This was what happened when Komas organised a screening of ‘No Fire Zone’, a documentary about the events leading up to the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka when thousands of people were killed in extra-judicial executions and shelling.

Some thoughts come to mind:

  • People at the screening were angry and upset at what they perceived to be arbitrary action. They were willing to speak up for their rights.
  • The new media allows cameras to be turned on the raiding party, who are put in the spotlight.
  • Why were the officials going after the journalist? Why did they want to search him?
  • What was wrong in the screening of the movie? After all this is not the first time a documentary about foreign atrocities is being shown in Malaysia. Haven’t there been screenings in Malaysia of documentaries about the killings in Palestine, Bosnia, East Timor?
  • What gives the Sri Lankan High Commission the right to interfere in a movie screening by a local NGO? Wouldn’t it have been more effective for the embassy officials to attend the screening and then present its side of the story?
  • It wasn’t a smart move by the authorities to disrupt the screening. Now the documentary has received even more publicity. Otherwise, the local audience would have been small.

I have’t seen this documentary, but I notice that it has been featured on the website of the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting.

Film director Callum Macrae (interview here) even screened it at the March 2013 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is also available on Youtube.

The Globe and Mail of Canada describes the documentary as an “utterly convincing doc”:

As advocacy documentaries go, this chronicle of war crimes conducted by the Sri Lankan government against Tamil civilians during the 2009 conclusion of the Asian country’s 26-year-long civil war, is utterly convincing, and a refutation of Sri Lankan government denials.

The documentary screenings come at an awkward time for Sri Lanka, which is due to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in November. (See this report in the UK Independent.) Questions are already being raised as to whether the Commonwealth would lose credibility by holding the meeting in Sri Lanka.