From ‘Local film To Singapore, With Love, not allowed to be distributed, shown here’, 10 Sept 2014, Today
To Singapore, With Love, a film about political exiles directed by local director Tan Pin Pin, has been barred from distribution or exhibition in Singapore. The Media Development Authority (MDA) has classified the film as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) where films are not allowed for exhibition or distribution.
“MDA has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals,” the MDA said in a statement released today (Sept 10).
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post that he agrees with and supports the MDA’s assessment.
“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they left Singapore and claimed that they were unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore,” he said. “It is not surprising that ex-CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) members and sympathisers wish now to give their own accounts of historical episodes that they were involved in. But individuals who have chosen to leave and remain outside Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to purvey distorted and untruthful accounts to mislead the public, absolve themselves or deny their past actions.”
At first glance, the title of Tan’s film reads like that of a National Day song, and cleverly chosen too. The last time a NAR rating was slapped on a local film was Sex. Violence. FamilyValues for racist themes, which was eventually toned down to a R21 with cuts. It’s unlikely that Tan Pin Pin’s nuclear warhead of a film that threatens our very NATIONAL SECURITY would get emasculated likewise. Another local firebrand known for featuring political ‘agitators’ is Martyn See, whose film on Chee Soon Juan ‘Singapore Rebel’ was unbanned in 2009 after 4 years on the blacklist. His other documentary, Zahari’s 12 years, was banned in 2007 for ‘distorting’ Said Zahari’s detention and arrest for ‘communist united front activities’ by the ISD in 1963. Today, you can find both See’s films on Youtube. The country has yet to explode to kingdom come since these were uploaded.
Tan herself was questioned by THE POLICE during the crackdown on See’s Singapore Rebel in 2005, after she, along with 9 other filmmakers, wrote a letter to the forum asking the government where the ‘OB markers’ lay when it comes to political films. Not as renown as household names like Jack Neo, Royston Tan or Anthony Chen, Tan is also the creative force behind ‘Singapore Gaga’ and ‘Invisible City’, both critically acclaimed as quirky odes and mirrors to the ‘real’ Singapore. Unfortunately in the case of a touchy subject like political detainees and ‘commies’, shit just got too real for the PAP to handle. Yaacob even tried to paint them as disloyals who ‘chose to leave’ Singapore. It was either surrender to an absurd charge and suffer endless heckling or flee. To these detainees, there was never a ‘choice’ in the matter.
This communist paranoia belies the decision to give ‘To Singapore, with Love’ the chop, which makes me wonder if MDA and gang are still stuck in the 60’s hunting down the henchmen of the Red Skull. For a film making the rounds on the international circuit, our ban strikes the foreign audience as a shameful symptom of a country in outright denial.
Here’s a quick bio of some of those exiles featured in Tan’s film (which you may eventually watch for yourself when it comes online). If you watch some other interview snippets off Youtube, these folks hardly look like the sort to tear the very foundations of our society asunder, more like people whom you’d want to give up your seat to on the MRT. Besides we already have ISIS flag flyers and Syria freedom fighter wannabes to worry about. They’re the ones who’re more likely to pick up rocket launcher shooting as a hobby.
1) Ang Swee Chai: She’s the prominent surgeon and wife of fellow dissident and outspoken human rights lawyer Francis Khoo, who both spent more than 35 years in exile. The ISD allegedly escorted her away while she was in the middle of an operation. She’s also the co-founder and Patron of British Charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Now living in London, she recounts more than 72 hours of relentless interrogation during the ordeal, just so to dig out the whereabouts of her then missing husband. They were married for barely 2 weeks.
Incidentally, husband Francis Khoo (died in 2011) was one talented chap. He draws satirical LKY cartoons, recites poetry and sings in this video below. No wonder Ang chose to stay by his side in asylum although she doesn’t have a Marxist bone in her body. A double loss for Singapore indeed.
2) Chan Sun Wing and Wong Soon Fong: These two were Barisan Socialis assemblymen, or ‘comrades’, which the ‘secret police’ were chasing back in 1963 for alleged involvement in the ‘Satu’ general strike. In an interview not related to Tan’s film, Wong Soon Fong spoke about his fight against British colonialism, the merger with Malaysia, spending time in the mountains like a true badass commie guerilla and missing his relatives back home. He was in Thailand at the time, along with ’20 OTHERS’. Come on, Yaacob, he’s just a harmless uncle who can pass off as someone who sells chwee kueh for a living. Let him come home for God’s sake.
3) Tan Wah Piow: Arrested as a student leader for ‘rioting‘, Tan sought political asylum in Britian and lives in London till this day. SBC even produced a 2 part TV series called ‘The Conspiracy‘ which exposes Wah Piow’s Marxist plot to SUBVERT Singapore, a ‘mastermind’ of a network of communist conspirators. It read like the Al-Qaeda of the time, but today the government is more hung up on him escaping NS than extracting confessions of plotting to overthrow the PAP.
4) Ho Juan Thai: Like Wah Piow, this former WP candidate fled to Britain after being charged for ‘playing up issues of Chinese language, education and culture’ to incite VIOLENT, CHAUVINISTIC reactions from the Chinese speaking population at election rallies. He’s also accused of forging his passport to gain entry into Britain.
In a digital information age where we’re encouraged to think critically and be open to viewpoints other than those of the ruling party, it’s embarrassing that the MDA, which has recently tried, but failed miserably, to ‘co-regulate’ with arts groups on self-classification of performances, has resorted to its staple blunt, arcane method of pushing the panic button with an iron fist whenever a film featuring Singaporeans who got into trouble with the regime is produced. Ironically the MDA blames the producers for ‘whitewashing’ some of the lawbreaking, but doesn’t address the oppressive crimes against humanity by the ISD. Surely these detainees were never as dangerous as Ebola, and neither is Tan’s film as remotely insidious as the propagandist bile that is the Young PAP’s Servant Leadership video.
With all this hype over next year’s SG50, maybe it’s the perfect opportunity for the government to exercise some graciousness and compassion by reconciling and engaging our political exiles and bringing them home, absolve them of alleged crimes, let them spend some time with their loved ones rather than whitewashing them off our history books as cowardly fugitives instead of the ‘pioneers’ that they deserve to be.
The Singapore Story is incomplete if those who dared to fight for their fellow countrymen, at the risk of cruel scrutiny and being shunned from the authorities with the same contempt as drug traffickers, scammers or murderers, never had a say in it. In the spirit of all things Singaporean and Family, the homecoming of political exiles, a gesture of the PAP moving beyond the old world paranoia of the past and putting family togetherness before petty politics, would be the one true thing worth celebrating on our 50th birthday.