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.

For example, the autobiographies of Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) senior leaders like Chin Peng, Fong Chong Pik (The Plen) and Eu Chooi Yip have been freely available, including in the public libraries, for years.

These books, and others, are on display in the ongoing exhibition at the National Library, held in conjunction with the republication of The Battle For Merger.

Mr Lee's book is part of this exchange. His account, which is supported by multiple sources, has stood the test of time.

When relaunching the book, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean expressed his hope that it would awaken interest among younger Singaporeans in this crucial period, what actually happened, what the battle was about, and why it was vital that the right side won.

The Minister for Communications and Information explained in Parliament why Ms Tan's film is not permitted for public screening.

The film's one-sided portrayals are designed to evoke feelings of sympathy and support for individuals who chose to remain in self-exile and have not accounted for their past actions squarely.

It is not a historical documentary presenting a factual account of what happened.

Many of the individuals featured in the film were former armed communist guerillas. They speak of yearning for Singapore, but gloss over their active involvement in the violent CPM insurgency that they have not renounced.

They portray themselves as being prevented from returning to Singapore, yet their former CPM associates, including senior leaders, have returned to Singapore, accounted for their actions and re-integrated back into society.

This option remains open to those who sincerely want to return and be reunited with Singapore.

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.

Yap Neng Jye

Press Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs

This article was first published on Oct 14, 2014.
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