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Friday November 4, 2011

Police move against Seksualiti Merdeka sparks heated debate between groups

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have banned Seksualiti Merdeka with immediate effect, sparking a heated debate among supporters and detractors of the movement that fights for freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity.

While some groups felt that the ban was another case of censorship in Malaysia, others were of the view that their religion did not condone same-sex relationships.

In announcing the ban, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar said: “We are not against the people's right to freedom of speech or human rights.

“However, if the event creates uneasiness among the vast majority of the population, it may result in disharmony, enmity and threaten public order.”

Ensuring peace and order: Khalid (right) and Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rasid speaking to the media at the conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual event held since 2008, had planned a series of activities to last until Nov 13 at the Annexe Gallery here.

With the theme “Queer Without Fear”, the programme included workshops, book launches, an art exhibition and performances.

Khalid urged the people not to attend the events as they could be picked up for questioning, adding that stern action would be taken against those who defied the ban.

“The decision to issue the ban was made after taking into account the views expressed by many individuals as well as protests from non-governmental organisations, including lslamic and non-Islamic religious bodies.

“We have to step in promptly to prevent any untoward incident,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Khalid said two reports were lodged on Tuesday against the event organiser.

He said police had started investigations and identified at least 10 campaign organisers, including former Bar Council president Datuk S. Ambiga.

“We will record their statements in the next few days,” he said, adding that the case would be investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 27A(1)(c) of the Police Act.

He stressed that the organiser did not apply for a permit to hold the event.

Khalid also expressed his disappointment at the Bar Council for supporting a movement that was promoting issues against the country's laws.

Seksualiti Merdeka has described itself as “Malaysia's only festival celebrating the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities”.

It is organised by a coalition of NGOs, artists, activists and individuals.

Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik said he was saddened by the ban.

“We are only asking to be accepted by society and that the public hear our side of story,” he said, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities.

He stressed that the event was not illegal as they would only hold forums, talks and workshops.

“It is not even a gay parade,” he said.

“The event has been held annually and there has been no chaos until this year,” he said, adding that they were not promoting a lifestyle but only trying to make society understand them.

event held since 2008, had planned a series of activities to last until Nov 13 at the Annexe Gallery here.

With the theme “Queer Without Fear”, the programme included workshops, book launches, an art exhibition and performances.

Khalid urged the people not to attend the events as they could be picked up for questioning. “The ban was made after taking into account the views of individuals as well as protests from non-governmental organisations, including lslamic and non-Islamic religious bodies.

“We have to step in promptly,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

Khalid said two reports were lodged on Tuesday against the event organiser.

He said police had started investigations and identified at least 10 campaign organisers, including former Bar Council president Datuk S. Ambiga, adding that the case would be investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 27A(1)(c) of the Police Act.

He stressed that the organiser did not apply for a permit to hold the event.

Seksualiti Merdeka has described itself as “Malaysia's only festival celebrating the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities”.

It is organised by a coalition of NGOs, artists, activists and individuals.

Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik said he was saddened by the ban.

“We are only asking to be accepted by society and that the public hear our side of the story,” he said, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities.

“It is not even a gay parade,” he said.

Related Stories:
Mixed views on ban
OWC not letting off steam over ban on its sex guide
Fury over sex festival'

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