PAP sending a suicide squad to Aljunied

From ‘PAP’s Aljunied team: Suicide squad or ‘men of courage’?’, 28 Aug 2015, article in CNA

The team that the People’s Action Party is fielding to Aljunied GRC has three tasks, should it be elected in: Solving local issues; sorting out Town Council finances; and representing Singaporeans in Parliament, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The five members of the team include NTUC assistant secretary-general Yeo Guat Kwang; private banker Chua Eng Leong; insurance firm CEO Victor Lye; lawyer K Muralidharan Pillai; and former school head of department Shamsul Kamar.

…ON FIELDING CANDIDATES IN AN OPPOSITION-HELD GRC

The team could be seen as a “suicide squad“, a member of the press said, by coming up against what is regarded as the Workers’ Party A-team in Aljunied. Was it a risk fielding potential office-holders in the GRC?

Said Mr Tharman: “It’s a risk anywhere in Singapore. We must go into elections to fight, to win, then to serve. Don’t take the vote for granted anywhere in Singapore.

…Added Mr Lim: “These are men of courage. It takes courage for anyone to come forward to stand for elections in Opposition-held territory. The hostility that they faced from some residents – it takes courage and commitment to persevere, to tell the people that they’re here to serve.”

Going by Mr Lim (Boon Heng)’s argument, it follows conversely that those who don’t come forward and volunteer to contest Opposition strongholds are wusses. That includes tough talking ministers who take fried oyster metaphors way too seriously. None of the Aljunied candidates are key office holders of course, which means in the grand scheme of things,  PAP can afford the loss despite sending in their ‘heavyweights’. There is even talk of Yeo Guat Kwang, who got shooed out of the AMK team to make way for new blood, being on the verge of retirement. It’s like how in the African savannah old buffaloes sacrifice themselves to rampaging lionesses so that the rest of the herd and carry on.

The same term was used on the Reform Party’s motley crew contesting PM Lee’s constituency, which include CPF blogger Roy Ngerng, flamboyant lawyer M Ravi, and the guy who once threatened to burn Lui Tuck Yew’s effigy in Speakers’ Corner. Leader of the pack Ravi brushed the label aside, preferring to say that the RP possessed a ‘different energy’. Like bomb-strapped minions rather than ‘The Dirty Dozen’. For RP, ‘courage’ wouldn’t quite be the word. ‘Trying their luck’ would be more appropriate. Well, at least this is better for our general entertainment than PAP gaining a cheap walkover. It would also keep our PM busy refuting Roy and gang during the hustings, otherwise he’d be going around holding the hands of PAP babies learning how to walk the ground. It’ll be like the defamation suit court proceedings writ large all over again.

Curiously, it wasn’t until 2006 when the term ‘suicide squad’ was coined, by none other than PM Lee himself, in reference to WP unleashing a team of ‘young punks’ to challenge his 6-seat throne. These include Yaw Shin Leong and Glenda Han, both now out of politics altogether. Yaw, who led the team, compared the WP novices to the band of brothers and sisters in the Lord of the Rings. Interesting choice of words; we all know what colour Saruman’s frock is. Lim Boon Heng bet that the PM’s team would win more than 80% of votes. They got a comfortable, less-than-mandate-y, 66.1%. If there’s any consolation, the WP proved a big mouth wrong.

Ang Mordor Kio

Perhaps Tharman was more accurate in describing Yeo’s team as ‘underdogs’ going up against the WP’s ‘A-team’. When PAP’s Kenneth Chen decided to challenge Chiam See Tong for Potong Pasir in 1988, he didn’t just describe himself as the underdog, but the biblical DAVID. As in David vs Goliath. Plot twist: This ‘David’ didn’t pull off an upset as expected, and he turned out to be more of a sacrificial lamb instead.

Since LKY’s ‘repent’ remark and the AHPETC incident, my take is that this is more like a team of ageing soldiers with a specific set of skills going for broke to take back what was rightfully theirs, an attempt to ‘save’ Aljunied residents from what has been judged as an incompetently run town council. The selection was obviously geared towards fund and estate management; a former school HOD, an insurance CEO, banker, lawyer and a leader supposedly holding 64 positions. So the PAP Aljunied team isn’t a random suicide squad, an ‘A-team’ or a team of Davids, but rather the ill-fated team from Saving Private Ryan, a squad with THAT ONE OBJECTIVE and only that. AHPETC is the PAP’s Private Ryan, and they’ll try to reclaim their prize or die trying.

SingFirst slogan’s Tamil translation is gibberish

From ‘SingFirst makes translation gaffe on campaign slogan banner’, 29 Aug 2015, article in Today

Its newly-launched campaign slogan was emblazoned in the four official languages across a large banner, which was used as a backdrop at a press conference to introduce its election candidates — but the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) Party had botched the Tamil translation.

What was supposed to say its Restore Our Nation slogan ended up being gibberish, made up of non-existent Tamil characters. The party was notified about the gaffe after the press conference held at the party office on Tras Street.

When contacted, SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say acknowledged the error, but pointed to the printer the party had commissioned to do up the banner. “It was done by the printer, and I don’t speak Tamil so we just went with it. We took the printer’s word for it,” Mr Tan said, without naming the printer.

Asked whether SingFirst has members who know Tamil and could have spotted the error in the first place, Mr Tan said “it was not convenient (to do so), so we just went ahead”. He added: “We will rectify (the error) for (tomorrow’s) press conference.”

Lest we forget, Tan Jee Say used to be a presidential candidate, and here he’s blaming a printer for a shitty translation. Back then, his campaign slogan was ‘Heart of the Nation’. Well clearly his heart was in the wrong place when it comes to proofreading an official language. Time to Restore your Banner before you do anything to our country, boss.

Tamil is a notoriously difficult language to translate. For instance, even the STB messed up the translation of Lau Pa Sat on a street sign for tourists. Thankfully, SingFirst’s error turned out to be mere gibberish. The STB’s version of Lau Pa Sat was interpreted as a swear word. If it had been the latter, Jee Say’s party can, well, Sing their way Home.

Party slogans are trite soundbites embodying the ‘mission and vision’ of its members, and ring hollow most of time because they’re either too vague, or too idealistic. I believe Singaporeans are mature enough voters to judge candidates not by their seductive catchphrases but by their ideas and attitudes. It remains to be seen if we get swayed by pretty faces (Nicole, Kevyrn *wink wink*)or the design of their party shirts.

SingFirst believes that the nation is in deep shit, and needs to a reboot. Well it probably is if we can’t even ensure that one of our four languages is legible. It’ll take more than Wall’s Ice Cream to lift us out of our current predicament though.

Here’s a rundown of the most audacious slogans in Singapore’s election history.

  1. DOWN WITH THE ONE PARTY RULE – SDA, 2006

This was the brainchild of veteran Opposition MP Chiam See Tong. More a defiant rally cry than a slogan, it does describe in essence what all Opposition parties attempt to do, and a very ‘oppositional’ slogan indeed. You can imagine shouting this with one fist raised, and the other holding a sickle or some other agricultural tool.

2. I HAMMER – DO YOU? WP, 2004

Well technically this was a slogan contest entry and not an official slogan. But the fact that the WP actually held one, with amazing prizes in store like a $20 NTUC voucher and a 45th anniversary party MUG, just goes to show how important slogans mean to them. How about a Thor figurine, Sylvia?

3. THE NEW POOR – WP, 2001

This is clearly misleading. Surely there are no poor people in Singapore! Are there? Also, it’s merely describing a select group of people, not advocating action. Maybe it should have been ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY’ instead.

4. MORE GOOD YEARS – PAP, 1988

Child-like optimism Goh Chok Tong Style. Though on hindsight it pretty much described himself because today he’s still running the show in Marine Parade GRC.

5. SAVE DEMOCRACY NOW! DENY THEM TWO THIRDS – SDP, 1988

Another Chiam See Tong creation, this ranks among the longest election slogans ever. Also, it has an exclamation mark smack in the middle of it. You can’t even say it without feeling a tad pissed off.

6. STOP THE PAP – WP, SDP, 1984

Straight to the point, but ultimately useless for the next 30 odd years.

WP’s Daniel Goh filing police report over poison pen letter

From ‘WP’s Daniel Goh refutes allegations of extramarital affair’, 28 Aug 2015, article in Today

Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Daniel Goh this morning said in a Facebook post that he has lodged a police report over the poison pen letter alleging that he had an affair with a former student.

…In a post on his Facebook page just before midnight (Aug 27), Associate Professor Goh, who is a sociologist at the National University of Singapore, said someone wrote a poison pen letter to the WP and the media claiming he had an affair with a former student whom he supervised for her thesis.

“I categorically refute the baseless allegations and I question the timing of the poison pen letter coming immediately after the candidate introduction,” wrote Assoc Prof Goh, who was introduced by the WP on Wednesday as a candidate for the coming polls.

One man who would be interested in this turn of events would be disgraced former WP candidate Yaw Shin Leong, whose downfall began when TR Emeritus exposed his affair based on accounts from ‘reliable informants’. The New Paper soon pounced, Yaw’s silence was taken as a sign of guilt, the PAP questioned the integrity of their council, and before you know it, the man tumbled out of politics altogether. It wasn’t long before scandal swung to the other side, with anonymous SMS tip-offs implicating PAP’s Michael Palmer for screwing around too. Unlike Yaw’s dithering, Palmer readily admitted to his indiscretions and quit the party in a manner that some might describe as ‘honourable’. The only reason why these vicious allegations weren’t labelled as ‘poison pen letters’ nor the media excoriated for ‘gutter journalism’, was that they turned out to be true. Or maybe because it’s, well, THE NEW PAPER.

There Will be Mud

Within days of Parliament dissolving, ‘netiquette’ met the same fate. Politicians are suddenly fodder for dirty sleuthing, and social media has become plague-ridden with one calculated smear campaign after another. NSP’s Steve Chia and Sebastian Teo were at the receiving end of the poison nib, with entire websites dedicating to besmirching their reputations. In the last GE, Vincent Wijeysingha crossed swords with Vivian Balakrishnan, the latter pointing to an online video and accusing the SDP of promoting a ‘gay agenda’. Both Steve and Vincent are as good as gone from politics, and it won’t be long before this poison shroud would start infecting other Opposition parties, with conspiracy theories floating around that these spreaders of falsehoods could either be PAP saboteurs/sympathisers, or even rival Opposition supporters, that instead of hurting Daniel Goh they actually boost his election chances. If WP play their cards right, we have a strong Opposition contender in our hands. Well, whatever doesn’t kill him.

Within a day of Goh lodging a police report, Law Minister Shanmugam did the same against a ‘seditious’ Facebook user accusing him of being an ‘Islamophobic bigot’ after his speech about segregation between Malay/Muslim and Chinese schools in Malaysia. It’s the kind of racism accusation Malaysian politicians would toss at LKY for his thoughts on Malaysia’s social quirks. So things have gotten ugly pretty quickly, and we’ve not even gotten to Nomination Day. You have to wonder if such retaliatory responses have been exaggerated because of this ‘smear frenzy’ that has gotten our candidates all antsy in their pants. Try to screw my election chances by defamation, and I’ll smack the law on you even harder. I figure politicians would turn a blind eye to trolls if polling wasn’t, well, just 2 damn weeks away.

So ‘negative campaigning’ and the revenge attacks associated with it, is the order of the day despite the Elections Department frowning upon it. In Goh’s case, the cowardliness of the attack and the mainstream media’s hyena scavenging somehow reversed his fortune into a positive one, instead of descending into ‘YawGate’.  It’s called ‘election fever’ for a reason; The system is delirious with a sickening contagion, where combatants are pitted not against actual rivals in a war of words or wits, but against anonymous hecklers who just want to see the world burn. In the past, writing poison pen letters that mar the reputation of police officers could land you 6 months in jail. If need be, the likes of “Max Chan” could be charged now under the Protection from Harassment Act, a charge that would actually make sense. Unlike this headscratcher.

So much shit online that threaten to condemn Singapore politics to a mudslinging Woodstock orgy and all our MDA is merely concerned with is ‘Pappy Washing Powder’. I wonder if that works on bullshit as well as tough stains.

UPDATE 29 Aug 15: K Shanmugam decided not to file a police report after meeting his accuser. 

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 ?

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:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 374 other followers