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Who is threatening Singapore’s ‘national security’?

by Tan Wah Piow

How very strange. Despite the billions spent on military hardware to protect the island state, Singapore is apparently so fragile that it has to to ban an internationally acclaimed 70-minute film featuring interviews with exiles in order to “protect the national security and stability of Singapore”.

Before I venture further, allow me to declare my interests. I am one of the six who is featured in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love; and therefore by implication, is alleged to have undermined the “national security” of Singapore.

Tan Wah Piow

My views of past events which led to my exile in London, and my current views on the PAP are already in the public domain. In particular, they appear in more cogent forms in the following books: Escape from the Lion’s Paw (2012), Smokescreens & Mirrors (2012); Let the People Judge (1987); and Frame-Up (1987) which are available in Singapore.

If those books and publications did not undermine the national security of Singapore in the last 24 months, why all of a sudden, my images and words in the 70-min film become a national security threat. This question relates equally to my fellow-exiles in London Dr Ang Swee Chai and Ho Juan Thai, who also appear in the film, and whose accounts of their exile are also published in Escape from the Lion’s Paw.

The film also features the lives and views of former leftwing Barisan Sosialis assemblymen Chan Sun Wing and Wong Soon Fong, and some of their comrades who now reside in Southern Thailand. They fled Singapore in the 1960s to avoid persecution, and later joined the communist guerilla movement at the border area. Since the 1989 peace accord between Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya, they have settled in southern Thailand.

The objection to the screening, as expressed by the Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim is equally perplexing.

Yaacob Ibrahim said,

“…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."

Yaacob Ibrahim did not appear to be aware that the late Chin Peng, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya, had in the 1990s visited Singapore on two occasions. He met with Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and addressed academic seminars, and his interviews were subsequently published. If Chin Peng’s visits to Singapore, and his autobiography His Side of History, a book which is available in Singapore, did not undermine the security of Singapore, how could the images and words of the associates of Chin Peng do so?

It is blatantly clear that by no stretch of imagination could a film of this nature be said to undermine the security of Singapore. The argument put up by the Media Development Authority, followed immediately by the stamp of approval of the Cabinet Minister, is an insult to the intelligence of the population of Singapore. Consequently, the current outcry is predictable.

Yet, why did these astronomically highly paid, supposedly highly intelligent individuals, some highly senior army personnel, make or acquiesce to such a decision which, to a common man, is either plainly foolish or extremely stupid? Why is the perverse assessment of security threat an affront to common sense?

The plain answer is that the powers that be can tolerate only one narrative for the history of Singapore - the PAP story. The film sets out to present the lesser known aspect of the Singapore political fabric, and in the process, inadvertently presents an alternative version of history. A well crafted film, which, To Singapore, With Love, is one, becomes a potent challenge to the established views.

To ban the film would be an infringement to Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution which protects the freedom of expression. The only way to circumvent Article 14 of the Constitution is to invoke the security threat mantra. This would be implausible in any democratic country where the rule of law interprets “security threat” only in the strictest and narrowest sense.

But Singapore is a different story. That is why the Cabinet has to be very highly paid, because our ministers and Prime Minister are very clever.

But the people are not stupid either. One day, the people will know who is the serial abuser of the Singapore Constitution.

To Singapore, With Love