Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ex ISA suspect Tharman assures nothing will happen if one oversteps OB markers; Mediacorp MD encourages Michael Moore's style of politics,5562,297763,00.html?

Jan 27, 2005
Speak up, Tharman tells youths.
He says there is nothing to fear from pushing the boundaries
By Ho Ai Li

ASK not what you can or cannot do, but do something to make a difference instead.

That was the message from Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to students at a youth and media conference yesterday.

And that was what the minister, a former student activist, did himself.

Mr Tharman, who was once questioned by the Internal Security Department over his leftist views, said he was driven by the need to 'do something' about things he was dissatisfied with.

'And I did something about it, with friends, with groups of people, writing articles, selling them, sometimes surreptitiously,' he recalled.

One does not develop a conviction and commitment to a society without first questioning and pushing the boundaries, he said.

He welcomes restlessness in young people as it feeds idealism and helps society move forward.

Censorship was the key theme during a lively question-and-answer session at the event organised by film and media studies students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Students, taking up the theme of youth, media and political involvement, grilled Mr Tharman and the three other panellists about overstepping the out-of-bounds markers around sensitive issues.

Mr Tharman assured the more than 1,000 youths present that nothing will happen even if one breaches an OB marker. One simply learns to steel oneself and be more adroit.

Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang said that fears of repercussions should they say something the Government did not like were exaggerated and might stem from past incidents such as the Government's rebuttal of novelist Catherine Lim and opposition politicians.

Mr Tharman noted that Ms Lim is now more famous than ever and still speaks out with relish.

Nanyang Technological University's Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa gave more encouragement, saying they can plead the ignorance of youth if any flak ensues.

In his address, Mr Tharman warned that social and political apathy among the young posed long-term risks to community cohesion.

Mr Han said the media had an important role in helping readers understand what was happening around them, especially now that Singapore as a nation was re-examining the way things have been done.

He noted that despite a slide in the percentage of youths who read newspapers in countries such as the United States, World Association of Newspapers figures showed that 92 per cent of young people here read them - more than anywhere else.

For MediaCorp group managing director Shaun Seow, the key to engaging youths lies in the packaging of political content.

He pointed to how wacky political websites and show business figures such as film-maker Michael Moore led the way in encouraging turnout among young voters during last year's US presidential elections.

There was certainly no lack of activities to engage students at the one-day conference, with presentations and workshops on topics ranging from the impact of reality TV to blogs, as well as a forum on popular culture.
Catholic High student Chiang Weihan, 16, said the forums addressed matters close to his heart.

'Most of the questions are what we'd like to ask ourselves, such as how we as the younger generation can chip in and do our part,' he said.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Submission of film on Chee Soon Juan to SIFF

Today I submitted my 26 minute documentary 'Singapore Rebel' to theSingapore International Film Festival Short Film Competition. I wasasked by a staff at the office if the film had been submitted to anyother festivals. Not at all, I replied.

I had understood from festival director Philip Cheah earlier that aSIFF "pre-selection" committee will view all the entries first beforesubmission to the Board of Film Censors for approval. That would besometime in the first week of February.

A host of possible responses from the SIFF committee, the censors and the police ran through my mind. I narrowed it down to six.

1. SIFF (or Philip himself) will call me to advise me to withdrawthe film. After having failed to convince me, they will disqualify myentry for various excuses.

2. The pre-selection committee approves the film and is then sentto the Board of Film Censors. Censors wants to make cuts to the film.SIFF then withdraws the film in accordance to their rules of exhibitingonly uncut films.

3. The censors receive the film and find that it does not arousethe usual sensitivities of race/religion/sex/homosexuality/violence. Itthrows them off and they decide to refer the matter to the Ministry ofHome Affairs. I then get the invitation for tea at the police stationwhereupon I will be gently persuaded to quietly withdraw my film fromall competitions and screenings.

4. The censors receive the film and find that it does not arousethe usual sensitivities of race/religion/sex/homosexuality/violence. Itthrows them off and they decide to refer the matter to the Ministry ofHome Affairs. Officers at the Home Ministry are in a quandry too and sothey decide to refer to the Minister himself, Wong Kan Seng. Mr Wongdecides to ban the film.

5. (Same as scenario 4) except that in addition to banning the film, they decide to charge me under the Films Act.

6. The film is shown without any hitches.