Organiser ‘angry’ at yellow balloons’ hijack of art fest graced by PM

File photo of 'balloon girl’ Bilqis Hijjas at the Majistrate Court on September 23, 2015. ― Picture  by Yusof Mat Isa
File photo of 'balloon girl’ Bilqis Hijjas at the Majistrate Court on September 23, 2015. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — The organiser of an arts festival was “angry” and disappointed that the event attended by the prime minister last year was hijacked by the throwing of yellow balloons, the Magistrates’ Court heard today.

Event organiser Sunita Mei-lin Rajakumar, 47, said she was “angry” because the incident diverted public and media attention away from the city’s first Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak attended.

“The effect was quite bad because many were talking about the incident and not the festival,” she told deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Fadhly Mohd Zamry, adding that the first media reports were on the balloon-throwing incident instead of the event.

Sunita was testifying at the trial of Bilqis Hijjas, who was charged with “insulting behaviour” under the Minor Offences Act 1955 for allegedly dropping several yellow balloons from the fifth floor of the Pavilion shopping centre here to the second floor, where the festival’s opening ceremony was held.

Sunita explained that Kuala Lumpur had never had a large-scale festival of this nature, unlike other capital cities in the South-east Asian region.

“I feel disappointed because I consider this festival as an important festival in the capital city’s history. Because if it is to succeed, then arts practitioners have to cooperate to ensure this festival is not hijacked for other purposes,” said Sunita, who is both the festival director and the director of the festival’s organiser Surprise Voice Sdn Bhd.

She later also said it would have been “irritating and disrespectful” if anybody had tried to hijack the August 31 event, which was meant to show the organiser’s appreciation to the government for its arts grant for the festival.

But she confirmed that she did not lodge a complaint on the incident, also saying that she was “not aware” if the prime minister and his wife had lodged a complaint.

Sunita also said the entire event attended by the prime minister proceeded as scheduled despite the throwing of the yellow balloons, confirming that a five-minute video presentation at 3.15pm was not interrupted when the balloons allegedly fell.

Sunita said she had initially not known nor seen the balloon-throwing incident when it happened, but was later told about it.

When questioned about the balloons that had fallen behind a LCD screen, she said those seated in front of the screen measuring 20 by 30 feet may not have noticed them.

She noted, however, that several visitors seated at the back had spotted the balloons falling down and taken pictures of it, saying: “I don’t think anybody I spoke to took it for entertainment.”

The festival was carried out for five weeks in various spots throughout the city and had also featured arts practitioners from other countries, she said.

Abd Razal Salleh, 37, an auxiliary police personnel who worked in Pavilion’s control room, testified that the recordings of the mall’s security cameras cannot be edited.

He said that he had copied the video recordings of the mall’s close-circuit televisions relating to the balloon-throwing incident into CDs for use in this case, adding that it was another co-worker who had selected the relevant clips.

The hearing before magistrate Muhamad Faizal Ismail resumes on June 2, with two more witnesses expected to be called in by the prosecution.

Charged under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955 last September 23, Bilqis faces a maximum RM100 fine over alleged “insulting behaviour” with the purported purpose of inciting anger that may cause a disturbance of peace.

In the incident last August 31 at 3.15pm at Pavilion, several yellow balloons printed with the words “Free media”, “Democracy” and “Justice” were said to have been released.

During the trial, several of the prosecution’s witnesses had associated the yellow colour of the balloons to the two-day Bersih 4 rally by polls reform group Bersih 2.0, where protesters had sought the prime minister’s removal.

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