11 May 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See has been invited for questioning by the police, news agencies have reported, two months after his documentary on a Singaporean oppositionist was forced out of a film-festival in the city-state.
See, 36, told Reuters that he is expected to present himself before the country’s police on 16 May. The filmmaker said he expects to be questioned about “Singapore Rebel”, his film on Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party.
The Agence France Presse said See 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 had pulled his documentary from the Singapore’s International Film Festival in March after government censors advised him that the film was flaunting laws against political films.
Despite its economic strength and high standard of living, Singapore remains a highly restricted country in terms of political and speech rights. The city-state’s rulers are notorious for intimidating both local and foreign media with financially crippling libel and defamation suits.
Most recently, even Singaporean bloggers have been spooked by threats of defamation stemming from comments made about A*STAR, a government-related research agency. A Singapore student shut down his blog and apologised “unreservedly” after officials of A*STAR threatened to file a defamation suit.
The subject of See’s documentary, Chee himself is facing bankruptcy proceedings in Singapore after being sued for defamation by Singapore’s two former premiers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, in line with speeches he made while campaigning for a parliamentary post in 2001. A Singaporean court ordered him to pay the former prime ministers 500,000 Singapore dollars (approximately 304,000 US dollars).