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Gov’t and media “glossed over” S’pore history, says undergraduate

In a report in the Straits Times on Saturday, 20 September, undergraduate Kok Yufeng, 24, said that the film, "To Singapore, With Love", "must be watched" because it is a good opportunity to hear stories that have not been heard."

The film has been banned from public screening by the Media Development Authority (MDA), headed by Koh Lin-Net as its chief executive officer.

She said, "In Singapore, we have determined that the film has to be disallowed because of national security concerns."

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Her views were supported by the Minister of Communications and Information (MCI), Yaacob Ibrahim.

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However, Singaporeans like Mr Kok are now questioning who actually has "distorted" the truth of our past.

Mr Kok told the Straits Times, "This film must be watched as the Government and the media have glossed over this aspect of our history."

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Mr Kok may be happy to note that as an undergraduate, he may get the chance to view the film, as the MDA has since said it will allow "some leeway" for "institutions of higher learning" to screen films which are restricted or not allowed - but on several conditions including:

- The film must be for "educational purposes"

- The film must have been earlier classified by the MDA or

- The film has been given prior approval by the MDA before the film was acquired.

But this has raised even more questions.

For example, why should only students in "institutions of higher learning" be given the right to view such a film which concerns and indeed should be viewed by all Singaporeans, since it is about their collective history?

Why, for example, should the film not be allowed to be seen by mature Singaporeans, or non-student Singaporeans who are interested in our history? What about historians who are interested in alternative, non-official accounts of those most intimately involved in our history? Why should historians too not be allowed to view such films?

On what grounds did the MDA base its decision to allow students - and only students in "institutions of higher learning" - to watch the film?

Why indeed is a media regulatory body deciding matters of "national security"? What expertise, for example, does the CEO of the MDA have in such matters?

Does the MDA have any business at all deciding what is truthful about our history? Again, what expertise does it have in this regard?

And the ultimate question is what Mr Kok had asserted - that the Government and the media which it controls have "glossed over" this aspect of our history which "To Singapore, With Love" delves into.

If so, shouldn't Singaporeans be allowed to watch the film and decide for themselves?

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Post-script:

How did the MDA decide that the documentary, "Days of Rage", which was shown on Channel Newsasia earlier this year, was the truth behind that incident in our history - the Hock Lee bus riots - and could be allowed to be shown to the general public?

This question is especially pertinent when even historians have criticised the documentary for being "factually inaccurate".

Did the MDA investigate the veracity of the claims in the documentary? And if it did, how did it do it?

You can read TOC's exclusive 3-part critique of the documentary here:

Hock Lee bus riots – fact or fiction by CNA? (Part 1)

Hock Lee bus riots – fact or fiction by CNA? (Part 2)

Hock Lee bus riots – fact or fiction by CNA? (Part 3)