15 May 2005

A Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party (Part 3)

Because all good trilogies have 3 parts in them =P

Today I bring you the analysis. How is Singapore society configured, what does this state tick, in order for a piece of "legislation" like the 1998 Film Act to come into being? Disclaimer: This is not a legal analysis. It is a sociological analysis.

Self-perception of the Government

From sec. 40, the Government sees itself as being capable (in abilities and in due probability) of making a party political film. It may sponsor or pay for a party political film, and yet be above the very law it crafted.

Ergo, the Government is above the law. (Because I did watch the Matrix Reloaded)
Ergo, the Government is really a political party, i.e. the (ironically named) People's Action Party, which masquerades as "THE GOVERNMENT", by virtue of its control of 81 seats in an 83-seat Parliament.
Ergo, the PAP is above the law (when it dons its Government hat).

This paragraph confirms what critics (academics, foreign crusaders) and regular people in Singapore's coffeeshops and rowdy forums already know instinctively. This Chapter gives voice, form, and flesh to the shadows of their doubts.

It's already unsettling that Singaporeans often confuse the Government, the State, the Cabinet, and the People's Action Party for one and the same thing. It's highly disturbing this confusion has been codified into an actual piece of legislation by Singapore's parliamentarians, who should know better.

The Media

All the party political films chapters of the Film Act presuppose a certain model of the media in Singapore. Sec. 2 (3) decoded, reads:

"The boundaries between an innoucous current affairs programme and a propaganda broadcast on behalf of the Government/PAP are exceedingly thin. Therefore we excuse all current affairs programmes broadcast on the state media from this law."

As the maker of Singapore Rebel points out, both his film and the Up Close series on Channelnewsasia let viewers get up close with political figures (the opposition figure in Mr See's film, and PAP cabinet ministers in the TV series). Both humanise their subject politicians, both seek to find out what motivates them.

Ergo, the media is used by the State-Party as its personal political broadcaster.

The ST has attempted to brush this aside by revealing that the PAP party leaders decided not to make a film to commemorate their 50th anniversary. So what? The PAP doesn't need to make a blatantly political film on its own. It shouldn't be too obviously flouting the law.

Ergo, the media is used... oh wait. I said that already.

Prosecution is a procedure of the State, not a procedure of the Judiciary

"The Minister may..." crops up so often, you'd think he makes all the decisions about whether to ban or not to ban a film, and not say, a judge.

You may appeal the film board or the minister's decision should you feel wronged, but the appealing authority is appointed by the minister.

In fact, the police need not seek the permission of a judge to issue a warrant for an investigation for a contravention of the Film Act. Nosiree. They have wideranging and unlimited power, given the complete vagueness of sec. 23 (2) and sec. 34 (1), (2).

In fact, by the time an offender is charged with the Films Act and brought to court, there is nothing for the judge to deliberate. The Minister says it's a dangerous film. The Police have investigated and said so. And the appeals board says yes, it is a political film. So the judge needs to do nothing but assent.

I'm not saying Singapore's judiciary is compliant. However, for the process of prosecution itself to be written into the legislation in this manner, it can be argued that all this presupposes on an already-existing mode of the judiciary here - that of non-interpretation of the law, but mere execution of the interpretations of the ministers.

In other news...

Steven McDermott reports he has found, through an internet forum, a bittorrent link for Singapore Rebel. I urge my readers NOT to download it.

Bittorrent may be an efficient p2p and distribution tool, but Brahm Cohen didn't design it to be a secure tool for underground distribution.

What this means is anyone who downloads that torrent file can, with the right version/client of bittorrent or its modifications, obtain the IP addresses of all other downloaders.

Needless to say, given how our laws are crafted (vaguely) and interpreted (creatively), Singaporean IP addresses would probably be under probe at some point, and possibly charged with sec. 33 of the Act.

Don't think it's too difficult for the police to liaise with Singapore's 3 or so ISPs, since we've already established the police don't even need a warrant for that.

Do NOT be roped into this.

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