Tan Wah Piow’s video commentary on Jason Soo’s 1987 Untracing the Conspiracy

By Tan Wah Piow

In April this year, I watched Jason Soo’s documentary 1987 Untracing the Conspiracy for the first time. Jason Soo’s intention was to provide a narrative from the detainees’ perspective to counter the Government’s justification for detention without trial of 22 detainees.

As someone named as the “mastermind” of the Marxist Conspiracy, I was, therefore, an interested party. My interest was initially confined to evaluating how successful is the documentary in debunking the government’s claim that the detainees were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the State.

To my surprise, when I left the auditorium, what kept ringing in my ears were the anguished testimonies of the detainees about their treatment by  Internal Security Department officers and Director.

Regardless of whether the use of ISA could be justified, those testimonies point to the commission of serious offences under the penal code by named officers in the Internal Security Department. Their testimonies also exposed Lee Kuan Yew as having lied to Church leaders he said that no torture was used to extract the confessions from the detainees.

After watching Jason Soo’s documentary, I felt the need to make a comparison between Jason Soo’s  documentary on ‘Operation Spectrum’ which was about an injustice committed by the Singapore State in 1987; and the BBC Panorama documentary on the ‘Hillsborough Disaster’ in the UK which was about the covering up by the State, including the Police Force on the real cause which led to the death of 96 football fans. The nature of the injustices in ‘Operation Spectrum’ and ‘Hillsborough’ were different, but the power of political documentaries are the same, if they are well made.

The BBC Panorama programme was well made, broadcast nationally, and led to the PM apologising to the families of the fans who died. It also led to a 257-day jury hearing which recently concluded that the fans were illegally killed. Jason Soo’s documentary is equally compelling, and is one which should be aired on the national television network. It’s a documentary which can potentially change the way we look at the Singapore State, its politicians past and present, and its security apparatus. It’s a documentary which can change Singapore.