Police question film-maker over politics

10 May 2005

A Singaporean film-maker is under investigation for making a documentary about an opposition politician, police said, two months after the movie was banned locally for its political content.

A police spokeswoman told AFP Martyn See’s short film, Singapore Rebel, about vocal opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, was being probed under the Films Act pertaining to “party political” films.

If convicted of violating the Films Act, See could be jailed for two years or fined up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (61,340 US dollars).

See withdrew the film from Singapore’s International Film Festival in March under pressure from the government’s censors, who informed him that it was in breach of the act.

The film has since been lauded internationally and is due to be screened at two human rights film festivals this month, one held by Amnesty in the United States and another in New Zealand.

See told AFP on Tuesday police had asked him to present himself for questioning, and he was due to meet investigators on Monday next week.

See said police told him they were investigating him over the film’s political content, but no more.

“Basically all they said was that the film was politically related, and because I was the maker, therefore I had to be questioned,” he said.

See said he had no political agenda in making the film, and insisted he chose to focus on Chee “only in order to understand why political opposition in Singapore is marginalised”.

Chee, 42, is facing bankruptcy after the High Court ordered him to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars for defaming Singapore’s two former premiers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

International human rights groups regularly criticise the People’s Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965 and holds all but two elected seats in parliament, for its intolerance to dissent.

They accuse the government of placing strict controls on the media and using defamation laws to curb any criticism.

On its website, the Amnesty International Film Festival in West Hollywood says Singapore Rebel “has just been withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival because of government censorship”.

“We are proud to host the World Premiere and to support freedom of expression for artists worldwide,” the site says.