Friday, June 17, 2005
Our thinking has been coloured by our past, says MP
Straits Times, Insight, June 17 2005
Ms Indranee Rajah, a Member of Parliament for the ruling People's Action Party, invokes the spectre of Singapore's political history, more specifically the racial riots and the communist threat, to justify the current ban on "party political films."
The ban is legislated in Section 33 of the Films Act and was passed by Parliament in 1998. Like Mr Wong Kan Seng in a previous interview, Ms Rajah chose to focus the ban on films made for political parties, and failed to address the fact that Section 33 is a law that prohibits all films that make "biased" references to "political" and "controversial" issues of the day. Would a film, for example, made to address the ills of having casinos in Singapore be considered a 'political film'? Would another film, one that attacks government policies such as healthcare, education, detention without trial etc, be considered unlawful too?
Still, from both Mr Wong's and Ms Rajah's reasoning, we can draw some assumptions about Singaporeans' level of maturity (of lack thereof).
That Singaporeans are NOT MATURE enough to watch "biased" films made about political parties, members of political parties or any "political" or "controversial" subject matter. It is believed that by watching such films, Singaporeans will form biased opinions about political matters and this may degenerate into political buffoonery, or worse, stir unnecessary emotions which may lead to a cacophony of mindless arguments, social unrest, anarchy and destruction.
That Singaporeans are MATURE enough to watch films about government ministers explaining policies like "terrorism and health," even if these films are biased, as Singaporeans who watched these films will become enlightened and this will move the country forward in peace, progress and prosperity.
Excerpt of the Straits Times interview with Ms Indranee Rajah
Was the parliamentary committee consulted when Martyn See's film was banned under the Films Act? Do you think this will scare young people off from creative ventures for fear that they are overstepping boundaries?
"No. That was an operational decision made by the police. I guess they clearly felt the film fell squarely within what is prohibited.
I hope that it won't stifle talent. It's a difficult balance to strike. You have to see it in the context of our own political history. You remember the racial riots and communism. Our thinking has been coloured by our past. You don't want things that would unnecessarily stir emotions.
But you also do want a critically thinking population who are keen to comment on issues. The question is how to strike a balance? I don't think there is a fixed answer. Much of it depends on how it's implemented, but I do hope that notwithstanding this banning of See's film, that Singaporeans will still feel free to express their views."
Under the Films Act, which bans political films, TV broadcasts and newspaper interviews of ministers are deemed non-political. But videos of opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, Young PAP and PAP Women's Wing achievements are political. Do you buy that explanation?
"It's a valid explanation. There is a distinction between the Government and a political party, although people often mix the two up in the Singapore context, because all our ministers are members of the PAP. But the Government is not the same as a party.
The Films Act disallows the making of party political films. That is defined as one that advertises or promotes a political party, or a film that is made and directed towards any political end in Singapore.
However, a minister speaking to the media about his ministries' policies like terrorism, or health, for example, is talking about government policy, not party policy. So that is permissible.
It would be quite different if the same minister made a video clip to try and solicit donations for the PAP, for example.
That would be clearly political and would have nothing to do with his ministry or the Government. We are careful to maintain that distinction.
(End of excerpt)
"I make no apologies that the PAP is the Government and the Government is the PAP."
- PM Lee Kuan Yew, 1982, Petir (the PAP party publication)
(Quote found in parties and Politics' by Hussin Mutalib)