MDA bans film on political exiles

MDA bans film on political exiles

A documentary by award-winning film-maker Tan Pin Pin on Singapore political exiles cannot be shown or distributed here because its contents "undermine national security".

The film, To Singapore, With Love, has been given a Not Allowed for All Ratings, the Media Development Authority (MDA) said yesterday.

"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," said MDA.

Ms Tan's documentary explores the lives of Singaporeans living in exile - some for as long as 50 years - in places like London, Thailand and Malaysia.

MDA said that some of the people featured had tried to "whitewash their security histories", with two interviewees omitting criminal offences they were liable for, such as tampering with their Singapore passports or absconding from national service.

Some of the "self-professed" exiles were members or supporters of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), which sought to overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia through armed struggle and subversion, MDA added.


"The individuals featured in the film gave the impression that they are being unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore. They were not forced to leave Singapore, nor are they being prevented from returning."

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said he agrees and supports the MDA's assessment.

In a Facebook post, he wrote: "It is not surprising that ex-CPM 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."

Ms Tan was named best director in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary section at the 10th Dubai International Film Festival last year for this same film.

In a statement on Facebook, she said: "I am very disappointed by the MDA decision to ban it - for myself, and also what it means for Singapore... By doing this, MDA is taking away an opportunity for us Singaporeans see it and to have a conversation about it and our past that this film could have started or contributed to. It is vital for us to have that conversation on our own terms, especially on the eve of our 50th birthday."

Singapore with Love was slated to screen with her other films, Invisible City (2007) and Singapore GaGa (2005) at the end of this month in a triple-bill presented by National University of Singapore Museum.

This article was first published on Sept 11, 2014.
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