23 Mar 2006

Singapore film-maker says again questioned by police

Tue Mar 21, 12:25 PM ET
Yahoo News

A Singapore film-maker says he has been questioned again by police over his documentary about an opposition politician.

Martyn See told the Foreign Correspondents Association that he was questioned for about 30 minutes on Monday over his short documentary "Singapore Rebel" about Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party.

See's "Singapore Rebel" has been classified by local censors as having violated the Films Act because of its political content.

The Films Act bans political advertising using films or videos, as well as movies directed towards any political end such as promoting political parties.

See has not been charged but the maximum penalty for making a political film is two years in jail or a 100,000-dollar (61,850 US) fine.

"It's arbitrary, the way they term a political film, what constitutes a political film," See said. "Until today I've not been told why 'Singapore Rebel' is a political film."

He said he has now been questioned three times by police since last May after he was asked to withdraw the film from the Singapore International Film Festival following the censor's verdict that it was political.

"I think it's a landmark case," said See, 38.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last September denied backtracking on his promise to encourage political debate in Singapore, saying the trend has been towards opening up.

"But that doesn't mean the laws don't have to be enforced," he said.

Chee, one of Singapore's few opposition politicians, was jailed Friday for an unprecedented eight-day term after questioning the integrity of the judicial system.

It is the first time a Singapore court has jailed anyone for an offense known as "scandalizing the court".

The attorney general lodged the contempt application with the High Court after a February 10 hearing at which Chee was declared bankrupt.

That declaration followed his failure to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (307,000 US) in damages to the city-state's founding father Lee Kuan Yew -- the current prime minister's father -- and another former prime minister, Goh Chok Tong.

Lee Kuan Yew, Goh and other members of the People's Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, have a history of taking legal action against their political opponents and media critics. They argue they do so to protect their reputations.

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