KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Dance producer Bilqis Hijjas who was accused of “insulting behaviour” for dropping yellow balloons at a 2015 event attended by the prime minister and his wife has been ordered to enter her defence in court.
High Court judge Datuk Indera Mohd Sofian Abd Razak today reversed the dance producer’s acquittal and sent her case back to a lower court for her trial to continue.
“The question is whether throwing balloons is insulting and may cause breach of peace? The court answers this proactively, where the court finds the act of throwing balloons is insulting and may cause breach of peace,” he said today.
The judge ruled that the magistrate had erred in deciding to acquit Bilqis and allowed the government’s appeal against her acquittal, saying: “The court decides that the respondent be called to enter her defence.”
When delivering his judgment, Indera Mohd Sofian said the words “Free Media”, “Democracy”, “Justice” on the yellow balloons were also used in printed materials during the Bersih 4 rally held on August 29 and August 30, 2015, basing this on a witness’s previous testimony.
“Wordings were associated with Bersih, in a sense they were against the present administration,” he said, when describing the significance of the three phrases in relation to the government.
Having repeatedly noted that the yellow balloons fell behind a large screen and that the screen was “facing” the event’s guests of honour, the judge said that security would be tight at an event where VVIPs are present to ensure their safety.
“In the context of this present case, if the yellow balloons’ release are regarded as something that can threaten the event, the guests of honour have to be shifted and the event cancelled. That possibility cannot be refuted,” the judge said.
Bilqis, 38, had been acquitted and discharged last July 1 when magistrate Mohd Faizal Ismail said the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case.
The magistrate ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove all three elements of the charge as it was not shown that Bilqis’ actions amounted to insulting behaviour, or that she had intent to provoke or that there was breach of peace.
Bilqis was charged on September 23, 2015 under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955, which imposes a maximum RM100 fine.
The charge alleged Bilqis of “insulting behaviour” with the purpose of provoking anger that may cause a breach of peace, but did not specify who was alleged to have been insulted.
On August 31, 2015 at around 3.15pm at Pavilion, several yellow balloons printed with the words “Free media,” “Democracy” and “Justice” were said to have been released from the mall’s fifth floor to the second floor where the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival’s opening ceremony was held.
The balloons fell behind a “gigantic” LCD screen measuring 20 by 30 feet that was placed behind a stage, a fact highlighted today in court by Bilqis’s lawyer Eric Paulsen as he repeatedly stressed that no one had noticed the balloons except for the mall’s auxiliary police and security personnel and that the event went on uninterrupted.
Paulsen argued that this meant that the balloon-dropping would not likely have caused harm or led to a breach of peace, as the balloons had not even been noticed by the guests of honour or members of the public.
“If the act had been more severe, for example hundreds of balloons or balloons containing water or corrosive materials, there will be breach of peace. But usually a few balloons at a mall where a festival is going on cannot amount to breach of peace,” he said.
He noted that security video footage of the mall was objective evidence that showed no disturbances when the yellow balloons were released.
He also noted that the release of balloons cannot be considered as insulting behaviour as they were not aimed at anyone, adding that there was no intent to provoke breach of peace as Bilqis had cooperated and not resisted when arrested at the mall’s fifth floor.
Paulsen also said that the yellow balloons were only of the same colour associated with the Bersih 4 rally and did not actually carry the words “Bersih”.
The prosecution was represented by deputy public prosecutor Nabilah Ahmad Po’ad, who had argued that the prosecution had proven all three elements of the case.
Nabilah said the event organiser had testified to being angry after being told of the balloon-dropping incident, also saying that a witness had testified that the yellow balloons were related to the Bersih 4 rally which purportedly used the same slogans of “Free Media”, “Democracy” and “Justice”.
“As we all know, this rally is by a group that opposed the prime minister that was the guest of honour at the event. If this (balloon-dropping) was realised by the prime minister, I believe a breach of peace may happen,” she said.
After the High Court’s decision today, Bilqis’s case was sent back to the Magistrate’s Court which fixed the case to be mentioned on October 16.