To Singapore, With Love, And Denials
It’s a documentary on people who fled or left Singapore for political reasons, so naturally they would have a different story to tell from the government e.g. they were innocent, they were maligned. If they were supposedly guilty, of course they would say they were innocent instead. Similarly on the government’s side, if they were innocent, of course the government would say they were guilty to bury the past. As in most truths, it is about shades of truths and untruths between the opposing versions .
Yaacob has thrown the gauntlet down that those interviewed lied about their communist past. The argument is going to degrade into a “I say one thing and you say another thing” dualism.
Nevertheless, any history follower would know that communism was a global revolutionary movement in that Cold War period. Stories to forget communism existed is outright denialism and outrageous despite what some academics want to market now with “progressive left” whitewashing. Those who fled Singapore had a reason to flee. Them saying that they were political activists who feared arrest might not be far from the truth if we see that communism at worst or leftist politics at best was a political opposition to the PAP’s brand of authoritarian anti-Red democracy.
The broader issue is not whether they were communists, which is quite clear and it lies in just a matter of degree of their Redness, but why there is still censorship, despite the government’s denial.
Tan Pin Pin’s film allowed some Communist Party of Malaya and Communist United Front sympathisers to re-cast their past actions as the expression of a “peaceful and democratic difference of ideology and views”, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said.
SINGAPORE: 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.
“To allow the 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.”
Dr Yaacob said from 1948, the Communist Party of Malaya waged a campaign using violence and subversion for over four decades, to install a communist regime in Malaysia and Singapore. Over 8,000 civilians and security personnel were killed or wounded during the insurgency. Communist hit squads also assassinated Singaporeans in broad daylight.
He said the party’s aims, violent means, organisation and membership are well-established historical facts, and had been written about extensively. The film received a “Not Allowed for All Ratings” (NAR) classification by the Media Development Authority in September, which means the film is not for exhibition or distribution in Singapore.
INDIVIDUALS IN FILM DEFLECTED, OMITTED PAST ACTIONS
Dr Yaacob also pointed out that those featured in the film had deflected or omitted mentions of their past actions.
For example, Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) member He Jin – also known as Lim Kim Chuan, who served in the China-based propaganda radio station the Voice of Malayan Revolution (VMR) – deflected questions about the communists using violence against Singapore. Instead, He spoke of the CPM’s involvement in fighting the Japanese during World War II.
Two more CPM members featured in the film – Tan Hee Kim and wife Yap Wan Ping – claimed they only joined the CPM after they decided to leave Singapore. In reality, they were already active CPM members before they left, the minister said.
As for Ho Juan Thai, who was also in the film, he had admitted in an open letter in 1982 that he had amended the expiry date of his Singapore passport. He also committed Exit Permit offences when he left Singapore illegally, Dr Yaacob said.
Tan Wah Piow also left Singapore through illegal channels to evade National Service enlistment and travelled to the United Kingdom on his expired passport with a forged extension endorsement, he added.
“Both Ho and Tan can return to Singapore, although they cannot expect to be granted immunity if they are found to have flouted the law. Members will agree that nobody can expect to be placed above the law,” Dr Yaacob stated.
FILM CAN STILL BE PRIVATELY SCREENED
Dr Yaacob also said the NAR classification does not prohibit the private screening of a film. For instance, tertiary institutions can request for approval to screen NAR-classified films to students, subject to the consent of the film-maker. MDA had recently agreed to a request from Yale-NUS College to screen Ms Tan’s film as part of a course on documentaries about conflicts, he said.
“In an academic setting, there are avenues for different views to be heard or presented, and we trust that tertiary institutions will present an objective and balanced account of events to be examined critically by students,” he said.
The minister also said MDA had explained the rationale for the NAR classification to the applicant, in this case NUS Museum, which had submitted To Singapore, With Love for classification.
“MDA does meet with film-makers who want to understand more about classifications while they are developing their films, or the rationale for a classification after a film has been classified,” said Dr Yaacob.
“It is then up to the film-maker to decide whether he or she wants to re-work or edit the film and, if so, submit a fresh application to MDA for classification.”
Ms Tan had said on her Facebook page on Oct 2 that she had resubmitted her documentary to the MDA’s Films Appeal Committee on Sep 30.