Home Ministry denies forcing NGO to stop screening of banned Singapore film

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the Forestry Department has been instructed to issue notices to state governments regarding the ruling. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — The Home Ministry today rubbished allegations that its officers had pressured a human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) into cancelling its screening of a banned Singaporean documentary in Kuantan, Pahang.

Deputy home minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the film ‘To Singapore, with love’ has not been banned by Malaysia’s censors and is still under scrutiny.

“Yes, I am aware of what was reported about my officers in Kuantan, but I do not like that they were accused of threatening.”

“They were just doing their job, to tell the organisers of the movie screening that the movie should not be screened to the public prior to it being approved,” he told the Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Wan Junaidi said that the review by the ministry is also a normal standard operating procedure for any films, whether commercial or independent.

He gave his assurance that the ministry would vet the movie based on its own merits and would not be influenced by Singapore’s move to ban the film.

“We knew about the movie after it was banned in Singapore, but we do not know the real reason. However, we will assess it based on our own merit before deciding whether it is appropriate for viewing,” he added.

The screening of the film by Pusat Komas under its annual Freedom Film Festival (FFF) was cancelled after Putrajaya was alleged to have pressured the owner of the Kuantan venue that would have hosted the viewing.

On Facebook today, Komas had cited “unforeseen circumstances” that involved three visits allegedly paid by Home Ministry officials to the venue owner, during which she was threatened with the revocation of her business licence.

“Since then, she has decided that she won’t be able to take the risk to host the screening event in her place. One of the reasons mentioned was that we are screening a film banned in Singapore,” the rights group posted on a Facebook page for the film festival.

The screening of the film titled ‘To Singapore, with love’, a documentary, was originally scheduled for October 11.

Produced and directed by Singaporean director, Tan Pin Pin, the film examines the case of political exiles in the city-state and features interviews with nine former activists, student leaders, and self-confessed communists who fled Singapore from the 1960s until the 1980s and are currently settled in Malaysia, Britain and Thailand.

On September 10, the Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore’s media regulator, banned the documentary, saying it provided a “distorted and untruthful” account of the exiles’ situation.

It said the film’s contents undermined national security because it showed “legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals”.

Freedom Film Fest screened the banned film in Johor Baru last month, drawing hundreds of defiant Singaporeans who attended the screening to protest the censorship.