Malaysian minister denies ordering festival organisers to pull Singapore film on exiles

Director Tan Pin Pin at the screening of her film To Singapore With Love, at the Freedom Film Fest in Johor Baru. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Director Tan Pin Pin at the screening of her film To Singapore With Love, at the Freedom Film Fest in Johor Baru. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

MALAYSIA'S Home Affairs Ministry has refuted claims that it pressured a non-governmental organisation into pulling the film To Singapore, With Love from a film festival in Kuantan, the capital of Pahang.

Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, responding to reports in the Malaysian media on Thursday that the film had been banned and disallowed at a screening there, was quoted by Malay Mail as saying that the film was, in fact, being vetted by Malaysia's censors.

"They were just doing their job, to tell the organisers of the movie screening that the movie should not be screened to the public prior to it being approved. We knew about the movie after it was banned in Singapore, but we do not know the real reason. However, we will assess it based on our own merit before deciding whether it is appropriate for viewing," the Malay Mail Online quoted him as saying.

On Thursday, the publication reported that the film by Singaporean Tan Pin Pin had been pulled from a screening, which is part of the Freedom Film Fest organised by the non-governmental organisation Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (Komas).

In the film, Ms Tan interviews nine Singaporeans - who live in Britain and Thailand, some of them for more than 50 years - on why they fled the country, what their lives are like now and the feelings they have towards Singapore.

The Malay Mail Online quoted Komas executive director Anna Har, who is also a director of the film festival, as saying that Malaysian government officials threatened the owner of the venue where the film was slated to be screened on Saturday.

On the Facebook page promoting the film festival, the organisers posted a message saying that the screening was being cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances".

"The local organiser had informed us that officials from the Home Ministry visited the ... owner of CG Curry house three times last week threatening her that she will be arrested and her business license taken away if she allows the screening to take place in her business vicinity," the organisers said in the Facebook post.

"Since then, she has decided that she won't be able to take the risk to host the screening event in her place. One of the reasons mentioned was that we are screening a film banned in Singapore."

However, the film has already been screened at Freedom Film Fests in Petaling Jaya and in Johor Baru and is scheduled to be shown in Penang next.

To Singapore, With Love is barred from pubic screening in Singapore over the "untruthful and distorted" accounts of the exiles on how they had to flee and remain outside Singapore.

Hence, the film "undermines national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals".

The Media Development Authority, which classifies films, gave it a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" (NAR) classification which rules it out for public screening or distribution in Singapore. But such films can be shown in Singapore at "purely private" screenings, which depend on many factors, including how the screenings are planned and conducted and who is allowed.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.