Thursday, June 25, 2009

Police investigates filmmaker over screening

Fellow artist Martyn See writes on my investigation:

The police has commenced formal investigations against artist Seelan Palay for the screening of his film One Nation Under Lee. He is allegedly being investigated under section 21 of the Films Act which states that —(1) Any person who —(a) has in his possession;(b) exhibits or distributes; or(c) reproduces,any film without a valid certificate, approving the exhibition of the film, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction.

Needless to say, the above law makes criminals out of just everyone who has ever screen an unlicensed video in Singapore, even if held in the comfort of his or her own home.

During the private premiere of the film held at the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel last year, censorship officers entered the screening room and seized a DVD of the film (see videos here and here). The censors has yet to rate the film, although a submission has recently been made (see here).

Below is a transcript of the police interview, held on Monday 21st June at the Cantonment Police Complex, which I recieved via email from Seelan.

Police investigation regarding my film One Nation Under Lee

Introductory question (Q): What do you know about the facts of the case? (Posed to me as "Tell me about yourself" by the officer but strangely printed as "What do you know about the facts of the case?" in the version I was to sign at the end.)
Answer (A): I am an artist.

Q1. Can you remember where you were on 17 May 2008 at about 2pm?
A1. I cannot recall.

Q2. I am now informing you that the investigation into this offence is of the incident that happened at Excelsior Hotel on 17 May 2008. Do you recall this incident?
A2. I do not recall it as an offence.

Q3. Can you explain why you were at the Excelsior Hotel on 17 may 2008?
A3. I remember that I was at the Excelsior Hotel on that date to attend a private event.

Q4. Are you aware of a film that was screened on this date at Tulip Room at Excelsior Hotel?
A4. Yes.

Q5. Were you in the Tulip Room when this film was screened?
A5. Yes.

Q6. What was this film all about?
A6. That is a private matter.

Q7. Who is the one who is in charge of this event?
A7. It was a private event so that is none of anyone's concern.

Q8. Do you know who brought the film to the Tulip Room on 17 May 2008?
A8. That is a private matter.

Q9. Do you know who prepared this film?
A9. That is a private matter.

Q10. How long was this film screened?
A10. I cannot recall.

Q11. Can you remember what happened after the film was screened?
A11. Some uninvited guests entered the room.

Q12. Do you know who these uninvited guests were?
A12. I cannot recall.

Q13. Can you explain what happened after the film ended?
A13. The uninvited guests asked for the DVD of the film. The DVD was given to them.

Q14. How many copies were there in the room?
A14. I do not know.

Q15. Who handed over the DVD to the uninvited guests?
A15. I cannot recall.

Q16. What is your role in this private event?
A16. That is a private matter.

Q17. Who was operating the systems when the film was screened?
A17. That is a private matter.

Q18. Were you at Jalan Gelenggang on 16 May, one night before the incident?
A18. I cannot recall.

Q19. I'm going to show you a document, can you tell me if you have seen this document before? (Officer then shows me a letter from MDA apparently sent the night before the event with a warning not to screen the film. Films Act sections were quoted in the letter.)
A19. I cannot recall.

Q20. The officers who served this letter at No.2A Jalan Gelenggang claim that you were the one who received the letter. What have you got to say about this?
A20. Did they identify themselves as police officers? If they claim it was me, did they ask for my name or IC?

Q21. Did you remove the DVD from the player and hand it over to Madam ---? (Name undisclosed for the purposes of this email)
A21. That is a private matter.

Q22. Do you have anything else to add?
A22. The uninvited guests should be investigated for barging in to and disrupting a private event.


by Seelan Palay


Robox said...

Bravo, Seelan!

If you can do this at 24, I wonder what you will be like at 37 or 59. Heck! I wonder what you can do next year.

I was trying to decide which of two statements you made deserved the Statement of the Year Award: "It was a private event so that is none of anyone's concern" or "I do not recall it as an offence". I finally decided on the latter.

Influential political philosopher John Stuart Mills who lived in the 19th century promulgated four motivations for criminalizing an act as a crime, which has become the a basis for modern criminology worldwide. According to him, those four motivations are:

1. that [b]the act causes harm to others[/b] - in Mills' opinion, this is the only legitimate basis for legislating against an act so as to deem it a crime.

Comment: The PAP government and its agents political agents in the Singapore Police Force are obliged to point out the harm caused by the screening of One Nation Under Lee, as well as to identify any victims, if any. (No conjuror's tricks please, PAP.)

[i]Notes: The 'harm' resulting from the process of political contestation is not considered to belong in this category.[/i]

2. that [b]the act causes harm to self[/b] - Mills considers this to be a paternalistic position in legislating against any act. However, there are examples of such legislation such as in suicide and drug consumption. Still, the majority of acts that belong in this category are not legislated against.

Q. What harm to self, either to Seelan or to the SDP, was caused by the screening of the film?

3. that [b]the act is offensive[/b] - this would open up a whole can of worms for an unending list of acts that could be considered crimes. Please read a few examples of what those might be in this article by Alex Au:

3. that [b]the act is one of harmless wrongdoing[/b] - just as with #3 above, Mills dismisses this motivation as having any validity in legislating against an act as crime; he considers 'harmless wrongdoing' as a contradiction in terms.


Just what [i]is[/i] the crime here?