The global tour of Pulitzer grantee Callum Macrae’s film on Sri Lanka continues to generate controversy, with screenings for parliamentary audiences in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia and a public screening in Kuala Lumpur that was disrupted by a police raid and the arrest of local organizers.
“No Fire Zone” documents the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, the deaths of as many as 70,000 civilians during that period and the government’s resistance since to accusations of war crimes and demands that those responsible be held to account.
Macrae, the director of two previous documentaries on the topic for British television Channel 4, has been presenting “No Fire Zone” to audiences across the world. A special focus has been member nations of the Commonwealth, former colonies of the United Kingdom, which are scheduled to meet in Sri Lanka this November.
In Malaysia on July 3 some 30 police officers and representatives of the government’s Censorship Council attempted to block a screening of the film that had been organized by the human-rights organization Pusat KOMAS. The screening took place as scheduled but afterwards police checked the identification of all attended and detained three representatives of Pusat KOMAS for questioning. They were released later in the day.
Pusat KOMAS issued a statement assailing the government’s action and accusing it of bowing to pressure from the Sri Lankan embassy.
“We also would like to ask the Malaysian government,” the statement said, “who is actually in charge of our country? The Sri Lankan government?”
Macrae, who slipped out of the screening venue as police arrived, is currently in Canada as the film tour proceeds. The full statement by Pusat KOMAS appears on its website. For additional coverage see articles from the Malaysia Chronicle, the Tamil Guardian, and an interview with Macrae published June 22 in the Colombo Telegraph.