Parliament: "To Singapore with Love" has 'distorted and untruthful' accounts of past history: Yaacob

Director Tan Pin Pin at the screening of her film To Singapore With Love, at the Freedom Film Fest in Johor Baru on Sept 19, 2014. Allowing the public screening of a film that gives false, "one-sided portrayals" of political exiles - some of who
Director Tan Pin Pin at the screening of her film To Singapore With Love, at the Freedom Film Fest in Johor Baru on Sept 19, 2014. Allowing the public screening of a film that gives false, "one-sided portrayals" of political exiles - some of whom participated in the violent Communist insurrection that raged for four decades - would signal that the Government condones violence, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Allowing the public screening of a film that gives false, "one-sided portrayals" of political exiles - some of whom participated in the violent Communist insurrection that raged for four decades - would signal that the Government condones violence, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

In Parliament on Tuesday, the minister outlined the Government's position on local filmmaker Tan Pin Pin's documentary "To Singapore, with Love", which has received the "Not allowed for all ratings" classification. Such a rating means it cannot be screened in public or distributed here.

Dr Yaacob said not taking action against films which contain "distorted and untruthful accounts" would give the false impression that there is truth to their claims and that the Government's actions against these individuals were therefore unwarranted.

This, he said, would have serious implications - eroding public confidence in the Government on security matters even as the country deals with contemporary threats like terrorism.

"To allow public screening of a film that obfuscates and whitewashes an armed insurrection by an illegal organisation, and violent and subversive acts directed at Singaporeans, would effectively mean condoning the use of violence and subversion in Singapore, and thus harm our national security," said Dr Yaacob.

"It would also be a 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, and secure a democratic, non-Communist Singapore."

The Media Development Authority (MDA) - which gave the film its classification - has met with Ms Tan to explain the reasons why her film cannot be shown publicly here - and is "happy to do so for other filmmakers".

The film should be viewed in its historical context, said Dr Yaacob - reiterating the explanation Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave when asked about the film a National University of Singapore Society forum last Friday.

The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) had waged a violent and subversive war for over four decades, seeking to instal a communist regime in Malaysia and Singapore.

Over 8,000 civilians and security personnel were killed or wounded during the insurgency, and communist hit squads assasinated Singaporeans in broad daylight, said Dr Yaacob.

The CPM also infiltrated organisations like student bodies, labour unions, and political parties, using them to stir up demonstrations, strikes and riots.

"The CPM's aims, its violent means and its organisation and membership are well-established historical facts, and have been written about extensively. The film 'To Singapore, With Love' contains untruths and deception about this history," he said.

"Therefore it received an appropriate classification which disallowed it for public viewing."

The film, added Dr Yaacob, allowed some CPM members and their Communist United Front sympathisers the opportunity to "whitewash their past actions by re-casting them as the expression of a peaceful and democractic difference of ideology and views". And the interviewees also gave the false impression that the Government had prevented them from returning to Singapore.

"In fact, 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," he said. "They chose to leave Singapore to avoid being held accountable for their actions."

Unlike those featured in the film, many former CPM members have returned to Singapore after owning up to their actions, he said. This included senior CPM members Eu Chooi Yip and P V Sarma, who had headed the Chinese and English sections of CPM's China-based propaganda radio station, the Voice of Malayan Revolution.

"The film's one-sided portrayals are designed to evoke feelings of sympathy and support for individuals who in reality chose to leave Singapore and remain in self-exile and who have not accounted for their past actions squarely," said Dr Yaacob.

"It is not a historical documentary presenting a factual account of what happened. It gives a misleading account of these individuals' past, and makes no attempt to present an objective account of the violent Communist insurrection that they had participated in and have not renounced."

Dr Yaacob added that the MDA does not have specific guidelines that deal with historical content, and does not intend to develop such guidelines. The Film Classification Guidelines already state that in "exceptional cases" a film may be given the NAR rating if its contents are deemed to undermine national interest, he explained. These guidelines continue to be the yardstick by which the MDA will evaluate films.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg