Friday, 14 November 2014

Appeal to reclassify rating of "To Singapore, With Love" Rejected

Update 12 Jan 2015Review: To Singapore, with Love

Sitting on a porch in Kuala Lumpur, Dr. Ang Swee Chai recalls that in 1977, when her husband Francis Khoo’s arrest was imminent, she had suggested that they get married – “that way I could at least visit him in jail”. Soon after their swift wedding, amidst threat of arrest and indefinite incarceration, they fled Singapore. Decades later, reality loomed. “It dawned on me that I was going to die alone in London… I want to be in 100A Upper Serangoon Road,” she says softly. Swee Chai has returned to Singapore just once — on a single-entry permit, carrying her husband’s ashes.

The men and women in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, with Love are courteous in their painful recounting of the circumstances that forced them to leave their country of birth – four, maybe five decades ago. They instantly remember their dates of departure – long ago now. Their stories are factual, fragile and yet wistful. A lifetime of pent up yearning and loss has surprisingly not left them despondent. The grace and detail of their spirited, candid narratives taped conversationally at home, on streets and in offices, make this film intimate and engaging. True to Ms. Pin’s oeuvre, there are no gratuitous mood shots in this film; superfluous music is not necessary to pull at our heartstrings – the clear, penetrating words suffice.

“I knew that they had to get rid of me,” says the professorial, Oxford educated lawyer Tan Wah Piow, in a matter-of fact tone. He left Singapore after serving a jail term of one-year for blowing the whistle on what what he perceived as gross labour injustice. During that time he saw the forcible and complete dismantling of the university student union he had been an integral part of.

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Appeal to reclassify rating of "To Singapore, With Love" Rejected
Ms Tan Pin Pin had appealed to the Films Appeal Committee in September after her film on Singapore's political exiles, To Singapore, With Love, was given a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" classification by the MDA. This means the film cannot be distributed or shown in public here. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Film-maker Tan Pin Pin has failed in her appeal to overturn a decision by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to bar her film from public viewing in Singapore.

Ms Tan had appealed to the Films Appeal Committee (FAC) in September after her film on Singapore's political exiles, To Singapore, With Love, was given a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" classification by the MDA.

This means the film cannot be distributed or shown in public here.

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Films Appeal Committee upholds rating for To Singapore, With Love

The Films Appeal Committee (FAC) has decided to uphold the Media Development Authority’s decision to classify the documentary To Singapore, With Love as Not Allowed For All Ratings (NAR), it announced in a statement issued on Wednesday (Nov 12).

Ms Tan Pin Pin, the director of the documentary, had submitted the film for a classification review on Sep 30. 

The FAC said it had considered Ms Tan’s representations, and the views of the MDA and relevant Government agencies. Nine of the Committee’s 12 members present voted to uphold the NAR decision, while three members voted for a Restricted 21 (R21) rating.

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Tan Pin Pin fails in appeal against To Singapore, with Love classification

Ms Tan submitted her appeal last month. In September, it was classified as NAR by the MDA, which said its content undermined national security.

Ms Tan has expressed disappointment at the FAC decision. In a Facebook post she wrote: "Censorship in the form of a restriction of access is never the way to assert one’s point of view. Singaporeans should be given the opportunity to view the film in public screenings, to weigh for ourselves different viewpoints about our past." 

Ms Tan added that she would be exploring different options regarding the film’s access including private screenings provided for under the NAR classification.

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Rhetorics add no value to discourse on Constitutional rights
Tan Wah Piow

In an earlier letter to The Online Citizen, Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong, Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office) refuted the claims made by political exiles, Mr Ho Juan Thai and Mr Tan Wah Piow, instead drawing attention to recorded facts, such as Ho leaving the country without permission and Tan being allegedly assisted by communists.

The following is a response by Mr Tan Wah Piow to Mr Sam Tan’s letter.
Dear Sam, I am heartened that you have managed to find time to read my two recent articles published on The Online Citizen. Both were written in response to the banning of "To Singapore With Love".
Let the people judge
Smokescreens & Mirrors: Tracing the ‘Marxist Conspiracy’
Escape from the Lion’s Paw: Reflections of Singapore’s Political Exiles

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A PAP MP Sam Tan has decided to counter the claims made by self-exiled Singapore opposition politician Ho Juan Thai. Read it here and here.

While many know of HJT's version of events and feels that he was unfairly treated by the Singapore government, not many know of how he escape Singapore and landed up in London. These details are actually available in the Hansard of Parliamentary reports. Kudos to WP's JBJ for always asking the tough questions in Singapore.

It is noteworthy to remember that besides being accused of making election speeches that incited racial disharmony (HJT accused the government of murdering the Chinese language), HJT was also wanted for suspected links with A communist terrorist. HJT was said to be linked with Tan Chay Wa, who was eventually sentenced to death in Malaysia for possession of firarms. HJT had hid in the house of Tan to escape arrest and HJT (together with Tan Wah Piow) would later campaign for Tan's case when the latter was facing the gallows.

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Public records counter exiles’ claims: Sam Tan
Sam Tan Chin Siong Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office)

Just read this letter by Mr Ho Juan Thai defending his decision to run away from Singapore in 1976.  In the letter, he did not explain why the Police wanted to question him.

Please allow me to set the context on Mr Ho’s leaving Singapore: Mr Ho had made inflammatory speeches in GE 1976 as a Workers’ Party candidate.  He had said that the Government was out to “exterminate” Chinese education in Singapore and “wipe out” the Chinese language, and that the achievement of the Government was the “killing of Chinese education”.  These statements are on public record.

In multi-racial Singapore, such allegations were reckless and irresponsible then as they would be now.  Mr Ho’s remarks could have caused divisions in society and sowed distrust between the English- and Chinese-educated.  This could have torn apart our fragile social fabric then.

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Minister of State Sam Tan counters political exile Ho Juan Thai's account of why he fled Singapore in 1976

London-based exile Ho Juan Thai's account of why he fled Singapore in 1976 is at odds with what is in the public record, Minister of State (Prime Minister's Office) Sam Tan said on Monday, as he rebutted the former Workers' Party candidate for not giving the full picture behind his leaving the country.

In a rare comment by an officeholder to an online website, Mr Tan said in a letter to The Online Citizen (TOC) on Monday that Mr Ho made contradictory claims and also made no mention of why the police wanted to question him in 1976.

Mr Ho, who contested the 1976 general election in Bukit Panjang on the WP ticket, fled to Britain in 1977. During the campaign, he criticised the government's promotion of the use of English over Chinese, and was accused of making racially-inflammatory speeches.

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The truth from a Singapore exile
My leaving Singapore was a heart breaking decision for me. I had to leave as I believed my personal safety was at risk

After “To Singapore With Love” was banned in its home country, the Minister for Information and Communications Dr Jaacob Ibrahim had projected in his parliamentary statements on 7 October a notion that the People’s Action Party government is squeaky clean and that it has done absolutely nothing wrong that would cause the exiles to leave.

Meanwhile, the film was accused of containing “one-sided portrayals” designed to “evoke feelings of sympathy and support for individuals”. All this is supposed to endanger Singapore’s security and formed the basis for the film to be banned completely.

Are the above statements justified and fair?  As one of the exiles, I would like to set the record straight.

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Will the real exiles please stand up?

Who is an exile? What is an exile? Is an exile someone who cannot return to his/her country because he/she will face injustice? Is an exile someone who doesn't want to return because he/she does not want to answer charges levied against him/her? Is an exile someone who has completely no trust in the system and no faith that Singaporeans will stand up for him/her, if the cause is just? Is an exile someone who feels that freedom in a foreign land is better than being jailed at home?

Then why do some stay and fight in Singapore even though they face many instances of unfairness and injustices? People like JBJ, Chiam See Tong and even Chee Soon Juan. They stayed and they fought the good fight. They brought democracy to our lands and they lend us a voice when we were deaf.

Let us look at the the circumstances of these three individuals featured in recently banned film To Singapore With Love. [And YES, Government was being dumb when they banned the film because it will only create more publicity. Perhaps they banned it out of their own stubbornness (and stupidity) to honour the fight against the Communists, but they have clearly miscalculated the political climate and the power of the internet.]

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“To Singapore With Love” – the making of a new political folklore
The photo accompanying this report depicts an exodus of over a hundred Singaporeans marching in good spirit from one campus of SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies) to another venue some twenty-five minutes walk away to catch “To Singapore With Love”. Despite the inconvenience caused, and delay of the screening by some fifty minutes, there was no complaint from the unusually patient and accommodating crowd determined to have their first taste of the forbidden fruit

Although there were two visiting Tans to London this October, it was not Tony the President, but Pin Pin the director of the banned film “To Singapore With Love” which caused all the excitement amongst Singaporeans.

The newly installed High Commissioner would have certainly loved to have had flag waving Singaporeans line the streets of Buckingham Palace to welcome the President, but that did not happen. Singaporeans, including some who attended the President’s State Banquet, were preoccupied with finding tickets for the oversubscribed must see film.

Reports elsewhere in TOC and even The Straits Times have given testimony of the sensational responses to the screening of the banned film at other sites in London. The 27 and 28 October screening of a banned Singapore film is not just unprecedented in Singapore cinema history, it will also become a part of Singapore’s political folklore. The event was organised by the SEA Arts Festival.

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Who is threatening Singapore’s ‘national security’?

How very strange. Despite the billions spent on military hardware to protect the island state, Singapore is apparently so fragile that it has to to ban an internationally acclaimed 70-minute film featuring interviews with exiles in order to “protect the national security and stability of Singapore”.

Before I venture further, allow me to declare my interests. I am one of the six who is featured in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love; and therefore by implication, is alleged to have undermined the “national security” of Singapore.

My views of past events which led to my exile in London, and my current views on the PAP are already in the public domain. In particular, they appear in more cogent forms in the following books: Escape from the Lion’s Paw (2012), Smokescreens & Mirrors (2012); Let the People Judge (1987); and Frame-Up (1987) which are available in Singapore.

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Premiers in London
Local film To Singapore with Love premièred in London to great fanfare on 27 October 2014, with an attendance list of mainly young Singaporeans eager to watch a film about their homeland and also to see first-hand for themselves what the fuss was about

As our country nears its fifth decade, it is important for us to assess our journey holistically. The good, the bad, the ugly should all be duly acknowledged. That is the only way we can move forward. We need to recognise that in the making of Singapore, we all played a part.

Giving due credit to all the roles played by others does not negate the role played by the People’s Action Party. Singapore is big enough for all our views.

The making of our nation is not a childhood fable that requires a black and white hero or villain. Communists, socialists, activists, opposition party members have all played vital parts in the formation of Singapore and we cannot deny them their place in history. Nor can we rob Singaporeans from having a holistic version of history. How can we celebrate fifty years if only one side is represented?

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Let's talk about the past openly, warts and all

Now that the Government is republishing the transcripts of the broadcast, should it not try to generate as much interest as possible?

Here's one idea: remove the prohibition on Tan Pin Pin's film, To Singapore, With Love.

It would make the Battle for Merger come alive.

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Why public screening of film not allowed

EDITOR at large Han Fook Kwang lobbied for lifting the prohibition on the public screening of Ms Tan Pin Pin's film, To Singapore, With Love ("Let's talk about the past openly, warts and all"; Sunday).

He argued that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's The Battle For Merger would interest the public only if it contends with alternative accounts of the same period.

In fact, persons from all sides of the ferocious fight between the communists and non-communists have already been having their say.

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Yale-Singapore college criticism reignited by ban of film
Yale-NUS College students during Comparative Social Institutions lecture. Photo courtesy of Yale-NUS College

The controversy over Yale University’s joint college with the National University of Singapore, in which critics charge that Yale should not be in cooperation with the city-state’s authoritarian regime, was recently reignited over a documentary banned by the government.

Yale-NUS had planned to show “To Singapore, with Love,” which features a number of Singaporean exiles, after notifying the Media Development Authority, which had rated the film “Not Allowed for All,” keeping it from public view but allowing its screening on university campuses.

To Yale University faculty, who had voiced their disapproval of the Yale-NUS venture after it was approved by the Yale Corporation, this was another sign that Yale should have stayed out of Singapore in the first place.

related: Court's decision raises concerns about freedoms at Yale-NUS

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Allowing exiles film is “like allowing Jihadi terrorist groups” to show film publicly
What is strange about Mr Yap’s explanation this time round is his analogy that Ms Tan’s film is akin to a “Jihadi” film

In its latest attempt at explaining why the film by Tan Pin Pin, “To Singapore, With Love”, is not allowed to be shown in public settings, the press secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs minister, said this is because allowing it “would be like allowing jihadi terrorist groups today to produce and publicly screen films that glorify their Jihadist cause.”

Mr Yap Neng Jye, the press secretary, was writing to the Straits Times’ forum page on 14 October.

His letter more or less regurgitated what various ministers have said in recent weeks about the film – that it is a “threat to national security”, and that it contained “self-serving” views and claims by the protagonists, alleged former members of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

Press Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs: Why public screening of film not allowed

Unlike a book, a film can more easily arouse emotional responses and reach a wider audience. To allow public screening of a film that obfuscates and whitewashes an armed insurrection would effectively condone the use of violence in Singapore and harm our national security.

It would be like allowing jihadi terrorist groups today to produce and publicly screen films that glorify their jihadist cause.

For these reasons, the film received a classification that disallowed public screening. Individuals can still view it in private screenings, if the copyright owner of the film allows it.

To Singapore, With Love 'contains untruths about history': Dr Yaacob

Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore, With Love is not a historical documentary presenting a factual account, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 7). The film's "one-sided portrayals" are designed to "evoke feelings of sympathy and support for individuals" who in reality chose to leave Singapore and remain in self-exile, he added.

Dr Yaacob said the film gives a misleading account of these individuals' past, and makes no attempt to present an objective account of the violent Communist insurrection that they had participated in and have not renounced.

"The film To Singapore, With Love contains untruths and deception about this history. Therefore it received an appropriate classification which disallowed it for public viewing," the minister said in response to questions posed by various MPs, including MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng and Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin.

Documentary on S’pore exiles a ‘self-serving personal account’, says PM
Communists should not be allowed to present an account of themselves through a film that glosses over facts, he says

In the wake of the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) decision not to allow for local distribution or exhibition a documentary about the lives of Singapore exiles, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was yesterday asked about conditions under which the more controversial parts of Singapore’s past could be discussed normally.

Responding to the question from political analyst Gillian Koh following Mr Lee’s speech at the National University of Singapore Society 60th Anniversary Lecture, Mr Lee called the Communist insurgency that began in 1949 a violent struggle that should be seen within the historical context.

He said the Communists had cast their armed struggle for power as a quest for democracy, and that this was a matter of historical record that is not seriously disputed, except by some academics. “Why should we allow them, through a movie, to present an account of themselves not of documentary history objectively presented, but that is a self-serving personal account, conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts and others, which will sully the honour and reputation of the security people and the brave men and women who fought the Communists all those many years in order to create today’s Singapore?”

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Exiles in 'To Singapore, with Love' shouldn't get chance to air 'self-serving' accounts: PM
Filmmaker Tan Pin Pin before the screening of her latest film " To Singapore With Love" at the 11 @ Century Hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia on Sept 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

THE political exiles featured in a documentary that cannot be shown in public or distributed here should not be allowed the chance to air their own "self-serving" accounts of the fight against communism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday night.

He did not budge on the Government's decision on local filmmaker Tan Pin Pin's "To Singapore, with Love", even as she awaits the judgement of the Film Appeals Committee.

He was responding to a question from Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh, on the conditions under which the more "controversial" points of history can be discussed. She brought up Ms Tan's film, speaking of a common base on which to build a "sense of historical consciousness" that can help define the future as well.

The Singapore Daily: To Singapore, Without the Love from MDA
– Guanyinmiao’s Musings: A Curious Expression Of Insecurity
– Chemical Generation Singapore: To Singapore, With Love, And Denials
– Dewdrop Notes 露语: Book And Counter Book
– Singapore Notes: Watch His Lips
– Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: “From JB with Love”
– Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Thanks Yacoob, Ms Koh
– Beyond The Emotive: Let The Vanquished Tell Their Tales
– Jess C Scott: To Singapore, With Love
– Bertha Harian: Danger: bad film
– Everything Also Complain: To Singapore, With Love banned by MDA
– Blogging for Myself: Banning Tan Pin Pin film
– Ariffin Sha: MDA, Let the People Judge
– Singapore Notes: Telling It Like It Is

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The Singapore Daily: Alternative History
– Singapore Notes: His Story
– Unravelling 1987: From London with Love
– Nostalgia: Battle For Merger
– Bertha Harian: Whose story is history?

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Battle for Merger radio talks a 'crucial move': PM Lee
If Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The radio talks that Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew gave were a crucial move in winning the hearts and minds of the people. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this in a Facebook post on Saturday (Oct 11), after visiting the Battle for Merger exhibition at the National Library.

The exhibition showcases the compilation of the 12 radio talks first published in 1962, that has now been reprinted.

Mr Lee said the radio talks led to Singapore joining Malaysia, then separation and today's independent Singapore. It told the inside story of the fight between the non-Communists and Communists, and explaining to Singaporeans what was at stake. He said had Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different.

related: Reprint of The Battle For Merger launched

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To Singapore, with Love 星国恋

A documentary film on Singapore political exiles who fled the country has been given a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" classification because its contents "undermine national security", the Media Development Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

This means the documentary, To Singapore, With Love, by award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, cannot be exhibited or distributed here.

Ms Tan's documentary explores the lives of Singaporeans living in exile - some for as long as 50 years - in places like London and Thailand. It was submitted for classification in May by the National University of Singapore Museum.

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