It was a private screening but that didn’t stop officers from the Media Development Authority (MDA) from seizing a copy of the film, “One Nation Under Lee”, at the Tulip Room in the Peninsular Excelsior Hotel.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) screened the film to an audience of about 70 people, who paid $20 each to attend the lunch-cum-film event on Saturday, May 17.
The film, produced by activist and artist Seelan Pillay, was a narrative of how Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew subjugated various institutions in Singapore, such as the press, under the government’s control during his time as Prime Minister. It also depicted how the social divide in Singapore is a result of the People’s Action Party’s policies. The film included interviews with former Solicitor General Francis Seow, political detainee Said Zahari, opposition politician JB Jeyaretnam and scenes of various public protests which had taken place in Singapore.
Twenty minutes into the screening, three officers from the MDA, one of whom identified himself as “senior assistant director” Mr Tan Chiu Kee, arrived and demanded that the organizers stopped the screening and handed over the film. They were met outside the door of the room by Ms Chee Siok Chin and other SDP members and supporters.
The officers explained to Ms Chee that they were contravening the Films Act, which stipulates that any film intended for public exhibition must be submitted to the MDA for a licence. Failure to do so would incur a fine of $100 for each copy of the film in possession. Whether the SDP had committed any other offence is unclear as the MDA officers did not say.
The SDP explained that since the screening was already taking place, the officers should allow it to go on and the SDP would hand over the film then. The officers refused and at one point warned the SDP that they were “obstructing justice”.
The MDA officers then called in the police who arrived for a brief period. They left after the SDP agreed to hand over the film. By this time, the screening of the film had ended.
The copy of the film was then handed over to the officers who also asked for the dvd player used to screen the film.
The event continued with Seelan Pillay and film maker Martyn See taking the floor and answering questions from the audience, which TOC understands included two US embassy officials.
During See’s Q&A session, the MDA officers returned again and asked for the LCD projector. The SDP refused. The audience heckled and scolded the officers who promptly left – without the projector.
Below is a video of the film, One Nation Under Lee:
By Honest Production 2008.
Read also: "Censors and police seize video at private screening" by Martyn See.
Below are two videos of the event at the Excelsior Hotel. Special thanks to tysploevil.