Thursday, July 15, 2010

The public is interested

More sober heads than mine have already discussed the pointlessness of the ban on Martyn See's film of Dr Lim Hock Siew, who spoke of his detention without trial for almost 20 years. (Transcript here, film here.) Distributing a film of an elderly, mild-mannered man giving an account of his personal experiences has now become a criminal offence.

Ostensibly this has taken place because the film is "contrary to the public interest". According to the mighty MICA:
The Singapore Government will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore's interests in the past to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities, give a false portrayal of their previous activities in order to exculpate their guilt, and undermine public confidence in the Government in the process.
My main question is, what exactly is the public interest served here?, but in order to ask it, I need to back up a bit and look at some fundamentals. They had this man in custody for almost 20 years, and they did not convict him of any crime. MICA talks about "exculpating guilt", but guilt for what exactly? Even the people who detained him didn't manage to work that one out.

But let's assume (gingerly, trying not to wrinkle our noses at the implausibility of it) that Dr Lim Hock Siew was once a genuine "security threat", supposedly because he had links to supposedly violent Communists or somesuch. If so, what is the public interest in restricting the present day circulation of the film? If detention was justified, let the government justify it; if his account of what happened was false, let the government contradict it. They've got all the records, right? They haven't flushed important paperwork down the toilet somewhere?

If we posit that the government was completely right to detain him, there is no possible harm in sharing this information now. It's not as if there is sensitive, ongoing operational security work against these violent Communist groups, which would be jeopardised by public discussion. (If there ever was.) I mean, yo, newsflash, PAP: the Berlin wall fell 20 years ago. Grab someone off the street and talk to them about "the alienation of labour" or "the internal contradictions of capital" and they will reply leh kong simi? The government cannot seriously be claiming that public discussion of the long-decomposed carcass of a defunct historical "threat" is somehow "against the public interest".

Remember, we've been giving the government the benefit of the doubt here. Even if Dr Lim is spouting total B.S. (and I don't think he is lor), the "public interest" doesn't make any sense, since the government can just whip out their thousands of detailed documents and prove to us, incontrovertibly, that they were right. "Public confidence" would not be "undermined", but strengthened.

And if he's not talking B.S., if the government stuck unconvicted citizens into prison for years on end and it was all about "saving face" and people underwent months of solitary confinement and women were force fed with tubes until they vomited and their vomit was cleaned off the floor with their own pants, might there not be a rather large public interest in the public hearing about it?

The film raises questions which any government should be prepared to answer, like, "Hey, man, why did you lock that guy up? And did you torture him while you were at it? Just, like, wanting to check, you know." And that's the whole point of the ban. It's meant to be a ban on questions. Shut up because we know best, and we don't even have to prove it. By "public interest" they mean the public should not be interested.

Well, I damn well am. And we should all be. Find out as much as you can about the detentions and let's question them until their ears bleed.


  1. "The Singapore Government will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore's interests in the past to use media platforms such as *films* to make baseless accusations against the authorities..."

    so it is ok to use printed words (such as the transcription of the film) to make "baseless" accusations. hah.

  2. I think it's more of the Govt trying to not let the public know that they were trying to force Dr Lim to admit his 'wrongdoings' to 'save LKY's face'.

  3. Appears like the truth is beginning to surface that if Dr. Lim and Company had not be detained then, our 'stinking' Mentol and his favorite heir wouldn't be enjoying their millions now.


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