Film on exiles contains 'untruths and deception'

Film on exiles contains 'untruths and deception'
The MDA has met film-maker Tan Pin Pin to explain the decision for its classification.

The film To Singapore, With Love contains "untruths and deception" about the history of the communists and the violence they perpetrated, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

In a reply to MPs, he set out the Government's decision to give the documentary a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" (NAR) classification which rules it out for public screening or distribution here.

The film, by Ms Tan Pin Pin, captures the lives of nine exiles in various countries, including Britain and Thailand.

Said Dr Yaacob: "The film allowed some Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) members and their Communist United Front sympathisers to whitewash their past actions by re-casting them as the expression of a peaceful and democratic difference of ideology and views."

But they had in fact been involved in violent and subversive actions to advance the CPM agenda, he said, and they had posed a serious threat to the safety and security of Singapore.

The film should be viewed in its historical context, Dr Yaacob said, reiterating Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's explanation last Friday at a National University of Singapore Society forum.

The minister noted that the CPM waged a violent and subversive war for over four decades, seeking to install a communist regime in Malaysia and Singapore.

Over 8,000 civilians and security personnel were injured or killed, and communist hit squads killed in broad daylight.

The CPM also infiltrated organisations like student bodies, labour unions and political parties, using them to stir up trouble.

While these actions are well-established historical facts written about extensively, "the film To Singapore, With Love contains untruths and deception about this history", said Dr Yaacob.

Those featured in the film also gave the false impression that they were banned from returning to Singapore. Unlike them, however, many former CPM members did return after accounting for their actions. They included senior CPM members Eu Chooi Yip and P. V. Sarma, who were the heads respectively of the Chinese and English sections of CPM's propaganda radio station, the Voice of Malayan Revolution.

While the struggles against the communists may be a distant memory for many people, it cannot be that those who participated in the violence can be allowed to absolve themselves without accounting for their past actions and renouncing such violence.

Dr Yaacob said the film's "one-sided portrayals" are designed to evoke feelings of sympathy and support for the individuals who have not accounted for their past actions.

He said: "To allow public screening of a film that obfuscates and whitewashes an armed insurrection by an illegal organisation, and violent and subversive acts directed at Singaporeans, would effectively mean condoning the use of violence and subversion in Singapore, and thus harm our national security.

"It would also be a gross injustice to the men and women who braved violence and intimidation to stand up to the communists, especially those who lost their lives in the fight to preserve Singapore's security and stability, and secure a democratic, non-communist Singapore."

Not taking action against films which contain distorted and untruthful accounts would give the false impression that there is truth to the claims, said Dr Yaacob, and the Government's actions against these people could then be seen as unwarranted.

This could erode public confidence in the Government on security matters, even as the country deals with current threats like terrorism, he added.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) - which gave the film its classification - has met Ms Tan to explain its decision. The minister added that the MDA does not have specific guidelines that deal with historical content, and does not intend to develop such guidelines.

The Films Classification Guidelines already state that in "exceptional cases" a film may be given the NAR rating if its contents are deemed to undermine national interest, he explained.

This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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