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Komas activist charged for screening Sri Lanka film

 | September 19, 2013

Lena Hendry is accused of screening the documentary without approval from the Censorship Board. She has posted RM1,000 bail. Hearing is on Oct 21.

FULL REPORT

KUALA LUMPUR: Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry was charged under section 6 (1) (b) of Film Censorship Act, 2002 at the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate Court, for allegedly screening a documentary that was not approved by the Censorship Board

The said legislation prohibits an individual from circulating, exhibiting, distributing displaying, manufacturing, producing, selling,  or hiring films or film publicity material that has not been approved by the Censorship Board.

If found guilty, she can be fined no less than RM 5,000 and not more than RM 30,000. Alternately she can be jailed for a period of three years.

Lena claimed trial and hearing starts on Oct 21. Lean has been released on a RM1,000 bail.

She was represented by New Sin Yew, Joshua Tay and Andrew Khoo. Mohd Husaini Rusli prosecuted on behalf of the AG.

Initially, Husaini proposed that Lena should be allowed bail at RM5,000 but New argued that the charge was unconstitutional and violated freedoms of expression and association.

“Plus, the prosecution also failed to show that the accused has intent to abscond. She has deep roots in Kuala Lumpur and is a human rights activist,” New said in his defence argument.

New also criticised the Film Censorship Act saying that the law goes against freedom of expression.

Upon hearing both sides of the argument, magistrate Ashraf Rezal Abdul Manan fixed Hendry’s bail at  RM1,000.

On July 3, three Pusat Komas activists – Anna Har, Arul Prakkash and Lena – were arrested in a raid by the Home Ministry when they attempted to screen the controversial documentary ‘No Fire Zone’ at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

‘No Fire Zone’ is a documentary directed by British national Callum Macrae, depicting war crimes committed by Sri Lankan army against ethnic Tamil minority in the final days of the nation’s 30 year civil war.

The Komas  trio were detained overnight at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters and released on police bail the following day.

Selective persecution

Meanwhile when met outside the courtroom, Komas director Tan Jo Hann criticised government’s selective persecution.

“It is a draconian law that the government used for their bullying tactics.

“It is an overkill to send 40 to 50 officers to raid the hall during the screening,” he said.

He said that the very act of prosecuting Lena was a travesty of justice which would result in Malaysia being a laughing stock in the international community.

Tan also questioned why there was no action against the movie Tanda Putera which he deemed as discriminatory and racist in nature.

Co-counsel Andrew Khoo meanwhile revealed that the documentary was also shown to parliamentarians on the same day.

“Why can the MPs watch it but the public can’t?” he asked.

He also called upon KL War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute the Sri Lankan government.

“Instead of going after former US president George Bush, why not go after Sri Lanka?  The government seemed to have a contradictory approach,” he said.

Let Lena go, reprimand Sri Lankan envoy

In another development, DAP national vice chairman M Kulasegaran urged the government to drop the case against Lena, and in turn reprimand the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ibrahim Ansar.

Kulasegeran claimed that Ibrahim, in a letter to Putrajaya, had labelled Komas as a “group made up of LTTE sympathizers” and had requested the Foreign Ministry to disallow the screening of the documentary.

“The letter is basically an attempt to the hide the truth behind the indiscriminate killings of our fellow men.

“Moreover, it is of childish nature and an insult to human rights to label Komas as LTTE sympathizers,” he said.

Kulasegaran claimed that the documentary itself neither represents a movie sympathising the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) nor civilians alike.

“The documentary only looks into human rights and the justification of the killings that took place at the point of time.

Kulasegaran also said that Komas had actually extended an invitation to Ibrahim and his officials to attend the screening, allowing him to explain the Sri Lankan government’s side of the story.

“Ibrahim had accepted the invitation and confirmed his attendance for the screening.

“However, on the day of the screening, there were no officials from the Sri Lankan High Commission. Instead, 30-40 officers from the Home Ministry raided the venue demanding Komas to discontinue the screening,” he added.


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