Sunday, February 28, 2010

The coming around of Chee Soon Juan and SDP?

Update : Chee Soon Juan and SDP leaders serve prison terms - 2 days after anniversary celebration

Five years ago in the police station, I was interrogated by the police over the making of my documentary Singapore Rebel. Photographs and minutes of the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) meetings and activities were produced in front me, and I was asked to identify faces in those snapshots. How did the photographs and minutes end up with the police? Did the police have moles planted in the opposition? Is Lee Kuan Yew an autocrat? You go figure. What was unmistakable to me at that time was that there was a concerted attempt by the Government and the police to create a spectre of criminalization around Dr Chee Soon Juan and anything/anybody that he engages. The agenda couldn't have been more plain : Isolate Chee, pick him off, and like Lee himself said many years ago as an opposition MP, the outcome would be that miraculously everything will be tranquil on the surface.

Last night, SDP held its 30th Anniversary bash at the Concorde Hotel. Amid the pomp and pageantry were about a hundred guests, including foreign diplomats, civil society activists and members of the opposition. Noticeably absent, and perhaps an indication that the Government's decade-and-a-half campaign to marginalize Chee is still holding sway, is the no show from the entire Workers' Party, including Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, and the founder of SDP himself, Chiam See Tong, now with the SPP. Strikingly, all three are currently the only opposition members of Singapore's Parliament. Surprisingly, joining the list of absentees was a new kid of the opposition block, Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party. (read rejoinder from Jeyaretnam under comments)

But having witnessed the trajectory of Chee's political career - from the toil of libel suits, bankruptcy and relentless criticisms to the merrymaking last night - it was a kind of a miracle to behold. Not the tranquil kind that Lee alluded to, but of a coming around - For Chee, his party and the people who now saw no fear to be seen fraternizing with the Government's favourite whipping boy.

There is also a coming around of sorts with the authorities. Two years ago, Government censors showed up with the police to seize a dvd of a film premiere organized by the SDP. (see video here and here). Last night, videos of congratulatory messages were blasted without interruptions.

Then this morning, the most glaring coming around happened. The mainstream press, a longtime accessory of the Government's character assassination campaign against Chee and SDP, suddenly saw fit to publish a review of the anniversary dinner and an almost full page interview with Chee himself.

When did you last see a smiling Chee Soon Juan in the newspapers? And the group photo in the Sunday Times looks fit for a propaganda piece for the PAP, except that the uniforms are red, not white. What gave rise to the Sunday Times and Zaobao's sudden habit-breaking behavioural switch to feature Chee Soon Juan and SDP in their pages? And without the usual demonization too?

Perhaps there is a tacit recognition that a bankrupted Chee is already a spent force and thus not a political threat? Perhaps Lee Kuan Yew, after clashing with the Chee siblings in court, saw for himself horns didn't grow out of their skulls? Perhaps the political desks of ST and Zaobao needed to fill their quotas of articles per month?

Whatever the motivations are, one thing is certain - Chee Soon Juan and the Singapore Democratic Party are not the sort to crave for mainstream media coverage. Anybody who knows Chee can attest that there isn't one Singaporean who distrusts the MSM more. In recent years, the party has resigned itself to the use of the internet and street hawking of publications to engage the citizenry.

That the MSM has now come knocking on Chee's door, despite his open criticisms of them, is something of a revelation. More interesting to me, are how the dynamics in opposition politics have suddenly shifted. Now that the press has nudged SDP closer to the mainstream, will it then follow that the absentees of the night's function will be less afraid to associate themselves with Chee and SDP?

One of my principal aims when making Singapore Rebel was to inspire a rethink of perceptions, but now ironically, the mainstream press has done what I set out to do five years ago. Perhaps I need to look for another subject to break perceptions and taboos with..


Further readings:

Chee speaks up on Chiam

Dr Chee Soon Juan challenges Lee Kuan Yew to write off his debts

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'll forgive Lee Kuan Yew if he admits to his error and apologises to me : Lim Hock Siew

A cub reporter has achieved in a month what his superiors in the Singapore Press Holdings could not do in six years (see link here and here) - secure an interview with former political detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew. In a two-page feature published yesterday, journalist Cai Haoxiang wrote what is likely to be the highlight of his journalistic career with the political bureau of the Straits Times - a rare and uncompromising re-examinaton of history, detention and the PAP from Singapore's 2nd longest-held political prisoner.

Feb 19, 2010 
Still dreaming of a socialist Singapore

From student activist and PAP campaigner to Barisan Sosialis leader and second longest-held political detainee, Dr Lim Hock Siew's story mirrors Singapore's tumultuous history. Now 79, he bares his thoughts and feelings about his political past.

By Cai Haoxiang, Straits Times, 19 Feb 2010

IT IS a sweltering day as you walk by the row of repainted shophouses along Balestier Road.

As you push open the glass doors and duck inside for a welcome draught of air-conditioning, you meet a group of elderly patients waiting expectantly to see their family doctor.

The name on the door plate of his office may not ring a bell for the young but to older Singaporeans, it jumps right out of Singapore’s turbulent political history: Dr Lim Hock Siew.

Enter his simply furnished room, and you see him at a desk stacked with books, stationery and newspapers.
An eye chart is pasted on a glass cabinet displaying photos of him as a dashing young man.

The 79-year-old doctor, in his white long-sleeved shirt, greets you with a soft, occasionally wheezing, yet otherwise firm voice. He is not in the best of health, having suffered kidney failure last year and taken a six-month break to recuperate.

As he is undergoing dialysis three times a week, he would have preferred to extend his break except that his clinic partner, Dr Mohd Abu Bakar, 76, was overwhelmed by the patient load.

So he returned to half-day work last month, seeing around 30 patients every morning, and plans to do so as long as his health permits. ‘It’s kind of an ethical obligation to look after them, and I can keep myself mentally occupied,’ he says.

The name of his clinic harks back to his socialist days as a political activist, first with the People’s Action Party (PAP) and then with its arch rival, Barisan Sosialis. It is called Rakyat, which means ‘people’ in Malay. It was set up by Dr Lim and fellow Barisan Sosialis leader Dr Poh Soo Kai in 1961.

Its consultation fees are no different from other clinics’ – $20 to $30. But Dr Lim charges a reduced rate for poorer patients and gives free treatment to the neediest. ‘I don’t deny help to those who need it,’ he says.

Dr Lim’s sense of compassion and empathy for the poor is well known. At a time when the unprofessional and unethical practices of some doctors are hogging the headlines, the mere mention of Dr Lim’s name evokes hushed respect among his peers.

Even pro-PAP Singaporeans who would be horrified by the prospect of a Barisan Sosialis government admit to having a grudging admiration for Dr Lim as a man who has the courage of his convictions.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, once singled out Dr Lim as a politician he admired for his strength of character and ability to sacrifice for his beliefs.

Like many of his former leftist colleagues, Dr Lim feels compelled to give his side of the story before time runs out.

In recent years, a cottage industry has sprung up providing alternative histories of Singapore. Books included memoirs by former communist underground leader Fang Chuang Pi, former Barisan Sosialis leader Fong Swee Suan and former Parti Rakyat Singapura leader Said Zahari. Just three months ago, the Fajar Generation, a book on the University Socialist Club (USC) of the then-University of Malaya, was launched.

In a nutshell, Dr Lim’s is a story of how an idealistic student activist joined and campaigned for the PAP in the 1950s and then fought against the ruling party in the 1960s and paid a very heavy price for his beliefs and convictions.

In 1963, he was arrested under Operation Cold Store and detained without trial for nearly 20 years before he was released in 1982.

A Home Affairs Ministry statement on his release had said that he was arrested under the Internal Security Act for his involvement in Communist United Front (CUF) activities.

Dr Lim refused to agree to any conditions that would have granted him early release and ended up in the record book as the second longest-held political prisoner after his leftist colleague Chia Thye Poh, who served 23 years.

Today, 28 years after his release, he still dreams of a socialist Singapore in which there is no exploitation of workers and the oppressed.

Political awakening

BORN in 1931 to a poor family, Dr Lim spent the 1942-45 war years helping his father sell fish in the Kandang Kerbau market. Both his parents were illiterate, but they encouraged their 10 children to study.

He was the only English-educated child in his family. As the top boy in Rangoon Road Primary School, he gained entry to Raffles Institution (RI) in 1946.

It was in RI that he picked up a book by the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and became inspired by his socialist ideals.

Going on to study medicine at the then-University of Malaya here, Dr Lim lapped up the works of philosopher Karl Marx and economist Adam Smith, and books on the British Labour Party and Mao Zedong’s communist struggle in China. His political awakening was heightened by the anti-colonial struggles raging around the world.

As he recalls, most of the university students then were indifferent to politics. They were afraid of being arrested and preferred to pursue degrees and jobs.

As one of the best and brightest of his generation, he says he felt a deep, patriotic obligation to do something for Singapore and its people in the struggle against the British colonialists ruling Singapore.

He plunged into campus activism, becoming a founding member of the anti-colonial USC, which was formed in 1953.

In 1953, Dr Lim met the young Cambridge-educated lawyer Lee Kuan Yew, who was helping to defend eight USC students charged by the British for sedition because of an article in the USC’s journal, Fajar.
They won the case and Mr Lee was acclaimed as their champion. The USC rallied behind him and his associates when they set up the PAP several months after the sedition trial.

Noting that the party’s original Constitution showed every mark of a socialist, anti-colonial party, Dr Lim recalls that the USC members went around persuading various groups to support the PAP. The 1955 elections saw the 24-year-old Dr Lim stumping for PAP at mass rallies.

PAP was then identified with the working class and Chinese-speaking masses. But the facade of unity maintained by the motley crew of English-educated intellectuals, Chinese-educated socialists, professionals and trade unionists could not last.

The ideological differences began to surface. One episode in 1957 that stuck in Dr Lim’s memory was the plot by a group of radical unionists within the party to oust PAP strongman Ong Eng Guan and several others from the PAP leadership. They opposed Mr Ong as they viewed him as anti-left and an opportunist.

He felt then that the move was ‘most unwise’ as it would create party disunity and provoke a crackdown by the colonial government.

As he recollects, he and several USC members tracked down three of the prime movers – Mr Chen Say Jame, Mr Goh Boon Toh and Mr Tan Chong Kin – and sought to dissuade them. They failed. Dr Lim believes that what he did then probably aroused Mr Lee’s suspicions that he was in cahoots with the leftists.

The central executive committee (CEC) elections resulted in a deadlock with six seats going to the Lee group and the other six going to the leftists. Shocked by the humiliating defeat of his associates, Mr Lee refused to take office. Dr Lim says he tried to persuade him to do so – to no avail.

As it turned out, five leftist CEC members were arrested by the Lim Yew Hock government in an anti-communist operation – and Mr Lee and company were able to regain control of the party.

In 1958, they introduced a ‘cadre’ system in which only appointed members could vote for the CEC. This marked the beginning of the leftists’ disillusionment with Mr Lee, says Dr Lim.

Break over merger

WHEN the 1959 elections came around, Dr Lim says he and Dr Poh offered themselves ‘in good faith’ as PAP candidates. The answer was negative. ‘He did not trust us,’ says Dr Lim, referring to Mr Lee.

After the historic elections which swept the PAP to power for the first time, Dr Lim discovered that his party membership was not renewed.

From the sidelines, the government doctor witnessed the increasing acrimony between Mr Lee’s group and the leftists which was to lead to what is called the Big Split of 1961.

The two factions were locked in a monumental struggle over the issues of merger with Malaya, Chinese education and the continuing detention of students and unionists.

Racked by dissension, the PAP was on the brink of collapse after losing two by-elections in Anson and Hong Lim in 1961.

Concerned over the leftist challenge within his party, Mr Lee moved a motion of confidence in the 51-seat legislative assembly. The PAP survived when 27 voted aye but 13 dissident assemblymen abstained.

Expelled from the party, the dissidents formed Barisan Sosialis with other defectors from the PAP in August 1961. The party was led by Mr Lim Chin Siong.

It was at this juncture that Dr Lim joined the new party. He had to give up a scholarship for further study and quit the civil service.

The Barisan Sosialis then, he recalls, was a very formidable organisation filled with thousands of dedicated people and ‘scores upon scores of university graduates’, ready to form an alternative government.

As a CEC member, Dr Lim helped to run a ‘brain trust’ which consulted a group of more than 50 graduates from the then-Nanyang University and University of Malaya and prepared position papers.
‘We didn’t have a lack of talent. We had more talent than we wanted,’ he says.

In his recollection, the biggest issue that divided PAP and Barisan was merger with Malaya to form Malaysia.

Fearing that Singapore would fall to the communists, Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had proposed on May 27, 1961 that Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei merge with Malaya to form the federation of Malaysia.

Singapore would have 15 seats in the federal house of representatives, less than what it was entitled to on the basis of population ratios, but a debatable trade-off for Singapore’s exclusive autonomy over labour and education.

Although the leftists were committed to the ultimate goal of unification between the peninsula and the island, they argued that these terms for merger would make Singaporeans ‘second-class citizens’.

The main sticking point, as Dr Lim points out, was that there were ‘two sets of citizenship: one for Malaysians and one for Singaporeans. Singaporean citizens could not participate in Malaysian politics, much less be proportionally represented in the federation’.

The battle between both parties reached its culmination during the referendum on Sept 1, 1962, in which the PAP Government cleverly devised three alternatives for merger on varying terms with no option to say no.

PAP won by a large margin, with 71 per cent of votes in favour of its ‘Alternative A’ against just over 25 per cent who cast blank votes, which the Barisan called for to protest against the ‘sham referendum’.


THEN came the big crackdown. On Feb 2, 1963, more than 100 leftists and unionists were arrested in a massive security exercise known as Operation Cold Store, aimed at putting communists and suspected communists out of circulation.

On the mass arrests which changed the power balance in Singapore irrevocably, Dr Lim reflects: 'We lost not to Lee but to the British, who crushed the leftists for strategic, not security reasons.'

When he speaks about his nearly 20 years in detention, there is an edge to his otherwise calm voice.

Year after year, he recounts, attempts were made to break the spirit of prisoners through solitary confinement and interrogations, to make them confess their involvement in communist activities.

Dr Lim became a counsellor of sorts to the prisoners, encouraging them to talk about the physical and psychological abuse they faced during their interrogations. Some broke down in tears as they relived their experiences.

In March 1972, Dr Lim released a statement about his detention and his experience in being taken to the Internal Security Department (ISD) headquarters on Robinson Road two months earlier. He had insisted on being released, saying that 'history had vindicated my stand' that the 1963 merger would not work.

He says that ISD officers wanted him to issue a public statement that he was prepared to give up politics and devote his time to medical practice, and to express support for parliamentary democracy.

Dr Lim demanded to be released unconditionally, saying that he should not need to give up politics if there was parliamentary democracy.

He says that he was asked to 'concede something' so that his long detention could be justified. He replied that he was not interested in 'saving Mr Lee's face', and would not issue any statement to condemn his past political activities, which he said were 'legitimate and proper'.

When asked for the Government's response, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman says: 'Contrary to Lim Hock Siew's claims that he was an opposition politician carrying out 'legitimate and proper' activities through the democratic process, Dr Lim was in fact a prominent Communist United Front leader who, along with other CUF leaders, had planned and organised pro-communist activities in support of the Communist Party of Malaya, which employed terror and violence in their attempt to overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia.'

In 1978, Dr Lim was released from detention and placed in Pulau Tekong under certain restrictions. A government statement had described him as a CUF member who refused to give a written undertaking that he would not be involved in communist activities and renounce the use of force to change government.

Dr Lim's view was that since he had never advocated violence, he should not have to renounce it. 'It's like making me sign a statement that I would not beat my wife,' he says.

He spent four years on Pulau Tekong before it became an army training area. There, he read medical books and became the only doctor for the few thousand villagers on the island. In appreciation, grateful villagers would ply him and his wife with durians, prawns and fish.


FINALLY, on Sept 6, 1982, the Government allowed him to live on Singapore island, on the understanding that he would concentrate on his medical practice and abide by various conditions.

Asked how he coped with the long incarceration, he puts it down to an unshakeable conviction that his political stance is right.

'We were the leaders of the main opposition party, supported by the workers in Singapore, and we cannot betray our supporters. So we stuck to the bitter end. It's a matter of intellectual integrity.'

Would he shake hands with Mr Lee? His reply: 'It is for the oppressed to be magnanimous, not the oppressor. I'll forgive him and shake hands with him if he admits to his error and apologises to me and my wife.'

Dr Lim's wife Beatrice Chen, who is a nephrologist or kidney specialist, helps to treat her husband. She declines to be interviewed as she shuns publicity.

They met in 1958 when they were working together at the Singapore General Hospital, and married in 1961.

Dr Lim was detained two years later. For the next 15 years, they saw each other for half an hour each week, separated by a glass panel, and spoke by telephone.

'The fact that we can see each other is a relief,' he says. 'Our common struggle was a unifying force. We understood each other. She kept on encouraging me, giving me moral was very hard for her. She's a great woman.'

The couple have one son, who is now working in the National University of Singapore. 'He was five months old when I was arrested. When I came out, my wife was in menopause. I missed the joy of bringing up my own son.'

When Dr Lim is not seeing patients, he catches up on current affairs, surfs the Internet, and reads political philosophy - currently, Bertrand Russell's A History Of Western Philosophy. He also paints as a hobby.

Step into his condominium home off Mountbatten Road, and you will be greeted by a visual feast of paintings - of scenery, flowers and women - all strictly non-political.

But one has a Chinese couplet which reads: Befriend a thousand books, and have the spine to stand by your beliefs.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How would Barisan have ruled S’pore?

WHAT if Barisan Sosialis had beaten the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the September 1963 General Election? How differently would it have ruled the country?
Barisan gave the ruling party its closest call in Singapore’s political history when it garnered 33 per cent of the votes in the polls. It toppled two ministers and nearly knocked out another four ministers.

Although PAP’s 47 per cent score was its lowest electoral mark in the record book, the first-past-the-post system awarded the party 37 seats versus Barisan’s 13 in the 51-seat legislative assembly.

There had been much speculation that had it not been for Operation Cold Store, which put more than 100 leftist politicians and unionists behind bars just seven months earlier, the opposition party would have swept into power.

Former Barisan leader Lim Hock Siew, who would have stood for the elections if he was not detained, admits that if his party had won, Singapore’s gross domestic product growth would have been slower, but believes that there would have been more welfare for the people.

There would be legal safeguards for workers like minimum wage, retrenchment benefits, social welfare and retirement benefits, he says.

Peppering his interview with criticisms of various government policies, the man regarded as one of the “brains” behind Barisan, says that his party would have done more for the poor and working class.

For example, he points out that his party would not have priced flats at a subsidised rate below market rate but would have provided cheap housing at cost. “CPF is meant for pensions, not to tie people down to a housing project,” he says.

Turning to more current issues, he argues that the introduction of two integrated resorts here threatens moral standards by making Singapore a playground for the “international filthy rich”.

Singapore might eventually be like Las Vegas, where everything has a price but no value. “I don’t think this is a society we all like to have. That the Government places such high hopes on the two casinos shows what a desperate situation the Singapore economy is in.”

Instead of attracting big foreign multinational companies, he says, Singapore should have encouraged small and medium enterprises, so that entrepreneurship would flourish as in Hong Kong.

Hitting out at ministerial pay, noting that a symbolic amount of $10,000 or $20,000 a month would be enough, Dr Lim says that Barisan leaders were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their political beliefs. “We considered politics a calling, a responsibility, and a privilege to serve our country, not a career.”

He believes enough talented young people will come forward to serve the country. “Leaders should not be discovered by inviting and enticing them with high pay and high office... you harness the people, let them decide. They’ll do wonders.”

He feels that the Government cannot inspire the young to participate because it is alienated from the people and is afraid of “letting go”.

Criticising the various restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and organisation, like the Internal Security Act and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, he notes: “When Lee Hsien Loong came to power, he promised to leave no stones unturned to remake Singapore.

“But what we see is just the little stones and pebbles being merrily kicked about, raising so much dust and din, but the big boulders of repression are still very much in place.”

He calls for a public inquiry into past and present human rights abuses in Singapore, under an internationally-renowned judge, with immunity provided for former detainees to give evidence.

The young will feel for Singapore, he says, when they feel they can speak out and decide their own future.

Given his strong anti-government views, it is no surprise that the 79-year-old doctor is much sought after by the opposition parties.

He reveals that two parties wanted to recruit him but he declined, citing old age.


Singapore's 2nd longest-held political prisoner speaks out

Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore (Banned in Singapore) from sotong on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Government publishes Film Classification Guidelines

Please note that : This classification does not include items which are already subjected to restrictions under the Films Act, such as pornography and political party films.

That it not certain if the Censorship Review Committee's report will alter the guidelines.

That the only recourse to objections under these guidelines would be to appeal to the Films Appeal Commitee.

- Martyn See




1. These Guidelines have been prepared to raise awareness and understanding
of the Board's film classification process. This is not a legal document and is not
intended to limit in any way the Board's exercise of functions under the Films Act
(Cap 107). While care has been taken to define the content concerns and
classification categories, the Board reserves the right to classify any film in such
manner as it deems fit.


2. The Film Classification Guidelines aim to reflect community standards while
ensuring that due consideration is given to the film’s artistic, educational or literary merit. The purpose of classification is to protect the young while allowing more choice for adults.

3. When making a classification decision for a film, the Board takes careful
consideration of the film’s content as well as all other relevant factors and concerns.

The description of each of the classification categories and the indication of the
suitable audience in terms of age may be found in these guidelines. To clarify the usage of words in the guidelines, a glossary of terms is included.

4. There are five ratings in the film classification. They are:

· G - General
· PG - Parental Guidance
· NC16 - No Children below 16 years of age
· M18 - Mature 18, for persons 18 years and above
· R21 - Restricted to persons 21 years and above

5. G and PG categories are advisory ratings while NC16, M18 and R21 are
enforceable by law. Cinema operators are required to obtain a licence to screen
NC16, M18 or R21 films. They should ensure that the age restriction is enforced.

6. In exceptional cases, a film may not be allowed for all ratings (NAR) when the
content of the film undermines national interest or erodes the moral fabric of society.

General Principles

7. In general, the Board’s classification decisions are guided by the following

· Generally accepted social mores
· Need to protect the young
· Racial/religious harmony
· National interest
· Treatment of theme, content and context
· Evaluation of impact

a. Generally Accepted Social Mores

Films screened must be sensitive to the standards of morality, decency and
propriety acceptable to the general public.

b. Need to Protect the Young

For the lower ratings, particular attention will be paid to content that may be
harmful to or unsuitable for the young.

c. Racial/Religious Harmony

As Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, films that denigrate any
racial or religious group, or create misunderstanding or disharmony amongst the
races are not allowed for all ratings.

d. National Interest
Films deemed to undermine public order, national security and/or stability will be
disallowed for all ratings.

e. Treatment of Theme, Content and Context

How a film is classified depends on its theme or message, presentation of
content, and the context in which scenes are presented.

f. Evaluation of Impact

The impact of a film or a scene will be evaluated based on the presentation,
duration, frequency, degree of visual and audio details, and their cumulative

The impact may be stronger where a scene:
· Is shown in greater detail; uses close-ups and slow motion
· Uses special effects such as lighting, sound, colour, or size of image
to heighten emotions
· Is prolonged and/or frequent
· Is more explicit than implied
· Is realistic rather than stylised
· Is one in which the local audience can identify with
· Is visual rather than verbal or written.

8. In classifying films, due consideration will be given to the artistic, educational
or literary merit of the film.

Major Content Concerns

9. This part of the guidelines spells out content concerns that are applied in
different degrees at all classification levels. The seven major content concerns are:

· Theme
· Violence
· Nudity
· Sex
· Language
· Drug Use
· Horror

a. Theme

The acceptability of a theme is determined by its suitability and treatment i.e. the
way it is presented and the context in which scenes are presented. Suitability and
treatment of a theme is especially important in the lower classification levels.
Films dealing with mature content (e.g. drug use, prostitution or homosexuality)
would generally be classified as NC16, M18 or R21.

b. Violence

(i) The depiction of violence may frighten, unnerve, unsettle or invite
imitation, especially from children. Therefore, only mild portrayals that are
relevant to the plot may be allowed in films meant for children. For the
higher classifications, a stronger depiction of violence is permitted if it is
justified by context.

(ii) The concerns in violence are:
· Depiction of graphic/gratuitous violence
· Normalising the use of violence as a solution to resolve problems;
· Depiction of violent gangster behaviour (e.g. self mutilation rites);
· Emphasis on violent techniques/acts (e.g. methods of torture, gangfights,
combat techniques);
· Encouraging aggressive and sadistic attitudes towards infliction of
pain and violence;
· Explicit and prolonged sexual violence or erotic portrayal of sexual
assault /coercion.

c. Nudity

Nudity is not allowed in G category films. Rear and side nudity is allowed in PG
films if it is discreet, justified by context and not meant to titillate. Full frontal
nudity may be allowed in the upper categories if it is justified by context and
without gratuitous close-ups.

d. Sex

The level of sexual activity allowed on screen depends on the explicitness and
frequency of the activity, its relevance to the storyline and the target audience.
Generally, depictions of sexual activity are not allowed for G, PG and NC16.
Scenes depicting sexual activities such as sado-masochism, bondage or sexual
violence and paedophilia will be subject to strict review and may only be allowed
under a higher rating, depending on the treatment and context. The content
should also not be gratuitous or excessive.

Films likely to encourage deviant sexual activities such as paedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia are not permitted even under the R21 rating.

Films should not promote or normalise a homosexual lifestyle. However, nonexploitative and non-explicit depictions of sexual activity between two persons of
the same gender may be considered for R21.

Content considered to be pornographic in nature is not allowed for all ratings.

e. Language

Coarse language and gestures with sexual connotations are not allowed in G
films as they are easily imitated by young children. In PG films, mild and
infrequent expletives may be permitted. Stronger language is acceptable in NC16
films. When classifying M18 and R21 films, consideration would be given to the
degree of offensiveness (i.e. vulgarity and religious association) and frequency of
such language.

Films with dialect content are allowed on a case-by-case basis. Chinese films
meant for theatrical release should generally be in Mandarin, in line with the
Speak Mandarin Campaign.

f. Drug Use

Clear, instructive details are not allowed in G and PG films as they can be
imitated by the younger audience. Such scenes are more acceptable for higher
ratings if they are justifiable by context. Portrayals glamorising or encouraging the
use of illegal drugs are not permitted even under R21.

g. Horror

Classification of horror films will take into consideration the impact and shock
effect of such films to ensure that younger audiences are protected from
disturbing materials.


10. Documentaries will be classified in accordance with the general principles and
content concerns expressed in this document. If the information/content is distorted
or misrepresented, or requires maturity to comprehend and discern the message
and/or intent, the documentary may be given a higher rating.

Consumer Advice

11. Film ratings are usually accompanied by consumer advice. Films classified
PG may be given consumer advice where necessary, for example, in the case of
horror films. Films rated NC16, M18 and R21 must carry consumer advice.

12. Consumer advice is to be clearly reflected on publicity materials including
website synopses, advertisements in newspapers and magazines. This is to provide
more information for consumers to make informed decisions. It also serves as a
guide to parents about the suitability of a film for their children.


13. All trailers of films must be submitted for classification. Where the trailer
content is not suitable for a general audience, a higher rating will be imposed.
Trailers classified as NC16 and above can only be exhibited to persons who meet the
stipulated age requirement.

14. Trailers with content not suitable for children should not be shown prior to a
G-rated film or a film meant for or targeted at children, or in public places such as
video walls.

15. Trailers of NC16 and M18-rated films may be screened during films of a lower
rating and/or at cinema lobbies and at video walls. However, in all cases, the content
should be suitable for a general audience, including children. Trailers for R21 films
can only be shown before films of the same rating. Film distributors should also
observe any conditions imposed by the BFC on the screening of the trailers.

Publicity Materials

16. To avoid offending unsolicited viewers and attracting the under-aged, stricter
content standards are applied to publicity materials. These materials include posters,banners or billboards displayed in public places, advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Publicity materials for all ratings should conform to community standards and should not offend the general public. Detailed guidelines for print publicity
materials are available on the MDA website at

17. Once a film is classified, posters displayed at public places should clearly
display the rating and consumer advice. The display of posters and banners for R21
films should be restricted to cinemas licensed to exhibit R21 films. More sensitivity
should also be exercised in the dissemination of publicity materials for films in the
lower rating categories as they can be displayed in public places where young
audiences are exposed to them.

Periodic Review and Implementation of Guidelines

18. The Board will continue to review guidelines periodically in the light of
changes in lifestyle, public expectations and concerns.

1 February 2010

G (General Viewing)

G-rated films should be suitable for the whole family. They should not be harmful or
disturbing to children.
Theme : Themes are suitable for viewers of all ages.

Violence : Mild portrayals of violence are allowed. The occasional mild threat or menace is acceptable if justified by context.

Sex : No sexual activity is allowed. Sexual reference of any kind is unacceptable.

There should be no nudity.

Language : No coarse language is allowed.

Drug Use : No references to illegal drugs or drug abuse.

Horror : Treatment of horror should be non-threatening, or tinged with humour. Fright scenes should be mild and not psychologically disturbing.

PG (Parental Guidance)

PG films may contain elements that may be disturbing to young children. Hence
parental guidance is recommended.

Theme : Themes should generally have a low sense of threat or menace, and
be justified by context. Special attention should be paid to their impact on children.

More serious themes such as crime and revenge may be featured but care needs to be taken as the audience may include children.

Violence : Moderate portrayals of violence without details, may be allowed, if justified by context.

Portrayals of violence should not dwell on cruelty, infliction of pain or torture of any kind.

Sex : Sexual activity may be implied, and should be infrequent.

Only mild sexual references (e.g. kissing and caressing) and innuendoes are allowed.

Nudity : Discreet portrayal of back nudity is allowed if it is brief and in a nonsexual context. Discreet and fleeting side profile nudity may be allowed in a non-sexual context.

Infrequent portrayal of frontal nudity of the upper body may be allowed only under exceptional circumstances and in a non-sexual context. For example, films which feature historical or dramatised events such as the World War II Holocaust, tribal ways of life, or health programmes.

Language : Infrequent coarse language is allowed if it is relevant and justified by
context. Examples are "bitch" and “asshole”. The word "fuck" is allowed if used infrequently.

Drug Use : Only discreet references to illegal drug use are allowed on the condition that such references do not promote or endorse drug abuse and should be justified by context.

Horror : Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense.

NC16 (No Children Under 16)

NC16 films are restricted to persons 16 years old and above. Such films may have more mature themes and/or more explicit scenes.

Theme : Portrayal of mature themes (eg. gangsterism and transvestism) may be allowed, provided they are treated with discretion and appropriate to those 16 years and above.

Violence : The portrayal of infliction of pain and injuries may be allowed if it is not prolonged or detailed. Explicit sexual violence is not allowed.

Sex : Non-explicit depiction of sexual activities may be allowed but should not be detailed or prolonged.

Nudity : Infrequent, brief and discreet portrayal of non-sexual frontal nudity may be allowed if justified by context.

Language : Infrequent use of expletives such as "motherfucker" and "cunt" may be allowed if justified by context.

Coarse language which offends community and cultural sensitivities should not be allowed; examples are “chee bye”, “puki mak” and "pundai".

Continued aggressive use of strong language and verbal sexual abuse is unacceptable.

Drug Use : Drug taking may be shown but clear, instructive detail is unacceptable. The film as a whole must not promote or encourage drug use.

Horror : Films with disturbing or gory scenes without strong details may be allowed.

Frightening scenes which are more prolonged may be allowed.

M18 (Mature 18)

M18 films are restricted to persons 18 years and above. Films rated M18 may contain mature themes but the treatment must be appropriate for young adults.

Theme : Portrayal and exploration of mature themes are allowed.

Homosexual theme/content as a sub-plot may be permitted, if discreet in treatment and not gratuitous.

Violence : Realistic depiction of violence and gore with strong impact is allowed if justified by context. However, the portrayal should not be excessive, gratuitous or exploitative.

Sex : Sexual activity may be portrayed if justified by context and without strong details.

Depiction of occasional, mild sexual activity (i.e. kissing and hugging) between persons of the same gender may be permitted if justified by context and not gratuitous.

Nudity : Full frontal nudity with moderate detail is acceptable if justified by context.

No close up of genitalia is allowed.

Language : Coarse language is allowed if it is not excessive.

Drug Use : Depiction should not promote or endorse drug abuse.

Horror : Prolonged and/or intense sequences that invoke fear and/or terror may be permitted.

R21 (Restricted 21)

R21 films are restricted to adults 21 years old and above. Films with mature themes and which contain scenes of a higher intensity in terms of realism and explicitness can be permitted under this classification.

Theme : Strong portrayal of mature themes is allowed.

Violence : Strong and realistic depictions of violence and gore are allowed if justified by context.

Sex : Simulated sexual activities are allowed if they are not excessive.

Explicit images of sexual activity need to be justified by context.

Real sexual activities (e.g. actual penetration, ejaculation) are not allowed.

Explicit portrayals of homosexual acts are not allowed.

Films likely to encourage an interest in abusive or unnatural sexual activity (eg. paedophilia, incest and anal sex) are not permitted.

Films with themes involving deviant sexual activities (e.g. sadomasochism, bondage or sex involving violence) will be subject to strict review and are likely to be disallowed.

Nudity : Full nudity is permitted but should not be excessive. Close ups of genitalia should be contextually justifiable.

Language : Frequent use of strong coarse language may be allowed.

Drug Use : Instructive details of illegal drug abuse are not allowed.

Horror : Depiction of intense horror, and sustained threat or menace may be permitted if contextually justified.

Portrayals of extreme abhorrent activity that may offend and cause great discomfort may be disallowed.

NAR (Not Allowed For All Ratings)

Films that contain materials that erode the moral fabric of society, undermine national
interest and/or stability, or create disharmony among various racial and religious
groups will not be allowed for commercial screening. These include:

Theme : Themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or
undermine national interest, and/or stability.

Themes that glorify undesirable fetishes or behaviour (e.g. paedophilia and bestiality).

Promotion or glamourisation of homosexual lifestyle.

Violence : Detailed or gratuitous depictions of extreme violence or cruelty.

Detailed instructions on methods of crime or killings.

Sex : Exploitative and pornographic sexual acts.

Depictions of obscene and/or unnatural sexual activities (e.g. bestiality, necrophilia and paedophilia).

Real sexual activity (e.g. actual penetration).

Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of sexual activity including fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent.

Nudity : Exploitative and excessive nudity.

Language : Language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane (e.g. Jesus F**king Christ).
Drug use : Materials glorifying or encouraging drug abuse.


Coarse language: Crude and/or offensive language lacking refinement or taste.

Denigrate: To belittle or distort in a negative way the character of a person/race/religion

Depiction: Representation, and/or portrayal on screen.

Detail: Treatment of or attention given to the amount of audio or visual information in the representation of a subject.

Detail can include close-ups, repeated, prolonged or slow motion visuals.

Deviant sex: Sexual behaviour or activities that are not considered socially acceptable. Examples are paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and orgies.

Discreet: Subtle, not explicit, lacking in details and close-ups.

Disturbing: Upsetting or troubling.

Drug abuse: Improper or excessive use of drugs.

Excessive: Beyond reasonable limits, especially in terms of detail,
duration or frequency.

Expletive: An exclamatory word or phrase that is obscene or profane.

Explicit Language or depiction with strong details, usually relating to sex and violence.

Exploitative: Appearing to take advantage of or abuse the situation for the enjoyment of viewers or for sensationalism; lacking moral, artistic, or other values.

Fetish: An object, an action or a non-sexual part of the body which gives sexual gratification.

Gratuitous: Materials which are unwarranted or uncalled for, and included without the justification of a defensible storyline or artistic merit.

Horror: A strong feeling of fear or distress that is inspired by images or acts that are frightful and shocking.

Implied: Depiction of a subject in which an act or thing is inferred or indicated without actually being seen.

Incite: To stir up or provoke strong emotions and actions.

Intensity: The degree or extent to which a subject matter is acute or strong (The intensity of a scene depends on the duration, the audio/visual effects, language, context and the proximity from which the shot was taken).

Justified by context:
Where the depiction is relevant and necessary for the integrity and continuity of the film.

Mature themes: Issues dealing with adult life, including adultery, alternative lifestyles, promiscuity, suicide, drug dependency, etc.

Moderate: Depiction that features some details and may have
some impact that is kept within reasonable limits, which
is generally acceptable.

Nudity: Nudity can consist of frontal or rear nudity, above and below the waist for both sexes. It is determined by the details of nudity shown, and also by other factors including the duration of visuals, repetition, close-up shots and clarity.

Offensive: Material that causes outrage or disgust to most people.

Pornography: The depiction of erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement.

Sexual activity:
An act performed with another for sexual gratification. May include foreplay.

Sexual Connotation: Words or gestures that imply sexual activity.

Sexual violence: The act of sexual assault or aggression, in which the victim does not consent e.g. rape.

Sexual simulation: Imitation or enactment of sexual activity that is not real but looks realistic.

Strong: Detailed depiction likely to have high impact on viewers.

Suggestion: Mild, discreet treatment of a subject in which an act or object is hinted at, generally through discreet manner, rather than the whole picture.

Tone: The quality of mood, such as sadness, humour, menace, lightness, or seriousness.

Transvestism: The lifestyle in which a person adopts the clothes and behaviour of the opposite sex for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification.

Treatment: The way in which material is handled or presented.