TOC Blog Feature: Fogged lens

The following is an excerpt from Alex Au’s website, Alex relates his experience in getting the authorities’ approval for the recent Maruah screening of two films on Burma. Alex is a member of Maruah.You can read the full write-up on

Monday evening, the officer rang Braema to tell her that the permit was approved. He didn’t ring me, nor did I get an email. Braema rang me Tuesday morning — it was already 10 November, the date of our first screening — to discuss who would be going to collect the Police Permit. I said I didn’t think there was any choice about it. As the person who applied for it, I would have to go personally to collect it. I called up the officer.

Is my permit approved?


Why didn’t you tell me?

I told your colleague.

Does this mean you want her to be the one collecting it?

No, she cannot. You have to come personally.

Then why did you choose to tell her and not tell me?

So I rushed down to Tanglin Divisional Headquarters, and another conversation ensued.

Why is this a Public Assembly Permit when what we’re having is a talk?

Because you have an assembly.

But nobody’s moving. The audience is just sitting there in a cinema. It’s not as if they need an Assembly Permit to sit in a cinema to watch a film, so if they continue sitting there immobile after the film, why is an Assembly Permit suddenly needed? Why isn’t a Public Talk permit good enough?

An Assembly Permit covers both talking and assembling.

But a Public Talk permit is $20 per day and $40 for two days. The Public Assembly Permit is $50. You’re charging more $10 more than I really need.

Needless to say, I didn’t succeed in getting the $10 difference back.

In any case, if any talk must necessarily include an audience, then when do you ever give out a Public Talk permit? Why is there an option for applying for the Public Talk permit on your online system if even talking to a thoroughly static, already seated audience triggers a Public Assembly permit?

I don’t think I got an answer for that one.

On the way out of the police station, I looked closely at the Permit and was aghast to see this:

The Police permit issued to Alex. Notice the “Time of Event”.

I went back into the building and all the way up to the third floor.

The timing stated on the Permit is absolute rubbish, I said to them. You go look at my original application. What does it say?

Read Alex’s full account here.


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