Workers’ party a bunch of arrogant nomads

From ‘Opposition parties come and go like nomads: ESM Goh’, 27 Aug 2015, article in CNA

…OPPOSITION ARE LIKE “NOMADS”

“Opposition parties come and go like nomads. Nomads will not have an interest in the people’s welfare. A new tribe is coming – do they really have interest in Marine Parade’s welfare?

“Having spent forty years there, the residents know me. I will leave it to them to decide whether I’ve done a good job or not.

“The opposition will be there just throwing all kinds of distractions.

“You know the fable of the rooster that crows when the sunrises? The rooster goes around claiming that it’s the crow causing the sun to rise. So that’s what they’re doing.”

“A CERTAIN ARROGANCE” ABOUT WP

“Strength is relative. They (WP) are stronger than NSP (National Solidarity Party) – there’s no doubt about it – but there is a certain arrogance about them.

“With that arrogance will they be able to replace me and my team? Let them try. “Are we worried that WP is coming to MP? Look at the way they run their Town Council’s finances and look at the way we run (ours).

“You decide – who do you want to manage your town council?”

There’s a fine line between being arrogant and being confident, and you would expect one to swing to another in politics when showboating is necessary to get people to listen. When ESM Goh says WP are being ‘arrogant’ when they decided to send a team to challenge the MParader himself, he really means ‘You have the ‘cheek’ to challenge my 40 year old legacy.’ He also said that the PAP Government was ‘its own check’, without the need for Opposition ‘distractions’. This isn’t cock-sure confidence or boasting, it’s plain delusional. It’s like a drunkard saying he’s ‘not drunk’. This lecture on arrogance coming from someone who previously mocked the NSP as a ‘No Substance Party‘ during the last election. Someone who’s, obviously, no ‘spring chicken’ anymore.

If the WP were roaming nomads without a home to call their own, such talk makes the MParader himself sound more like an old man of the mountain, living in his ivory tower watching his subjects collect and transport cardboard for entertainment. With such lofty self-assurance, surely there’s no need for the Audit-General, the President, or even the need for public feedback because the PAP has been doing so well ‘checking themselves’, anal warts and all. Where’s the check when ex-MP Phey Yew Kok disappeared for almost 40 years after being charged for corruption? Did it wander off somewhere like a nomad?

If there’s anyone accused of arrogance it’s usually the ruling party itself, even ever since its inception. In 1959, Minister of Culture S Rajaratnam launched a scathing insult at the Opposition, calling them ‘comic opera parties‘, and that they belong to the ‘ice age’ of Singapore politics. Not a very ‘cultured’ remark, perhaps. Goh Keng Swee was also guilty of it, haranguing the English press for smearing the PAP.  LKY was also labelled as the ‘master of arrogance’.  You could say arrogance was built into the party’s DNA, at a time when hard knocks called for a hard head, that such blatant display of cockiness was, well, earned.

Nonetheless LKY and his ‘Old Guard’ were still well regarded by old folk in the 80’s and up till today, who yearned for the founding members’ never-say-die attitude instead of that displayed by their ‘arrogant’ younger successors. This generation includes types who make fun of another politician’s hearing disability, (Lim Wee Kiak on Low Thia Khiang), those who compensate for their not doing NS by invoking superhero nobility  (I spent the last 10 years saving kids’ lives – Janil Puthucheary) and those who brag about how politics is really a calling and how bad their pay cut was (Grace Fu – When I made the decision…).

Even PAP MPs themselves are aware of their own bloated sense of self-worth. In 2006, Indranee Rajah urged the PAP to ‘overhaul its arrogant image’. To be fair, the PAP by and large has softened since the 2011 GE, perhaps now fully aware that the people will not stand for strong-arm tactics and a holier-than-thou attitude much longer. Retired generals act like your everyman on the street, swapping their rugged camouflage kits for the squeaky clean all-whites. Lawyers dabble in Singlish and eat hawker food. Doctors like ‘nomadic’ candidate Koh Poh Khoon pick up leaf litter from drains. Baey Yam Keng and Tin Peiling handle sanitary pads and soiled diapers. They literally had their hands and feet on the ground. This could herald the new era of PAP MPs who you could actually relate to, while the old elitist breed stomp grudgingly into their twilight years, refusing to give up their knuckle-dusters and continue to bang on the Opposition, seething behind their wobbly dentures till their dying breath.

It’s interesting how ESM Goh mentioned the analogy of a poultry here, because while one kampong chicken claims credit for the sun rising, another prized specimen struts around thinking it owns the coop, unaware of the farmer sharpening his cleaver. Or in this case, a sturdy hammer.

Steve Chia in and out of Macpherson SMC contest

From ‘NSP’s Steve Chia withdraws from Macpherson SMC contest, citing online abuse’, 23 Aug 2015, article by Jeremy Au Yong, ST

The National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) on-again, off-again, on-again bid to contest MacPherson SMC in the coming polls took another surprising twist early on Sunday when council member Steve Chia put up a Facebook post declaring that he was no longer contesting the seat.

The abrupt U-turn, the second by NSP this week, appears to stem from online criticism Mr Chia received since he pushed for the party to renege on its deal to avoid a three-cornered fight with the Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party (PAP) by steering clear of the ward.

“The Trolls have won,” he wrote in a Facebook post put up at around 1am. “With this notice I am announcing that I will not be standing for this coming #GE2015 and will not be contesting in #MacPhersonSMC anymore.”

In his Facebook post,  Steve posted the hashtags ‘#MyReputationisGone’, #NotWorthIt and #KateSpade (in reference to Tin Pei Ling), signs of a distraught Opposition warrior who has reached breaking point with the haters. Which strikes me as surprising because this guy has faced worse problems in the past than having to deal with an online impostor – being the ‘butt’ of jokes, so to speak.

Political observers are already well familiar with  Steve’s unusual hobby – taking nudie pics of himself and his maid (separately, I should add) – and the police report filed on him by his own wife back in 2003. He was also investigated for charges of outrage of modesty. Steve’s reputation was already in tatters then, though quite a few went to his defence, urging the public to focus on his abilities than his weird fetishes. An NCMP then, he didn’t take the media onslaught well, resigned as NSP’s secretary general and complained about his ‘powerful enemies‘ who threaten to oust him out of politics totally.

Chia’s rise to power in 2001 was played out like a ‘Cinderella story‘, though detractors said that he got into the NCMP scheme as ‘a lucky consolation prize’ with a measly 34% because the PAP went on a ‘romp’ everywhere else. He even got praise from Goh Chok Tong, which some would say was a tactic to keep Chee Soon Juan out of Parliament. Chia was the lesser or two evils, and it wasn’t long before the glass slipper would crack.

After the nude photo episode, Steve gradually crawled back onto the political stage under the SDA alliance, and challenged now Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Choa Chu Kang during the 2006 GE. He read out his handphone number to the crowd during a rally, inviting anyone to meet him for ‘kopi’, and dared Gan to do the same. A wild pledge to donate 4 months of his MP salary into a community fund followed. All this came after he was let off with a ‘driving without due care’ charge rather than ‘dangerous driving’ when he ran a red light earlier that year (‘With charge reduced, Chia has GE chance after all’, 17 March 2006, CNA). He had, however, criticised Chiam See Tong’s SDA for not ‘having a future’, and mentioned that he would ‘quit politics’ if he lost the 2006 election. We didn’t believe him for a second.

Steve also wrote a book compiling his speeches as NCMP in Parliament. Titled ‘Called to Serve’, you can now get it on Carousell for $6. If it had nude photos inside, you’d have to pay ten times the price for it. In this day and age, with MPs quitting over adultery, it’s no longer a big deal snapping naked selfies or wefies of yourself or some other willing party. Even if Steve is the sort who engages in group ‘Furry’ orgies I don’t believe a politician’s ability should be judged on what he does behind closed doors or with a selfie stick. His book is testimony to his contributions, whether the people up there cared about them or not.

It’s rather the topsy-turvy turn of events, with Hazel Poa leaving NSP after an internal spat, and Opposition supporters cursing at the party for sabotaging the WP’s chances in Macpherson thereby discrediting ‘opposition unity’, that’s making Team Orange look like what Goh Chok Tong referred to as the ‘No Substance Party‘. Steve’s sudden decision to quit instead of fighting rumours is not helping their cause at all. Just last week he accused the WP of not showing ‘respect’ for fellow Opposition comrades. Today, he wishes them all the best after declaring his exit. His constant to-and-froing in politics speaks of an innate recklessness than a case of a phoenix rising out of the ashes. The trolls may have gotten the better of Steve, but any blow to an Opposition candidate, whichever party they belong to, is a political windfall for their PAP counterparts. You would expect PAP to harp on the NSP’s indecisiveness any time soon and then extrapolate it to the Opposition as a whole. It’s not the trolls who’ve won, Steve. It’s the PAP.

NSP, ‘No Steve Party’, ‘Non-Sense Party’ – whatever you want to call them – without its ‘star players’ now (No Star Politicians), will have to depend heavily on the Nicole Seah halo effect for votes. Kevyrn Lim, please stand up. As for Stevie, I will bet my bottom dollar that we won’t be seeing the last of him, despite us already, well, seeing too much.

#DontCrySteve #FightTampinesGRC #NudeChiaMade4Politics #RotiPrata

PAP candidate Ng Chee Meng dispelling groupthink

From ‘Former CDF dispels concerns over group-think in PAP’, 22 Aug 2015, article by Laura Elizabeth Philomin in Today

With almost a third of the Cabinet members hailing from the military, former Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Ng Chee Meng – who was today (Aug 22) formally unveiled as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency – dispelled concerns of “group think” among the country’s political leaders.

…“All of us have unique life experiences… we all bring unique perspectives. Even while we were in the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), we speak our mind, we share our views – and the only common thing that drives us is the common desire to serve and achieve the best outcomes,” said Mr Ng, 47, who stood down as CDF earlier this week to enter the political fray.

He added: “The best way to look at group think is to first, be aware of such probabilities and possibilities, and thereafter make sure that we listen actively to differing views, consult widely from the different sectors so that we can seek out the best ideas to answer or design any solutions.”

To support Ng in his assessment of groupthink, DPM Teo Chee Hean chipped in by comparing himself to fellow SAF scholar Lim Swee Say, with whom he shared the same ‘crucible’ that is the SAF, but both having their own personalities, hence ‘same-same but different’. Whatever that means. The former CDF is stating the obvious, that people, by nature, are all different. But that doesn’t absolve one from being an accomplice to groupthink. In fact, you could have groupthink in full force exactly because of contrasting personalities.

If I’m a soft-spoken introvert and my co-worker is a loud obnoxious extrovert who makes his voice heard, the direction of any decision-making will tend to sway towards the vocal one even though my ideas are sound but I suck at pitching them, and the group will naturally take the path of least resistance, and the nail that sticks out will be hammered down. Over time, you’ll tend to deceive yourself that the result was the best possible ‘team’ solution, when it could very well turn out to be the shittiest decision ever made. One example of possible groupthink at work was when a staggering majority of PAP MPs voted Yes for the Population White Paper. It remains to be seen if the right decision was made.

I also think it’s rather premature for a candidate who hasn’t yet secured the electorate’s vote to give his two cents on policy-making. If he could explain to me the difference between a ‘probability’ and a ‘possibility’ of groupthink, I would be slightly more impressed. As a military leader you rule by fear of insubordination, and there’s barely any room for healthy, intellectual debate with all that chest-thumping, medal polishing and baton swinging.  If he’d done his research he would cite teary-eyed Lim Boon Heng when questioned if groupthink exists within the PAP (‘There is no groupthink *sob*’ i.e. “I’m a living example because I opposed the casinos and cried in my sleep over it”). Nobody in the PAP accused him of crocodile tears then. You won’t expect the same outpouring of emotion from a military minister, no SIRee.

Retiring MP Inderjit Singh questioned in a lengthy Facebook post if ‘parachuting’ in so many high ranking SAF officers who are ‘cut from the same cloth’ would lead to groupthink. I don’t know, would you disagree with someone who provided you with not just a parachute bag, but a soft cushion to land on? Incidentally, Pasir Ris-Punggol was also a landing pad for one Michael Palmer. He may not have been a military man, but he sure misfired pretty bad.

So, General Ng, what colour is your parachute ?

Lingo Lingo music video not reflecting Singaporean way of life

From ‘Still no go for Lingo’, 22 Aug 15, article in TNP

…The video was uploaded onto YouTube on Aug 4. It features Ah Boys To Men star Tosh Zhang, local singer-actor Bunz and their entourage flanked by a fleet of supercars and sexy girls in lingerie, rapping about Singlish.

It was criticised by some netizens, who said it did not reflect Singaporeans’ way of life as it promoted a super luxurious lifestyle with scenes of well-dressed young people hanging out by a private jet.

Lingo Lingo Where You Go was screened for free at the National Library on July 25. The short film, which cost close to $100,000 to make, is about a man who wakes up from a 10-year coma to a world of unfamiliar Singlish terms and phrases.

…Freelance model-actress Melody Low, 22, who is the main female star in the video, is not affected by the negative feedback. She told TNP: “It is quite common these days for people to have differing views as they have different tastes and mindsets.

“Some netizens say that the Lamborghinis do not represent Singaporeans. However, we are a First World country and Singapore has one of the highest rate of people buying supercars, so I think it is okay.”

Melody doesn’t do much except pout and preen for a few seconds in the Lingo video, though what she said about supercar ownership in Singapore is not too far off the mark. For anyone familiar with the rap genre, it’s all about swag posturing with fast cars, bling, babes and booty. You even have a singer in there who calls himself ‘Bunz’. Definitely not something to sign off graffiti with. If the private jet scenes look familiar, it’s because the director was clearly inspired by the video for ‘I Want it That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. Well at least it’s not THESE dandy guys rapping instead.

Some of the verses in here are truly cringeworthy, like ‘Wassup Lah Leh Lor’, or ‘I love my Singlish like my Ferrari/Just like my mee rebus, teh peng and curry’. The problem with the video is not the blatant ripoff from Fast and Furious, the use of Autotune, or Bunz singing about his Ferrari, but that ‘Lingo Lingo’ takes itself way too seriously.  And ironically, this vulgar glamourisation of Singlish would be an effective way of getting Singaporeans to STOP using it, whether its echo is louder than the Lambo or not. And nothing irritates me more than the cocky vroom vroom of a supercar on a small street. Kao peh la!

Here’s a curious history of the genre known as ‘Singlish rap’, ranked in ascending order of personal preference. Note that this is not ‘Singaporean rap’, but rap incorporating elements of Singlish (lingo, intonation) and inevitably some low-brow humour. So the unwatchable MDA rap is thankfully excluded.

Special mentions:

An interesting companion to the ‘Lingo Lingo Where you Go’ video, where Mr Brown and his podcast gang lament about COE and ERP. Or should I say, the E to the R to the P.

A rap about not wearing pants. Not much different from most commercial rap songs nowadays.

6. ‘Excuse me ah, while I give you a kick!’ – PCK (A happy journey starts like that, 2009)

The irony of this public service announcement rap is that it’s not typically Singlish to say ‘Hey you over there’. In terms of effectiveness, this video did nothing in terms of commuter graciousness, but it paved the way for the Dim Sum Dollies. Phua Chu Kang also appears more than once in this list. Which says a lot about the genre.

5. ‘Some say Leh, Some say Lah’ – PCK (The Sar-vivor rap, 2003)

Here’s PCK again telling you wash your hands to ward off SARS. Unfortunately people remember the ‘some say lah/leh’ lyric more than the rest of the stuff that’s actually important. Yes, there’s an album for this, and ‘lah leh lor’ is still as frequently used as ever. ‘Don’t be a Regretter’, thankfully, didn’t ‘Sar-vive’ as a catchphrase for long. The lingo Gods have spoken.

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 4.41.26 PM

4. ‘I’m just a recruit so I really bobian’ – Recruits’ Anthem, Ah Boys To Men

Another Tosh Rock rap from the Ah Boys soundtrack. Propaganda much. Retired generals can use this as their entrance song when they conduct rallies.

3. ‘Some say we kiasu, some say we kiasi’ – Limpeh, Shigga Shay (2013)

The above line sounds like a nod to the SARS rap, but this is a better effort from Tosh Rock, who guest stars on this track. I suspect the reason why this put ‘Lion City Kia’ Shigga Shay firmly in the limelight is that it’s rapped mostly in Hokkien. Of course it would be even funnier if veteran actor Richard Low performs this. He’s totally wasted on Tanglin.

2. ‘No chai tau quay then kai fan lor’ – Rasa Sayang, Dick Lee (1989)

Moe Alkaff is hilarious here. The Singaporean-ness is strong on this one, though it comes from a musician who’s not exactly known for busting gangsta rhymes. Apparently in the late eighties, according to Dick, ‘life is like a holi-holiday’. We also could afford pagers and ‘cordless’ phones. However, it mentions Sang Nila Utama and Raffles, not no LKY. WHHHYYY.

1.’I always give you chocolate, I give you my Tic Tac, but now you got a Kit Kat, you never give me back’ – Why you so like that, Kopi Kat Klan (1991)

The mutha of all Singlish rap. Charming, timeless and sibei funny.

LTA mobilising SAF soldiers during MRT breakdowns

From ‘Talk of SAF helping out in rail incidents sparks debate’, 22 Aug 15, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

News that soldiers could be roped in to help out during massive train breakdowns has sparked a debate about whether the military should pitch in during such incidents. Many questioned if rail disruptions are a “matter of national security” and whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), “a national resource”, should be called upon to help the public transport operators, which are commercial entities. Others, though, felt it was worthwhile tapping the military, which can be mobilised quickly and is “quite dependable”.

The Straits Times reported that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has approached the SAF to explore deploying the men in green to give directions and manage crowds. They will be tapped only during large-scale disruptions.

Currently, personnel from the police, Public Transport Security Command and Singapore Civil Defence Force already help the LTA and public transport operators to manage such incidents.

On the issue of getting soldiers to lend a hand in the case of major disruptions, commuters had a variety of views. Accountant Lee Boon Chye, 29, who takes the train from Ang Mo Kio to work in Raffles Place, said: “While the army has the manpower and resources to get things done, it should not be helping to solve problems of companies that are profit- driven... It is also not a national crisis that requires soldiers. “These companies can hire auxiliary police officers or private security firms.”

…Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said it is “not a bad thing” to involve the SAF for contingency planning, especially for worst-case scenarios. The associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University said: “Train breakdowns have so far resulted in delays for a few hours.

“But a train breakdown could become a crisis if there are other untoward consequences, such as a stampede, civil unrest or if the train breakdown continues for days or weeks… it will then be justifiable for the military to support efforts to manage the crisis.”

The last time the SAF was activated for a major event that had nothing to do with shooting and killing people was LKY’s state funeral, where 10,000 men and women were roped in to make sure the procession went smoothly (No job too big for Ah Boys, 16 May 15, ST). Other festivities which involved the army include the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, the recent SEA games, and of course the annual staple that is the NDP. The military supposedly has the most experience in organising massive groups of people quickly, and besides defending the nation or going overseas for humanitarian relief efforts, it sidelines as the country’s largest logistics organisation. It’s also a dependable source of cheap labour.

Event planning aside, SAF soldiers have been also tasked to patrol airports to beef up security against terrorists, which led some to question whether our boys in green are even qualified to handle hostage situations or urban warfare. There’s an unlikely long-standing relationship between SAF and public transport operators. In 1976, SBS ‘borrowed’ SAF mechanics to repair their buses in the midst of labour shortage. More bizarrely, soldiers were ‘volunteered’ to become guinea pigs in an 1987 experiment where they were subject to a mock breakdown exercise in the middle of a tunnel, squeezed into two cars to mimic peak hour conditions without air-conditioning. What is this, the Third Reich?

So not only does the SAF supply us with human bodies to do ‘sai-kang’, they also provide trial participants for ethically questionable experiments that test the limits of human endurance. Presumably because they’ve been adequately hard-drilled by the war machine to swallow unspeakable torture. Incidentally, both the LTA and SMRT chiefs are former military stalwarts, so no surprise that they probably agreed on this brilliant idea with a top brass handshake. Ah Boys to MRT Ushers, really. Furthermore, shouldn’t stampede control be managed by the riot police? Or we’re all reserving those guys for Little India scuffles?

So if we’re all fine with sacrificing our army pawns to tackle ‘national crises’ in peacetime, why stop at MRT breakdowns where there’s a remote chance of stampedes and ‘civil unrest’? We could apply their operational finesse in other matters that may affect ‘national security’, so that our police officers can focus on other areas like arresting bloggers. Here’s a list for consideration:

  1. McDonald’s Hello Kitty Queues
  2. Primary One Registration
  3. Securing JEM in event of fire/ceiling collapse/flood
  4. Security at K-pop concerts
  5. Crowd control when Kong Hee goes to court
  6. Sentry duty at SMRT depots in case of trespassing vandals
  7. Collection lines for SG50 Commemorative notes
  8. Picking up dead fish hit by mysterious seaborne disease
  9. N95 mask distribution during bad haze conditions
  10. Road marshalling at marathons. Wait, they’re probably already doing that for that Army one.

Yusof Ishak’s name misspelt in SG50 commemorative package

From ‘Typos in packaging of SG50 commemorative notes’, 20 Aug 2015, article in CNA

The launch of the SG50 commemorative notes set on Thursday (Aug 20) was marred by typos.

The name of Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak was misspelt as “Yusok Ishak” on a foldout portion of the packaging as well as in an enclosed booklet. There were no errors in the spelling of his name on the commemorative notes, released to mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.

In response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it is printing stickers to cover the erroneous text.

“We apologise for an unfortunate typographical error in our first President Yusof Ishak’s name in the folder containing the SG50 notes,” said an MAS spokesperson in a statement. “We are printing stickers to replace the misspelt part of his name. The stickers will be affixed to the folders available from the banks, from Aug 25 onwards. Those who have already collected the folders may also obtain the stickers then.”

…MAS managing director Ravi Menon issued a statement late Thursday, taking full responsibility for the error. “This should never have happened, is not acceptable, and I take full responsibility. I apologise on behalf of my colleagues who worked hard to prepare the notes and folders but are deeply disappointed that we made this most unfortunate mistake. We will put this right,” he said.

See what you've done MAS.

Look what you’ve done MAS.

I hope no one gets fired over this boo-boo, and MAS did the right thing admitting their mistake first before someone noticed and posted it online. Chances are you’re more likely to stare at the artwork and play with the 3-D hologram on the currency before reading a single word of introductory text. Wonder if anyone will queue overnight to get the corrective stickers though. Personally I wouldn’t line up again to get one that says ‘Yusof’, or if MAS is as stingy with the recovery budget as they are with proofreading, an ‘F’. F, for FAIL.

Incredibly, people have been making the ‘Yusok’ mistake way before this spectacular gaffe. A trawl through Twitter uncovered these gems more than 3 years ago, when ‘Yusok Ishak’ was the affectionate name people gave to cash in their wallets.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.43.38 PM

Well at least the English on the notes itself is clean, unlike the disaster in 1992 when ‘Board of Commissioners’ was spelt as ‘Commissoners’ on commemorative $2 bills (Spelling error in special issue $2 bills, 4 July 1992, ST). You would, however, expect some critics to complain about the ugly artwork, or how the design looks like a ripoff of some other country’s currency, like our recently minted, Euro-looking, Third Series $1 coins.

Nevermind 50 years of nation-building, another commemorative exhibition last year titled ‘Singapura: 700 years’ was marred by ‘typos, inaccuracies and style inconsistencies’, with Perak’s ‘Slim River’ misspelt as ‘GRIM River’. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra was erroneously spelt as ‘Symphonic’ Orchestra.  Thank you R.M Arblaster sir for your astute nitpicking, though your complaint and call for formal proofreading apparently did little to convince MAS that spelling is paramount, especially when it comes to the name of our first PRESIDENT. Can you imagine if people spelt the deceased LKY’s name wrongly? Their Seventh Month would be very, well, eventful, to say to the least.

If there’s any consolation, ‘Yusok’ isn’t half as bad as spelling Obama as ‘Osama’.

Pappy washing powder video is a political film

From ‘MDA reminds parties to not contravene Films Act ahead of General Election’, 17 Aug 15, article by Faris Mokhtar, CNA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) on Monday (Aug 17) said it will not be taking action against the Opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for releasing a political film, which contravenes the Films Act.

The SDP uploaded two videos as part of its online campaign for the coming General Election. One focused on the local education system, suggesting that the system is stressful and has affected students’ well-being.

The other video is a tongue-in-cheek commercial featuring a made-up washing detergent brand called “Pappy White“. It shows a woman putting clothes printed with words like “transparency” and “democracy” into a washing machine. MDA has classified the video as a political film.

However, the authority said it will not be taking action against the SDP, noting that this is the first such incident. MDA added that parties may not have been fully aware of what is contained in the Films Act.

The authority reminded parties and candidates that they need to ensure that their political films do not contravene the Films Act. MDA also said it will not hesitate to enforce the law should they continue to publish such films.

The Films Act bans the making, import, distribution or screening of “party political films”. However, some films which meet certain criteria can be exempted. These include factual documentaries and manifestos of political parties produced by or on behalf of a political party.

The first ever political film to be shown to public is likely to be 1959’s ‘newsreel’ about PAP electioneering. Opposition parties complained that this was biased towards only one party. Ironically, the same ruling party that came up with the ban decades later could themselves have been breaching the said regulations when they first started out.

SDP’s Pappy washing powder creation has an unlikely connection with Forrest Gump. In 1998, BG George Yeo, then head of the Ministry of Information and the Arts, passed an Amendment which disallowed the distribution and exhibition of ‘political films’. He was convinced that opposition parties had sufficient avenues to disseminate their views. Fellow ‘pappie’ Jacob (Yaacob?) Ibrahim was concerned about the ‘danger’ of digital technology creating false images, as depicted in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ when Tom Hanks’ titular hero was morphed into a scene with JFK.

Which means you can forget about recreating LKY’s CG clone for a future film after all those actors worthy enough to portray him have died.

Today, our dear George is lauded as PAP’s Internet ‘maverick’, and the Films Act has since been ‘clarified’ to exclude certain types of content from the ban. For example, a film that is a live recording of any event (performance, assembly etc) which does not depict the event, person or situation in a ‘DRAMATIC’ way. An classic example of how this apparent ‘relaxation’ of legislation took effect was the decision to unban Martyn See’s ‘Singapore Rebel’. From the video on Youtube, you see scenes of Chee Soon Juan mobbed to fever pitch by the police and bystanders rabble-rousing. Nope, not the least ‘dramatic’ at all. Another of See’s films, Speakers Cornered, also features CSJ, but was passed uncut with an NC-16 rating because the MDA decrees that you need ‘maturity to discern the intent and message of the film’. No such luck for Tan Pin Pin’s ‘To Singapore With Love’. All the maturity in the world can’t offer you a glimpse of the banned, allegedly manipulative documentary.

Even without ‘dramatic elements’ or ‘animation’, an unedited video of someone telling his life story would still fall afoul of the censors if it ‘undermines public confidence in the Government’, as what happened to another Martyn See work starring ‘ex-leftist’ Lim Hock Siew. Vague terms like ‘dramatic’ or ‘factual’ have no place in the Law when the Authority, or its ‘independent panels’, have the wherewithal to decide what is ‘non-partisan’ and what is ‘political’ regardless of what the Act says. Undermining public confidence in the PAP is exactly what the Pappy washing powder implies, though the MDA failed to point this out as a ‘political’ element for some reason.

We’re so used to Mediacorp ‘current affairs’ programmes featuring Cabinet ministers, such as 2005’s ‘Up Close’, that we forget that these too may potentially breach the Films Act. And there are so many other ‘films’ out there with hidden political ‘agendas’ that get off scot-free. Like a cringeworthy, totally non-partisan Young PAP recruitment video about ‘re-igniting a passion for servant leadership’, which was spared because it did not have ‘animation or dramatic elements’. Others that inevitably fall out of MDA’s radar, including those with song, dance and animation, include:

  1. A homemade tribute video on the PAP’s 60th annivesary, with a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino Western. Pappy Unchained?

2. A Steven Lim monologue urging you to vote PAP. Which the PAP may decide to ban for an entirely different reason.

3. This Taiwanese animation on Chee Soon Juan getting jailed.

4. This multimedia presentation that climaxes with a PAP logo next to a thumbs up. With cool retro 8-bit music.

5. This ‘Friday parody of how wonderful Election Day is.

6. Mr Brown parody on our ‘One Party’ leadership.

Which goes to show how archaic our laws are when it comes to catching up with new media. MDA’s ticking off aside, the Pappy video remains online as we speak, and in the meantime, if you need some legal ‘political’ entertainment, there’s this:

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