ASIA MEDIA STAFF WRITES – Even as Singapore’s National Day came and went Aug. 9, planning for the island city-state’s 50th birthday bash is already in full gear.

The special committee set up to plan and implement this celebration has been dubbed SG50, or singapore50. A big point of departure for this year’s planning is that the committee is approaching the citizenry to pitch in with possible ideas for how to commemorate this significant event.

Philip Jeyaretnam, who sits on the committee, said in an interview concerning  the celebrations that “Many of the things the committee supports – some of the books coming out and the arts events to be held – will reflect on the last 50 years as well as where Singapore is today, plus where we’re going and where we should be going.” While he also states that the starting point is celebration, they are technically celebrating the people who have made Singapore what it is today.  “At the same time, it is an opportunity for reflection, which is both retrospective and prospective.”

It is rather puzzling then that the Media Development Authority (MDA), which heads censorship in Singapore, classified Tan Pin Pin’s new film To Singapore, with Love as NAR (Not Allowed for All Ratings). This would mean that the public at large in Singapore would not be able to see the work. While banning movies in Singapore is not unheard of, when it comes to politically sensitive topics it always seems to be the case.

A statement released by the MDA “assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because 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,” and that, “The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore.”

I am not in a position to question the validity of either the film (which I have not seen) or the MDA’s ruling on the film, but what happened to the spirit of celebrating the people who have made Singapore or being able to reflect retrospectively and prospectively?

There are signs that maybe the strict censorship on political issues may be loosening. A recent article revealed that the film may be banned for public consumption, but can be used for educational purposes.

While Singapore prepares for her 50th birthday, it seems that time, at least for the foreseeable future, will still decide if politically sensitive areas will be opened up for public discourse.