Conviction of Malaysian Activist Ms. Lena Hendry for screening a human rights film about Sri Lanka


Lena_17_03_2017

Conviction of Malaysian Activist Ms. Lena Hendry for screening a human rights film about Sri Lanka

We, the undersigned Sri Lankan citizens and organizations, strongly condemn the conviction of Malaysian

activist Ms. Lena Hendry for screening a film dealing with allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Lena Hendry, in her capacity as a staff member of the Malaysian human rights organization Pusat

KOMAS (Community Communications Centre) at that time, held a private screening of the documentary

“No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” on 3 July 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. Halfway through the

screening, officials from the Home Ministry, Immigration Department, and the police arrived at the venue

and stopped the screening. Three KOMAS representatives, including Lena Hendry, were arrested and

detained overnight. Lena was then charged with violating section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act of

2002 and convicted on 21 February 2017 by the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court for the “circulation,

distribution, display, production, sale hire or possession” of film material that the government-appointed,

Board of Censors has not approved.

The provisions of the Act are broad and effectively criminalize any form of film circulation or display of

any film which has not been approved by the Film Censorship Board. Imposing penalties for the

screening of a human rights documentary is a clear violation of freedom of expression. The requirement

to obtain permission for screening amounts to prior censorship and hampers the right of society in

general to seek and receive information and ideas.

KOMAS had frequently screened films in Malaysia dealing with human rights issues in other countries.

The Sri Lankan government of that time, under President Rajapakse, was directly behind the effort to stop

the screening of this film. But the film has never been banned in Sri Lanka and the Sinhala version has

been made freely available online.

A Presidential Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by former President Rajapakse and continued

its work under the present President Sirisena (Paranagama Commission) concluded that images depicted

in the films contain “credible allegations” and that they “provide enough material to form a reasonable

basis to believe that war crimes may have been committed, warranting an investigation” (para 422 and

para 425). A previous Presidential Commission of Inquiry also appointed by President Rajapakse (Lessons

Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) recommended that “the Government initiate an independent

investigation into this matter (previous channel 4 films, images of which are also contained in “No Fire

Zone”) to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations arising from the video footage” (para 4.375).

We call on the Malaysian courts to overturn the conviction against Lena and for the Malaysian authorities

to stop persecuting Lena and drop all charges against her. We also urge the Malaysian Government to

drop all charges against other activists charged under repressive laws that have been used to stifle dissent

and repeal excessive, disproportionate, and vaguely drafted laws which violate the right to freedom of

expression, such as the Film Censorship Act, and ensure that any laws are in line with international human

rights laws and standards.

We also appeal to the Sri Lankan Government to formally request the Malaysian authorities to stop the

persecution against Lena. In particular, indicating that the present Government stands for free expression

and open dialogue and the examination of allegations about crimes committed during the war, and that

the film has never been banned in Sri Lanka.

Signatories;

Individuals

1. A Jone Bosco

2. A. Rakunathan

3. A.V. Lasath Charaka

4. Angelica Chandrasekeran – Teacher

5. Annemari de Silva

6. Anushaya Collure

7. B. Gowthaman

8. B. Mathana

9. Balasingham Skanthakumar – Researcher, Social Scientists Association (SSA)

10. C. Remina

11. Chandraguptha Thenuwara – Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Visual Art & President, Arts Council of

Sri Lanka

12. Chintaka Rajapakse

13. Damith Chandimal

14. Deekshya Illangasinghe

15. Dr. Ashoka Karunarathna

16. E. Soosaithasan

17. E.Mariathas

18. G. Gamage

19. G.Malarnesan

20. G.S Lakshan J.S Dias – Attorney-at-Law & Convener/Secretary, Christian Rights Front

21. Harean Hettiarachchi

22. Herman Kumara

23. Jake Oorloff – Artist

24. K. Aingkaran – Attorney-at-Law

25. K. Issadeen

26. K. Kokulan

27. K. M. Nimal

28. K. Pathmanathan

29. K. Shanthi

30. Kusal Perera – Journalist

31. L. Subajini

32. Lakmali Hemachandra – Attorney-at-Law

33. Lucille Abeykoon

34. Luwie Niranjan

35. M.G. Priyantha

36. M.K. Jayatissa

37. Marisa De Silva

38. M.B. Hakeem

39. Mohommed Razuk

40. Mujeebur Rahman P.M. – Journalist and Human Rights Activist

41. N. Charles

42. N. Sukirtha

43. Nalini Ratnarajah – Human Rights Activist & Documentary Film Maker

44. Niranjala Arulnandhy – Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)

45. Nirooparaj Balachandran – Rights Activist

46. P. Sasikaran

47. P. Somasiri

48. P.N. Singham

49. P.S. Anton

50. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

51. Parakrama Niriella – Film and Theatre Director

52. Philip Sethunga

53. Priyalal Sirisena – Attorney-at-Law

54. R. M. Gunawardana

55. R. Raguraj

56. R.M.H.B. Rathayalu

57. Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephen – Director, Centre for Society and Religion (CSR)

58. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga

59. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando

60. Rev. Fr. Rohan Dominic, CMF

61. Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva, OMI

62. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando

63. Ruhanie Perera – Artist

64. Ruki Fernando

65. S. Jeyam

66. S.W. Suwendran

67. Sampath Pushpakumara

68. Sampath Samarakoon

69. Sandun Thudugala – Activist

70. Sarala Emmanuel

71. Shenali De Silva

72. Shreen Abdul Saroor – Women’s Rights Activist

73. Subha Wijesiriwardena – Theatre Artist, Writer, Activist

74. Sumathy Sivamohan – Film-Maker

75. Sunil Wijesiriwardena

76. Suren D. Perera

77. T. Thayanandan

78. Thenu Ranketh

79. Thiyagaraja Nirosh

80. Tilak Manage

81. Udaya Kalupathirana – Human Rights Activist

82. Ven. Samuel J. Ponniah

83. W.F.P. Costa

84. Yves Bowie – Musician

Organizations

85. DecentLanka2015

86. Floating Space Theatre Company

87. Human Rights Office, Kandy

88. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

89. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)

90. Venasa Transgender Network

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