Classification for film on political exiles, To Singapore, With Love, means it cannot be shown here

Award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin's (left, seen here with producer Yuni Hadi) documentary film on Singapore political exiles who fled the country will not be allowed to be exhibited or distributed here. -- PHOTO: OBJECTIFS
Award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin's (left, seen here with producer Yuni Hadi) documentary film on Singapore political exiles who fled the country will not be allowed to be exhibited or distributed here. -- PHOTO: OBJECTIFS

SINGAPORE - A documentary film on Singapore political exiles who fled the country has been given a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" classification because its contents "undermine national security", the Media Development Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

This means the documentary, To Singapore, With Love, by award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, cannot be exhibited or distributed here.

Ms Tan's documentary explores the lives of Singaporeans living in exile - some for as long as 50 years - in places like London and Thailand. It was submitted for classification in May by the National University of Singapore Museum.

"The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore," said the MDA.

It noted that some of the people featured had tried to "white-wash their security histories", with two interviewees omitting criminal offences they were liable for, such as tampering with their Singapore passports or absconding from National Service.

Some of the "self-professed" exiles were members or supporters of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), which sought to overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia through armed struggle and subversion, the MDA added.

"The individuals featured in the film gave the impression that they are being unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore," it continued.

"They were not forced to leave Singapore, nor are they being prevented from returning."

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said he agrees and supports the MDA's assessment.

"It is not surprising that ex-CPM members and sympathisers wish now to give their own accounts of historical episodes that they were involved in," he said in a statement.

"But individuals who have chosen to leave and remain outside Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to purvey distorted and untruthful accounts to mislead the public, absolve themselves or deny their past actions."

One of the people featured in the film is Mr Ho Juan Thai, an unsuccessful Workers' Party candidate in the 1976 general elections. While campaigning, he criticised the government's promotion of the use of English over Chinese, and was accused of making racially-inflammatory speeches.

He fled to the UK in 1977, before the police could detain him under the Internal Security Act as a national threat.

Ms Tan, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, said she is “very disappointed” by MDA’s decision. The movie was meant to be screened with two of her other films - Invisible City and Singapore GaGa - as part of a triple-bill presented by the NUS Museum.

The screenings, planned for the end of September, will not go on.

By not allowing the film to be exhibited or distributed here, MDA is depriving Singaporeans of an opportunity watch it and talk about it, Ms Tan said."It is vital for us to have that conversation on our own terms, especially on the eve of our 50th birthday. We need to be trusted to be able to find the answers about ourselves, for ourselves,” she added.

Still, she hopes she can show it in Singapore one day and said that she may re-submit it for a rating in the future. “Now, the irony; that a film about Singapore exiles is now exiled from Singapore as well - this is not something I ever wanted or hoped for,” she said.