Friday, July 17, 2009

Censors refuse to classify One Nation Under Lee

The Board of Film Censors (BFC) has refused to classify One Nation Under Lee (ONUL). The video documentary, directed by visual artist and activist Seelan Palay, was submitted to the authorities in May (see here) as a political film.

In a hand-delivered letter, the BFC noted that ONUL contains excerpts from my video Zahari's 17 Years, which has been gazetted as a banned film under Section 35 of the Films Act. As such, the BFC will not classify ONUL.

They suggested that a alternative version of ONUL be submitted, one that do not contain any scenes from Zahari's 17 Years.

I hereby spell out the legal status of ONUL as such :

- It is not classified or rated.
- It is not gazetted as a ban.
- However, any possession, exhibition or distribution of ONUL constitutes a criminal offence as it contains excerpts of Zahari's 17 Years, a banned film.

It is probably the only video submisssion in BFC's history that has been deemed unclassifiable.

The letter makes no mention that a copy of ONUL was already in BFC's possession long before my submission in May. The censors had seized a copy during its premiere last year.

Meanwhile, my other video Singapore Rebel is currently undergoing review by the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC).


Download One Nation Under Lee here.
Watch Zahari's 17 Years here.
Watch the confiscation of ONUL here and here.
Watch Singapore Rebel here.

* The BFC comes under the purview of the Media Development Authority (MDA). It's motto is "Creative Media, Connected Society."

Click on the letter to enlarge.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Police retracts licence request after Minister queried

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew meeting Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during his recent trip to Malaysia.

As an opposition activist with the DAP, Lim had been imprisioned for a total of 30 months, including 18 months under the ISA during 1987's Operation Lalang, Malaysia's equivalent of our Operation Spectrum.

While Lee was meeting opposition leaders and lawmakers in Malaysia, his police force was busy ferreting out information of an indoor forum organised to break the silence on Operation Spectrum.

A week before the public forum, I received an unsolicited email from the Tanglin Police Division stating that under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act, I am required to furnish them information regarding name of speakers and format of forum.

Immediately, I rang up the officer and reminded him that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had in 2004 announced to the nation that indoor talks would be exempted from permits. Apparently hard of hearing, the officer insisted that I furnish him with the information as requested. I then assured him that there will be no foreign speakers and that I would reply him via email.

I did, but it wasn't directed to him. I emailed Mr K. Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs, and carbon copied it back to Tanglin Police Station. In the email, I quoted PM Lee's National Day rally speech in 2004.

There was no reply for a week.

On 26th June, two days before the forum, an email from the Public Entertainment & Liquor Licensing Unit stated that indoor talks are indeed exempted from permits.

That's Singapore police efficiency for you. You go figure.

And I still don't know on what basis did the police "investigate" Bestway Properties for hosting the first forum, originally intended on 20th June.

For the record, the three-and-a-half-hour forum at the Quality Hotel, attended by about 40 people, concluded without a glitch.

Here are the emails.


Email to Martyn See from Tanglin Police Division

Ops Spectrum forum
Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:18 AM
From: "Wee Kay CHIN"

Dear Sir,

I refer to the open forum purported to be held at the Quality Hotel
Diamond Room, Balestier Road, on Sunday 28 June 2009 from 2pm to 5.30pm, as
publicised online at: "".

2 Under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, Cap 257, any
lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion held in any place to which the
public or any class of public has access whether gratuitously or otherwise
will require a Public Entertainment (PE) licence, unless otherwise
exempted. As such, we would appreciate if you can furnish the following
details in order to help us ascertain the necessary licensing requirements:

i) The synopsis of the discussion;
ii) Any invited speaker(s) and whether they are locals or foreigners;
iii) If there are no designated speakers, how will the discussion be

3 If you require any clarification, kindly contact me at Tel: 6391

4 Thank you.

Lawrence Chin
Compliance Management Officer


Email from Martyn See to Minister

PEMA permit for indoor forum
Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:56 PM
From: "See Tong Ming, Martyn"
Cc: sir,

My name is Martyn See. I am organising an indoor forum entitled "Revisiting History : Operation Spectrum - Breaking The Ice After 22 Years" to be held at the Diamond Room in the Quality Hotel on 28 June (Sunday) at 2pm.

I have just been served an email from Lawrence Chin of the Tanglin Police Station, who seem to take an active interest in this forthcoming indoor talk, publicised in my blog

Here, I refer to Prime Minister Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech in 2004.

"..for indoor talks, we are going to do away with licensing. Right now, if you are going outdoors or indoors, if you want to do a talk, you need a Public Entertainment licence. Usually, it's approved, it's not a problem, but once in a while, you are slow or the police have reservations, they say, "No", but it's very rare. So now, we've decided we are going to exempt indoor talks from licensing requirements unless they touch on sensitive issues like race and religion."
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally speech 2004

I also refer to the Straits Times coverage of your recent speech in Parliament.

"Political space has opened substantially. In 2004, political activities conducted indoors also became exempt from permits."
- 2nd Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, quoted by Straits Times, Apr 14 2009

My question is patently obvious - does my talk require a licence or not?

I have given my assurances to Mr Chin over the phone that the forum will not involve any foreign speakers. Your men are most welcome to be to present during the proceedings to ensure that.

I await your response.

Yours sincerely,
See Tong Ming, Martyn


One week later

Email from Licensing Division to Martyn See

Re: Fw: PEMA permit for indoor forum
Friday, June 26, 2009 9:41 AM
From: "Wei Chung SIM"

Dear Mr See,

I refer to your email sent to the Minister for Law and Second
Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam on 18 June 2009.

2. Under the Public Entertainment and Meetings (Exemption) Order, any
indoor talk held in any place to which the public or any class of public
has access, whether gratuitously or otherwise, is exempted from the Act if
the following conditions are complied with:

(a) the organiser of the indoor public talk is a citizen of Singapore;

(b) only citizens of Singapore are invited to be lecturers or speakers at the talk;

(c) the lecturers or speakers do not deal with any matter —

(i) which relates, directly or indirectly, to any religious belief or to religion generally; or

(ii) which may cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different racial or religious groups in Singapore; and

(d) the lecturers or speakers speak only in any of the 4 official languages in Singapore, or any related dialect.

3. We note that you had stated in your email and in your teleconversation with our Officer Lawrence Chin, that there will be no foreigners speaking at your forum. So long as an indoor talk is conducted in accordance with all the exemption conditions, the organiser is not required to apply for a Public Entertainment (PE) licence.


Sim Wei Chung OC Public Entertainment & Liquor Licensing Unit Police
Licensing Division DID: 655XXXXX FAX: 62261089

Political entertainment PAP-style

"Politics is a serious process of understanding issues, of making important decisions on issues affecting our future. Politics as an art form — as entertainment — would deflect from that."
- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Straits Times, 31 Mar 2006

Indoor talks may be exempted, but public performances such as the one below still require a police permit in Singapore. Despite DPM Teo's comment that entertainment would detract from serious politics, the People's Action Party has been increasingly using entertainment to dress up their events.

Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP) celebrating 20 years of their women's wing at St. James Power Plant.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Zouk to celebrate the Young PAP’s 18th birthday and the PAP’s 50th Anniversary.

I leave you with the stated objectives of the PAP. Like the National Pledge, they are couched in very inspiring words.

PAP's Party Objectives

The Party shall be a national movement dedicated to the service of our nation and to the advancement of the well-being of our people. Towards this end, the Party's objectives shall be: -

(a) To preserve, protect and defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Singapore.

(b) To safeguard the freedom, and advance the well-being, of Singaporeans through representative and democratic government.

(c) To forge a nation of Singaporeans; to build a multiracial society, fair, just, and tolerant to all, whatever their race, language, and religion; to infuse into Singaporeans a sense of national identity and to bind them together by patriotism and commitment to Singapore.

(Emphasis in bold by me)