The Malaysia government has banned a documentary that documents widespread human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan army from being shown publicly without approval from the censors.
Tamil Indians make up 70% of the Indian population in Malaysia and the treatment of Tamils by the Sri Lanka government is something they feel strongly about.
Small groups have been going around the ban and have been showing the film in private through invitations.
Despite lacking in numbers they were determined to get their voices heard.
Four students took to the streets and protested in the Indian district of Kuala Lumpur.
They are angered that the Malaysia Prime Minister attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.
R. Maha is the protest coordinator.
“We are very disappointed that our Prime Minister Najib has gone to Sri Lanka, I know all the Indians here, all the Tamils here are disappointed with him for supporting a country that has committed a lot of human rights abuses. It has committed war crimes, it has committed genocide.”
It’s something the Malaysian government is also sensitive about.
When this documentary “No Fire Zone: Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” was shown in Malaysia, the government intervened.
The film by Callum Macrae documents the end of the 30 year old civil war.
“It covers the period of the final onslaught, and in that period the government of Sri Lanka announced what they called no fire zones. And herded literally hundreds of thousands of people into these no fire zones and systematically shelled and bombed them. They also denied them food and medicine as well, itself a crime under international law.”
The Sri Lankan government continues to deny the allegations made in the film.
But recently the British Prime Minister David Cameron after watching the film called for an investigation into what really happened.
Film maker Callum Macrae says many things are still unknown.
“Estimates of how many people died, we still don’t know extraordinarily. But estimates range from 40,000 which one UN report suggest, who could have died to a more recent UN report which suggest the figure could be as many as 70000 or even more.”
Malaysians who turned up to the screening of the document in July were harassed by officials.
They had their identification checked …including a journalist who was covering the event.
The organizers for the event were brought in for questioning by the Police.
Lena Hendry the coordinator of the NGO screening the movie was charged under the film censorship act. She faces a maximum of three years in jail if convicted.
Andrew Khoo is her lawyer.
“This is another instance of the government harassing human rights defenders, this is a documentary not about situation in Malaysia its about a situation in Sri Lanka, it’s about the atrocities being committed on the Tamil committee in Sri Lanka. What is so wrong about knowing about what is happening?”
Since then a second screening of the film was arranged by Lawyers For Liberty, a human rights and law reform initiative, to show their support for the cause.
Sivarasa Rasiah, vice president of the opposition People’s Justice Party, attended the screening.
“To make a point that freedom loving Malaysians, human rights defenders in Malaysia will not back down and be stopped from screening this film just because the Sri Lankan high commission doesn’t want the film to be screened.”
Film maker Callum Macrae hopes that this attention around his film will put pressure on the United Nations to conduct an investigation to the allegations.
“I hope very much that governments of goodwill throughout the world will consider voting for a resolution and a resolution at the United Nations which calls on the international community to mount an international inquiry.”
The Malaysian government has banned the film from being seen screened publicly saying it still needs to be approved by the censorship board.
And the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says it would have been damaging for the country if he boycotted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
He was quoted as saying “It should be CHOGM in Sri Lanka, not CHOGM on Sri Lanka. There’s a difference there.”