Friday, September 23, 2005

'Singapore Rebel' witchhunt?

Some things you and I should know about this rather troubling turn of events.

- Other than Jacob George, another friend, a leading Singaporean filmmaker at that, was called up and was interviewed by ASP Chan Peng Kuang on Monday. I had known who she was but I had wanted to respect her privacy. A young journalist at TODAY apparently went ahead and got the scoop. Watch for the report later today.

- I have not been told exactly why 'Singapore Rebel' was deemed a party political film. Was the film intended for a political end? Did it contain biased references to political issues? Was it an advertisement made for a political organisation? Neither MDA nor the police has told me the exact reason for its classification.

- 'Singapore Rebel' contains not a single mention of 'SDP' or 'Singapore Democratic Party.' The only political party mentioned is the PAP. In my view, it had potrayed Chee Soon Juan as an activist isolated by his own deliberate acts of civil disobedience. But of course this is a totally subjective view, and others who have seen it will harbour diametrically opposite interpretations, and hence it brings into question what constitutes a 'biased reference' in the first place, and also who gets to decide what is 'party political film.' Was the labelling of 'Singapore Rebel' as a PPF a decision made by a commitee or by one individual at the Media Development Authority? And how did he (or they) arrive at his (or their) decision?

- The report below does not contain any statement from the police. Surely the Straits Times must verify with Home Affairs that Jacob George was indeed called up, and the other obvious question is why the need to tap my mobile phone, if indeed it's been tapped.

- On a separate note, I am currently researching for my next short film - on an ex-detainee. And I will probably spend a lot of time hanging out with him, like I did with Chee Soon Juan. But the film will ultimately be my vision, not his or anybody else's. Hopefully, all of you will get to see it, legally of course.

Martyn See


Film probe : Activist called for interview

STRAITS TIMES, 22 Sept 2005

The police have called political activist Jacob George, 36, for an interview in connection with the ongoing invetigations into filmmaker Martyn See's documentary, Singapore Rebel.

Mr George said on his Internet blog that he received the phone call on his cellphone on Monday afternoon.

An assistant superintendent of police explained to him that he was talking to friends and acquaintances of Mr See.

No date has been fixed for the interview, he added, but said it would likely be next week.

Mr See's 26-minute documentary chronicles several of the political activities of opposition Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general Chee Soon Juan.

Making a party political film is an offence under the Films Act, which bans the making or distribution of such films, including advertisement by political parties or other political organisations, or films "directed towards any political end in Singapore".

If found guilty, a filmmaker can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $100,000.

But Mr See, 36, has not been charged with any offence.

Mr George said in his blog that the police officer who called him mentioned that he got his number through their investigations, and Mr George had been in contact with Mr See through SMS.

He told The Straits Times yesterday he had a "very short, pleasant conversation" with the officer, during which he said he had nothing to do with Singapore Rebel.

The film was withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival in March after the Board of Film Censors found it objectionable. The board then made a report to the police.

The Media Development Authority said the board had made the report as making a party political film is an offence.

Last month, after a three hour-long interview with the police, Mr See was asked to surrender his tapes and video camera.

On Tuesday, Mr See wrote in his blog: "Not only am I unable to speak freely on my own phone, the police is now closing in on individuals who are totally unconnected with the making of Singapore Rebel."

Local film-makers questioned

POLICE questioned Singapore film-maker Tan Pin Pin on Monday in an ongoing investigation into Martyn See's documentary on Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general Mr Chee Soon Juan.
The authorities began investigating the documentary Singapore Rebel after the Board of Film Censors lodged a complaint that it had breached the Films Act.
Apart from the Ms Tan and the documentary's producer, Mr See, police have also questioned Mr Jacob George, formerly from the Think Centre.
Making a party political film is an offence under the Films Act, which bans the making or distribution of such films, including advertisements by political parties or other political organisations, or films "directed towards any political end in Singapore". The offence carries a jail term of up to two years or a fine up to $100,000. Mr See, however, has not been charged with any offence.
Ms Tan, who received international acclaim for her documentary Singapore GaGa, was the representative signatory for 10 film-makers who wrote a letter to The Straits Times forum page in May this year.
The 10 wanted to know where the OB markers lay for what the government deemed as "political film-making".
Ms Tan declined comment last night. — Vinita Ramani

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