Yaacob Ibrahim: Local documentary tries to whitewash communist violence
Hit squads, assassinations and violent strikes.
In explaining why the film To Singapore, With Love was deemed a security threat, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim took members through a violent period of Singapore's history.
"From 1948 onwards, over four decades, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) waged a determined campaign using violence and subversion to install a communist regime in Malaysia and Singapore," he said, adding that communist hit squads assassinated Singaporeans in broad daylight.
But the CPM also used Communist United Front tactics to infiltrate and take control of open organisations like student bodies, labour unions, political parties and cultural organisations.
"They used these organisations to foment demonstrations, strikes and riots. They sought to destabilise the country and establish a communist state through illegal means."
The film, he said, contains untruths and deception about history.
Therefore, it was assessed by the censors to undermine national security and received an appropriate classification.
Last month, the Media Development Agency (MDA) rated the documentary on political exiles "not allowed for all ratings", which prevents the film from public screenings.
But it is allowed for screening for educational purposes, subject to the film-maker's consent.
For instance, MDA had recently agreed to a request from Yale-NUS College to screen To Singapore, With Love in a course on documentaries about conflicts.
But how is the film a national security threat, asked MP Zaqy Mohamad and newly-elected nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin.
The documentary has been featured at film festivals in Busan in South Korea, Taiwan and London.
On Sept 19, about 350 Singaporeans organised a trip to Johor Baru, Malaysia, to catch the film.
Dr Yaacob said the film "obfuscates and whitewashes" an armed, illegal organisation, and violent and subversive acts directed at Singaporeans. A public screening of the film would mean condoning them.
The film would also erode public confidence in the Government on security matters, he added.
He said: "Not to take any action against films which contain distorted and untruthful accounts would give the wrong impression that there is truth to their claims and that the Government's actions against these individuals were unwarranted."
He pointed out that the documentary by director Tan Pin Pin portrayed a "misleading account" of the exiles' pasts designed to evoke sympathy and support for them.
Several of those featured in the film were members of the CPM.
Dr Yaacob said: "These individuals had been involved in violent and subversive actions to advance the CPM's agenda, and had posed a serious threat to the security of Singapore and the safety of Singaporeans.
"They chose to leave Singapore to avoid being held accountable for their actions."
Ms Tan re-submitted her film unchanged on Sept 30.
The film-maker had previously expressed her disappointment over MDA's decision and said the film focused on their everyday lives.
"The film allowed some CPM members and their communist united front sympathisers to whitewash their past actions by re-casting them as the expression of a peaceful and democratic difference of ideology and views."
— Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim
Who's in the film?
HE JIN (LIM KIM CHUAN) & WIFE SHU SHIHUA (SU SI HAW)
Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) members who fled Singapore in 1963 to escape Operation Coldstore. They joined the CPM guerrilla base at the Thailand-Malaysia border.
Mr He was also in the Voice of Malayan Revolution (VMR).
In the film, he deflects questions about the communists using violence against Singapore and instead spoke about the CPM's involvement in fighting the Japanese in World War II.
TAN HEE KIM & WIFE YAP WAN PING
Like the Hes, the couple fought in the jungle of the southern Thailand for the CPM after fleeing Singapore.
In the film, the couple claim they joined the CPM only after they decided to leave Singapore when in fact they were active CPM members even before they left.
HO JUAN THAI
President of Nanyang University Student Union who ran on an opposition ticket during the 1976 General Election and was accused of inciting racial hatred during the hustings.
He fled to London when sought by the Internal Security Department for questioning and has been living there for the past 32 years. Mr Ho claimed he is not living in London by choice.
He had admitted in an open letter in 1982 that he had amended the expiry date of his Singapore passport and had also committed Exit Permit offences when he left Singapore illegally.
The Government offered him a Document of Identity on at least three occasions to return to Singapore, but he chose not to do so.
TAN WAH PIOW
President of the University of Singapore's Students' Union and accused of politicising the union when it advocated workers' rights.
In 1976, Mr Tan fled to London and in 1987, his citizenship was revoked when he was accused of being a mastermind of a Marxist conspiracy to topple the Singapore Government.
He left Singapore through illegal channels to evade national service enlistment and travelled to the UK on his expired passport with a forged extension endorsement.
Ministry of Communications and Information says:
NOT ALLOWED FOR ALL RATINGS (NAR)
- Private screening of the film may be allowed. Whether a screening is private or not depends on several factors such as how the screening is planned and conducted and who attends it.
- The rationale for the classification is explained to the film-maker. It is up to the film-maker to decide if he/she wants to re-work or edit the film and submit it for a fresh application.
- From 1948, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) waged a campaign using violence and subversion to install a communist regime in Malaysia and Singapore.
- Communist hit squads assassinated Singaporeans in broad daylight.
- CPM infiltrated and took control of open organisations like student bodies and labour unions, using them to foment demonstrations, strikes and riots.
FORMER CPM MEMBERS ALLOWED TO RETURN
- Former CPM members, including those featured in the film, were allowed to return as long as they acknowledged and accounted for their past actions.
- Senior members P V Sarma and Eu Chooi Yip returned in 1991.
SIGNIFICANCE OF PUBLIC SCREENING
- Condoning the use of violence and subversion in Singapore, thus harming national security.
- Gross injustice to the men and women who braved violence and intimidation to stand up to the communists, especially those who lost their lives in the fight to preserve Singapore's security and stability.
By the numbers
Number of civilians and security personnel killed or wounded during the insurgency
Number of film titles submitted for classification each year