I sent a request to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) to release and screen a banned JBJ film. MICA sent an initial reply and I sent a follow-up.
Further replies came from both MICA and NP. As a matter of public interest, these are made available below after my afterthoughts on this issue. The replies are self-explanatory.
1. I am now looking forward to the Films Act amendments, which the Prime Minister should be commended for raising.
2. I thank NP for correcting the impression that their film equipment and tapes were confiscated by our censors. In fact, they do not own the film. They also had no equipment confiscated. I only wish NP had provided this information much earlier. It would have reduced hassle and saved both NP and me some time.
3. Nevertheless, it is regretful that NP does not wish to consider making a comprehensive documentary. They did not provide reasons so one can only speculate. Perhaps, their student newspaper may investigate this aspect further.
4. I hope someone will bring this exchange to the attention of the film-makers, who are really in a better position to pursue this matter with the relevant bodies. It is clearly in Singapore's interest to have this film retrieved and preserved for purposes of history.
REPLY FROM MICA ON 6 OCTOBER 2008
I refer to your follow-up queries.
MDA will fund and support film projects based on a careful assessment of their merit and contribution to the Singapore film industry. Pending the amendment of the Films Act, it is premature to speculate on what kind of political documentary will be supported by MDA.
Press Secretary To Minister and
Director, Corporate Communications Department
FOLLOW-UP WITH MICA ON 6 OCTOBER 2008
Thank you. I look forward to the public consultation on amendments to be made to the Films Act. I request that Secretary Chan exercise his discretion to forward the proposed amendments to the Law Society of Singapore for feedback before they are placed before Parliament.
In the meantime, I shall await the response from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
REPLY FROM NP ON 8 OCTOBER 2008
I refer to your email to Ms Bhavani which was copied to my Principal.
Thank you for your feedback.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue the matter further.
Corporate Communications Office
FOLLOW-UP WITH NP ON 13 OCTOBER 2008
...Having taken 5 days to digest your reply, I do not understand your reply. Which matter are you referring to since the e-mails do raise a number of matters?
For purposes of comprehension, let me set out the matters I raised again here.
With the proposed amendments to the Films Act, I hope:
a. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to return its confiscated film equipment.
b. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to release its tapes.
c. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for a screening of the film after the tapes are released.
d. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can produce a more comprehensive documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam.
e. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for the full stories of the film-makers of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's banned film to be told.
REPLY FROM NP ON 13 OCTOBER 2008
We have no plans to pursue any of the matters you have listed.
Corporate Communications Office
SECOND FOLLOW-UP WITH NP ON 13 OCTOBER 2008
Since Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue any of the matters listed, please:
a. Allow me to put on record that the confiscated film equipment were bought using funds of the polytechnic. These resources are financed at the end of the day by funds raised through fees paid by students and/or government subsidies funded by ordinary taxpayers. Your plans not to pursue this matter - where the Prime Minister has indicated a green light - does not appear to be in the interests of financial prudence that the public bodies such as yours should be held up to. The irony of the situation is unmissable. Ngee Ann Polytechnic was able to conjure plans and commit resources to break the law. But given the opportunity to uphold its legal rights, it has no plans to pursue a matter permitted by the law. This is an unfortunate reflection of the management of Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
b. Give me your permission to request MDA to release the tapes to Singapore's national archives. It is clearly in the national interest to have these tapes preserved for purposes of history.
REPLY FROM NP ON 14 OCTOBER 2008
I wish to clarify that the film referred to was not commissioned by the polytechnic. The polytechnic did not 'conjure plans and commit resources' to make the film, nor did we have any film equipment confiscated. Point (b) is moot since the film does not belong to the polytechnic.
As mentioned in my earlier email, we have no plans to pursue any of the matters listed. With this clarification, we will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter.
Corporate Communications Office
FOLLOW-UP WITH NP ON 14 OCTOBER 2008
...Your response is adequately appreciated.
Please be aware that one source notes:
"Apr 2001: Government officers raided Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscated film equipment and tapes after three lecturers had made a documentary about JB Jeyaratnam. The three were told that they could be charged in court if they went ahead with a planned screening of the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. They submitted written apologies for making the film and withdrew it from the Festival."
Having read your final reply, I now wish you had clarified earlier that the polytechnic neither commissioned the film, owns the tapes nor had property confiscated. It would not have led to my negative impression of your organisation, which was motivated by the initial reply from your good office. Had I got the information that you have just provided earlier, I would also have been more than happy to drop this matter.
Taking your lead, I too "will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter" with you or Principal Chia. I may write to the then Ngee Ann Polytechnic female lecturers - Christina Mok, Mirabelle Ang and Tan Kai Syng - to request them to pursue this matter with the relevant authorities.
Have a great week!
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?