Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Singapore under fire in airline dispute 

The budget airline dispute between Indonesia and Singapore — or more accurately, between budget carrier AirAsia and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore — gets more airing in the media. Although the title of the following report highlights Singapore, this is really about AirAsia’s battle with the Singapore aviation authority.

Singapore shakes up skies over Asia
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has come under fire for refusing to grant landing rights at its only airport, Changi International, to an Indonesia-based carrier in which Malaysia’s leading low-fare airline, AirAsia Berhad, holds a 49% stake. Though Singapore may call the shots in granting landing rights at Changi — upsetting AirAsia, which claims Singapore is using its planned Jakarta-Singapore route to give itself an edge in bargaining with Jakarta over air links — the issue has stirred up waves of criticism.

Southeast Asian countries plan to adopt an open-skies policy between their respective capital cities by 2008 and fully liberalize the region’s air-travel industry by 2011, but AirAsia’s charismatic founder and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes has implied that unless the respective governments fight back, the only winners in the skies between Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, at least, will be Singapore. AirAsia has said it is abandoning the planned Jakarta-Singapore route after having to postpone its launch at the 11th hour because it failed to secure the necessary approvals from Singapore aviation authorities. This would be a setback for the republic’s plan to present its only airport as an aviation hub for Southeast Asia...
Notice that the report is largely written from the perspective of AirAsia, particularly that of its CEO Tony Fernandes. It’s not quite a model of balanced reporting, but it’s hard to blame Bill Guerin. In contrast to the reticence of CAAS, Fernandes makes it easy for reporters to quote him.

Those who shout loudest get the most attention.

The Singapore authorities probably need to pay more attention to its image. This Asia Times report is just another example of the bad press that Singapore often gets from the foreign media.

And the resulting poor image for Singapore conceivably explains the behaviour of a British footballer as reported in the following article.

Defender rejects a move out to Singapore
Frozen-out defender Steve Burton has incurred the wrath of Kidderminster boss Stuart Watkiss again — after snubbing a move to Singapore. Watkiss claims the 22-year-old third choice left-back has turned down the chance of a lucrative year’s contract in the Far East. Burton, who has already rejected the chance of loan moves to Worcester City, Redditch and Accrington Stanley, now faces the prospect of a depressing diet of reserve team football indefinitely.

“Steve had the chance of going to Singapore on more money to play professionally in their mini-championship,” said Watkiss. “His accommodation would have been paid and he would be on more wages. “But he’s turned it down. I find it amazing that he has rejected such an opportunity by preferring to pick up his money in our reserves.”...
Or maybe the footballer just finds Singapore’s standard of football even more atrocious than that of the reserve team of a British Division Three side.


Thought you might be interested to know...

Film about Singapore opposition leader pulled after director warned he could be jailed
Tuesday March 22, 11:31 AM

Report: Film about Singapore opposition leader pulled after director warned he could be jailed

(AP) A documentary filmmaker withdrew his movie about Singapore's leading opposition figure from the city-state's annual film festival after the government warned the director that he could be jailed over its political content, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Martyn See's short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars to modern Singapore's founder, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defaming them during the 2001 elections.

However, See decided to pull his movie from the Singapore International Film Festival after the Board of Film Censors said he could be jailed for up to two years or fined S$100,000 (US$61,300; €46,400) if his 26-minute film was screened, the Straits Times reported.

The board had also advised festival organizers to remove See's documentary because it was a "party political film." Under Singaporean law, local films that "contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter" are banned, the paper added.

See and festival organizers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Strictly controlled Singapore has been seeking to promote itself as an Asian arts center, with the film festival as one of the city-state's cultural highlights.

Still, Singapore regularly bans movies, saying it needs to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the Southeast Asian country of 4 million. Last year, censors blocked three films from the festival for scenes it deemed were too sexually explicit or were advocating violence.
posted by See Tong Ming, Martyn at 11:01 PM 0 comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005
What is a "party political film?" Why is it unlawful?
Pop quiz : Is Jack Neo's criticism of the education system in "I Not Stupid" a violation of the Films Act pertaining to "party political films"?


Making, distribution and exhibition of party political films

33. Any person who

(a) imports any party political film;

(b) makes or reproduces any party political film;

(c) distributes, or has in his possession for the purposes of distributing, to any other person any party political film; or

(d) exhibits, or has in his possession for the purposes of exhibiting, to any other person any party political film,

knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the film to be a party political film shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

"party political film" means a film

(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or

(b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore;

2) For the purposes of this Act, a film is directed towards a political end in Singapore if the film

(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore; or

(b) contains wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter, including but not limited to any of the following:

(i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore;

(ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election;

(iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore;

(iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government;

(v) a Member of Parliament;

(vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or

(vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.

(3) For the avoidance of doubt, any film which is made solely for the purpose of

(a) reporting of current events; or

(b) informing or educating persons on the procedures and polling times for any election or national referendum in Singapore,

is not a party political film.
posted by See Tong Ming, Martyn at 3:18 AM 7 comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
CSJ film "objectionable under Films Act"
From: "Singapore International Film Festival"
To: singapore_rebel@yahoo.com
Subject: Singapore Rebel
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 18:41:12 +0800

Dear Martyn,

As requested, this is what happened.

On Friday March 11, Philip (Cheah) was asked to meet the censors at 4.30pm. At the MICA office, he was told that SINGAPORE REBEL was objectionable under the Films Act pertaining to political party videos. He was "advised" to inform you to withdraw your film whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply.

Yours sincerely,
Lesley Ho
Singapore International Film Festival
45A Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089149
Tel: +65 6738 7567
Fax: +65 6738 7578
Email: filmfest@pacific.net.sg
Website: www.filmfest.org.sg
posted by See Tong Ming, Martyn at 10:13 AM 0 comments

Saturday, March 12, 2005
Film on CSJ withdrawn after warnings of possible criminal charge
Dear friends,

Film on Chee Soon Juan withdrawn after warnings of possible criminal charge
I received a call at 1800 hours yesterday 11 March 2005 from Ms Lesley Ho, programme director of the Singapore International Film Festival, to advise me to withdraw my short film "Singapore Rebel" which chronicles the civil disobedience acts of opposition activist Dr Chee Soon Juan.

She told me the following :

1. That the Board of Censors may deem the film to be a violation of the Films Act, and that the crime carries a $100,000 fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

2. That I should agree to a withdrawal immediately because the Board of Censors had wanted an answer by yesterday.

3. That the Singapore International Film Festival has had a good track record for supporting local filmmakers.

4. That I should not make an issue out of this.

5. That if I disagree, "they will come after you, Martin."

Based on the above, I dutifully agree to withdraw Singapore Rebel from the Singapore International Film Festival.

Does this mean I will not be charged for a crime? Does it mean the film is now banned? Does it mean the police will not raid my home to confiscate master tapes? Does it mean that by posting this message here, I am "making an issue" out of this?

I really don't know.

I had asked Ms Lesley to send me an official email regarding the matter. No email has been received as of today.

For information on film censorship in Singapore, go to

For information on laws governing media and films, go to

In 2003, local broadcaster ChannelNewsAsia aired a two part series on the life of Lee Kuan Yew. The documentary included PAP rally speeches, interviews with Singapore dissidents, shots of opposition figures and Lee's musings on politics and governance.


In the meantime, I should recommend all of you to support the Singapore International Film Festival. Known for their cutting-edge selection of socially and politically conscious films, as well as and films exploring sexuality, this year's programme include films on

a) Iraqi perspective on Iraq War http://www.filmfest.org.sg/display.php?catid=502
b) Vietnam http://www.filmfest.org.sg/display.php?catid=504
c) Evolution of a Filipino Family from Marcos-era martial law to 1987 People's Power
d) HIV carriers in Papua
e) Gigolos in Beijing
f) The selling of pirated DVDs in China
g) Punk rock culture in China
h) Palestinian-Israeli conflict
i) The Kurds after Saddam
j) The life 1960s Indonesian activist Soe Hok Gie

See Tong Ming, Martyn
12th March, 2005


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