in their office to have his statement recorded, to which he replied he that he had given his statements that night.

He is not the only one to be questioned, as I myself, on the 23rd of July, 2013, at 10:12 a.m. had also been questioned by 4 of these officers under Section 39(4) of the Film Censorship Act for nearly an hour in my office to have my statements taken, all of which were orders directly taken from the Deputy Public Prosecutor to have me assist as a witness in court for simply attending the screening of the same documentary in Parliament, prior to the Komas’ screening.

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 and I, but also a waste of public funds to further pursue this ludicrous matter in court. 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.

One of the questions I asked to them was that if the documentary and its content had not been reviewed under the Film Censorship Board and thus requires the confiscation of said films and questioning of those who screened it, then why is it that prior to this, the same documentary was shown in the Parliament, to which we Parliamentarians, pledged ourselves to raise urgent questions in parliament on whether should we attend the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Colombo this November, to which no action was taken then, so why the double standards?

Their response? “We do not have the power to act on matters going on in Parliament.” Going by this logic, if a crime was committed in Parliament, the police would not be able to act due to having “no such authoritative power”. It is disappointing and embarrassing to see that so much manpower that could be used elsewhere, like arresting real criminals, be subjected to answer those who hide their misdoings and to manhandle an event that is meant to open the eyes of the public on human rights.

I urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to summon the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka and reprimand him for meddling in our local issues.

M Kula Segaran DAP National Vice Chairman & MP for Ipoh Barat