First look at the WP Manifesto

You can have a look at the WP manifesto here. It is sufficiently broad to cover the concerns of every group I can think of, but in terms of depth, it is lacking, because it is either politically expedient or they are unable to develop their ideas.

Section 14 on the ‘Arts, Media, Information and New Technology’ caught my eye. A few weeks ago, I’d attended a film screening at the Esplanade Library, and the organizer brought up the topic of censorship in the post-screening forum. The director of Tanjong Rhu, Boo Junfeng, mentioned his film was pulled out of a National Museum screening programme without any explanation. No one knows why, but obviously there must have been pressure from “above”. As a film buff, I don’t think Boo’s film, or anyone’s artwork for the matter, should be subjected to the whims of censors or the “above”.

One of the WP’s proposals is this:

The licensing of the arts should be taken out of government control and given to an independent body with representation from the arts community.

Currently, groups which stage any kind of public arts event, be it, dramas, concerts, exhibitions etc MUST apply to the Media Development Authority (MDA) for a license. There are some exemptions, like getai. The government can refuse to grant the license or censor part of the arts event. Examples have been documented by Arts Engage here.

The govt believes itself to be the moral gatekeeper of society, but I think it is difficult to achieve this, nor is it desirable. While moral values like filial piety, integrity, loyalty etc are deemed desirable by most, if not all of us, there are some issues which are ambiguous and controversial. One good example would of course be homosexuality. Many think it is “immoral” because of their religions, “conservative” backgrounds, and there are probably a few who still believe it is a medical condition. But is it that clear-cut? No, my personal belief is that gender orientation is NOT a moral issue at all. It is neither purely good nor bad, it is just there.

I don’t really care if there are others who think that homosexuality is an immoral sin. But I think it is incorrect when the govt, because of pressure from certain groups, over-extends its role as the moral gatekeeper of society, to influence what we can or cannot watch. Hence I’d support this proposal from the WP, that the govt should not regulate the arts, but an independent body which does not bend down from pressure. Yet the WP lacks elaboration on this idea. A deliberate act?

The second note-worthy proposal in this section:

Official secrets should be de-classified after a maximum period of time has passed or as soon as the information is no longer sensitive. This will enable the public to debate the course of history and deepen citizens’ understanding of key events.

This book writes of the difficulties which historians face when they access the official archives. 50 years have gone since the pre-independence struggle between the PAP and leftists, why the need for agencies like the ISD to bury their files like treasure chests? In the foreword of “Men in White”, MM Lee wrote that he asked permission from the ISD to reveal the fact that Lim Chin Siong had met with the Plen (the Malayan Communist Party’s point man in S’pore), so as to prove his claim that Lim was a communist, and by extension, he sought to overthrow the govt through an armed revolt or whatever.

Ordinary S’poreans have no access to the ISD archives. I don’t think most can understand. But the ones who do, the academics, journalists and researchers, need access to these locked files. It’s time for them to be unlocked, for a fuller discussion of events since independence, like Operation Spectrum, which arrested alleged Marxists. I think the PAP govt shouldn’t be too worried about these “secrets” undermining their legitimacy or authority. Or even nation-building. Nope, openness and fairness should be principles consistently applied, including to state archives.

Other than this section, I don’t have any pressing comments. Will blog if I’ve further thoughts.

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One response to “First look at the WP Manifesto

  1. Pingback: WP: Freedom of Info | Politics

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