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Friday, August 19, 2022

An overreaction, says lawyer on blacklisting of comedy club owners


The owners of Crackhouse Comedy Club have been blacklisted from registering a business licence for any premise in Kuala Lumpur even under a different name and company. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has criticised Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for what he calls an “overreaction” in its decision to permanently blacklist the Crackhouse Comedy Club’s co-owners over a performance.

Bastian Pius Vendargon said the punishment appeared excessive unless DBKL had other grounds for the blacklisting that the public was not privy to.

“No matter how much it was in poor taste for the guest to perform the comedy skit, punishing the club and its owners this way appears to be an overreaction,” he told FMT.

The blacklisting followed DBKL’s suspension of the comedy club early last month over a viral video clip showing a woman removing her baju kurung to reveal a scantier dress underneath during a standup comedy act.

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The woman was charged under the Penal Code with causing disharmony among Muslims. Her boyfriend was charged with uploading insulting content on social media.

The club’s co-owner, Rizal van Geyzel, was arrested when several old videos of controversial comedy performances resurfaced.

He was charged in the Kuala Lumpur sessions court with three counts of uploading videos on his three social media platforms that allegedly touched on racial and religious sensitivities.

He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail.

On Wednesday, deputy federal territories minister Jalaluddin Alias said the blacklist prevented the owners from registering a business licence for any premise in Kuala Lumpur even under a different name and company.

Vendargon said the owners’ constitutional fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and right to a livelihood, might have been infringed if they were blameless.

“If so, the owners may wish to explore challenging DBKL’s decision by way of a judicial review,” he said.

He also said the blacklist would send a negative message to investors and business people who expect the law and authorities to be “fair, even-handed and non-arbitrary” in their decision making.

Yesterday, Crackhouse Comedy Club’s lawyers said they would take legal action against Kuala Lumpur mayor Mahadi Che Ngah unless he reversed the revocation of the club’s licence and the blacklisting of the owners within 48 hours.

The lawyers said the owners had not been officially notified about the revocation of the club’s licence and the blacklisting, adding that they had never been found guilty of any offence that justified DBKL’s decisions.

Comedian Harith Iskander, who also spoke to FMT about the blacklisting, asked whether other business owners facing court cases would also be at risk of being permanently blacklisted.

“The case is rather unique because it involves a business owner who is awaiting trial,” he said. “Can this happen to others?” - FMT

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