Call for Entries: Citizen Cinema


Function 8 is proud to announce the establishment of a new programme called Citizen Cinema, and call for entries as part of Freedom Film Festival Singapore. The programme will feature creative, critical and thought-provoking films on Singapore to be screened during the festival at The Projector on 12 November 2017.

Citizen Cinema aims to showcase and foster the production of films which highlight social, cultural, political and environmental issues in Singapore, and is open to entries from established filmmakers, first-time filmmakers, students, video bloggers, and citizen journalists.

A collection of selected films from the entries will be screened at the event, and 3 of the most notable films will be awarded $500 each.

Submission Guidelines

Entries of all lengths and genres will be accepted, including narrative films, documentaries, music videos, animated or experimental films. Films may be produced by individuals or groups. They may also be shot on any device, from Digital Camcorders to DSLRs to mobile phones. The films can be as short as 1 minute or as long as 45 mins, so long as the subject matter of the film remains relevant to issues in Singapore that you think need to be documented, discussed, and addressed.

There is no submission fee to Citizen Cinema and each applicant may submit multiple films. To be eligible, your film/s must have been completed after January 2015.

The closing date for entries is 30 September 2017 and successful entrants will be notified on 6 October 2017.

How to Submit

Submissions are only accepted via online transfer (eg. Google Drive, Vimeo, Links to download your film can be included in the online submission form. If you are submitting multiple films, each individual entry will require a separate form. The completed form/s should then be emailed to

Download the entry form here.

We look forward to all your amazing films!

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MRT protest






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Statement (6 June 2017)

MRT protest
In 1987, many of the detainees of Operation Spectrum suffered assaults, cold-room interrogations, severe sleep deprivation and solitary confinement for a fabricated conspiracy. Perpetrators of that violence included employees of the State. These are detailed in a recent Function 8 publication, 1987 Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On.

We deeply regret that citizens who were reading this book and chose to express their views publicly against the abuses of Operation Spectrum are to be subjected to police investigation.

It is deplorable that there are people who try to muzzle those who want the truth—calling for justice for those who suffered detention without trial. All the more lamentable that this is happening in Singapore, a country that takes pride in being a First World nation. 

We call on the government to investigate instead the abuses suffered by the former detainees and make appropriate restitution.

Function 8

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Debunking a 30-year-old Conspiracy

untracing 3

30 years on, details of the Internal Security arrests codenamed Operation Spectrum have only just come to light, first in Teo Soh Lung’s book, Beyond the Blue Gate, and more recently, in Jason Soo’s film, 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.

On the 30th anniversary of this event which had a chilling effect on Singapore’s civil society, we would like to invite you to join us in an endeavor for restorative justice and reconciliation.

Date: 21 May 2017
Venue: The Projector
Time: 2 – 6 pm

2.00 – 3.00 pm
Screening of 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy(tickets to be bought online from The Projector or at the box office)

3.15 – 4.30 pm
Conversation with survivors of Operation Spectrum *

4.30 – 5.00 pm
Book Launch – 1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On

5.00 — 6.00 pm
What have we learned? (Sharing by civil society organisations)

* If you have seen the film 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy, you are welcome to join the programme from 3.00pm onwards.

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Amos Yee and Political Asylum

 “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1).

Amos Yee has now been granted asylum by the United States on the grounds of persecution by the Singapore government. While the Singapore government may be unhappy with what the Immigration Judge Samuel B Cole said in his judgement, I am sure it is pleased with “getting rid” of him.

Some people suspect that Yee sought asylum because he wanted to evade national service. The same allegation was made by the Singapore government against Tan Wah Piow 40 odd years ago.

Then there are others who distinguished Tan from Yee. They claim that while Tan as a young student leader, championed the rights of retrenched workers and was seen as a potential opponent of the PAP government, Yee is just a selfish little brat, posting videos with the sole aim of gaining publicity for himself and for material gains.

While Yee’s lawyer and supporters did their homework by supplying the immigration judge with detailed cases of persecution of activists and political opponents by the Singapore government and even called Kenneth Jeyaretnam, an opposition party leader whose father was subjected to endless prosecutions by the PAP government as a witness, the Homeland Security Department did not call any witness to rebut Yee’s claim.

The Homeland Security Department had argued that the Singapore government’s prosecution of Yee for insulting religion and obscenity in 2015 was lawful and conducted in accordance with Singapore laws. The Immigration Judge, however decided that “Singapore prosecuted Yee under the guise of its laws prohibiting insulting religion and obscenity.”

Judge Cole went on to say that “… evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore’s prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government. His prosecution, detention and general maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities constitute persecution on account of Yee’s political opinions. Yee is a young political dissident, and his application for asylum is granted.”

The judge’s reasons for granting asylum to Yee blemishes the image of Singapore as a developed country which claims to respect the rule of law. For her citizens to flee to another country to seek asylum and to be granted asylum is to confirm that persecutions do exist in Singapore. It is little wonder that the Ministry of Home Affairs have worked through the weekend and issued a statement! So have the Law Society of Singapore and the Association of Criminal Lawyers today.

I do not know if there are citizens from developed countries who have sought political asylum from another developed country. I can think of two high profile cases – Julian Assange, Australian and Editor in Chief of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, an American Computer Professional. They have offended the American government and some of her allies by leaking secret papers from the CIA to the world. They have informed the world that even heads of state are not safe from having their private phone conversations tapped by the Americans!

It depends on whose side you are with. If you are a government official, you will say that it is wrong for Assange and Snowden to do what they did. But if you are a person who values privacy and truth, then you will be grateful to them and acknowledge them as heroes!

Besides Assange and Snowden, I cannot think of any other person from a developed country which is not at war, who seeks refuge in another country. The exception is Singapore.

Operation Spectrum in 1987, resulted in one former prisoner and several friends of those arrested seeking political asylum from America, Australia and Belgium. I believe their applications for asylum, like Yee’s, were supported by documents and testimonies claiming fear of returning to Singapore. They were granted asylum and subsequently, citizenship.

Yee’s asylum application has exposed the Singapore government’s mean treatment of her citizens in a way no other asylum applications has done before. The world now know the nature of our government, our prosecutors, judiciary, penal and mental institutions.

According to statistics of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there are around one million people seeking asylum every year as a result of conflict or violence. Singapore’s asylum seekers are not running away from war but from persecution by their own government.

by Teo Soh Lung

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The Indomitable Lion Among Us

Speech of Teo Soh Lung delivered at the JBJ Memorial Dinner,
27 Nov 2016.

J B Jeyaretnam inspired a generation of depoliticised young people when he won the Anson by election in a three corner fight in 1981. His victory shocked the PAP and surprised those who assumed that nothing was going to change. The PAP had not anticipated that the working class of Anson would abandon fear and send Jeyaretnam into parliament. Jeyaretnam’s victory ended 16 years of one party parliament.

I am glad to say that being one of the voters in Anson, I had thus, in a very small way, contributed to the change in our political landscape. I recall the night when the results were announced on television. My entire neighbourhood shouted for joy and vehicles sounded their horns for a very long time.

Jeyaretnam’s entry into parliament as the sole opposition member was almost immediately met with aggression from the PAP. Old debts were suddenly revived. In parliament, he faced hostile ministers. He was threatened time and again with breach of parliamentary privileges. Outside parliament, he was sued and charged in court. It is amazing that despite all the unbridled confrontation, he soldiered on and survived.

As a lone opposition member in parliament, without a team of researchers to help him, he was often rebuked. I often hear unfair criticisms that he did not do his research. That was really unkind. Luckily, parliamentary records show that he was a very effective parliamentarian, challenging bad policies and unjust bills and raising concerns about injustice and problems of citizens. He was quick on his feet.

As MP for Anson, Jeyaretnam never fail to meet the residents once a week at the void deck of one of the blocks of flats. He was concerned with the education of children. He sought permission to use the huge Peranakan styled community centre a stone throw away for tuition classes. Permission was denied. He once asked me to research on setting up a childcare centre. Unfortunately, the cost was just too exorbitant. Unable to carry out these plans for his constituents, he organised events such as the autumn festival where children and their parents would enjoy walking along the estate roads with lanterns in their hands. I remember he also organised children’s art competitions when impressive artworks were produced.

Jeyaretnam’s work as an opposition member in parliament inspired a group of young people. They realised that Singapore needed an opposition and it was absolutely important that Anson remain in the hands of the Workers’ Party. Thus before the general election in 1984, they offered to help him in his campaigns. When Jeyaretnam retained Anson, they offered their help in the production of the party’s organ, The Hammer. The irregular newspaper became a regular bi-monthly paper. The sale of The Hammer increased. It did not escape the notice of the PAP.

Jeyaretnam’s popularity and hard work in Anson garnered him 57% of the votes in 1984 which was 5% more than in 1981.

The loss of Anson to Jeyaretnam and Potong Pasir to Chiam See Tong in the general election angered the PAP. Both Jeyaretnam and Chiam were lawyers. It was thus no coincidence that attention was quickly focussed on lawyers. Coincidentally too, Francis Seow, former solicitor general and charismatic lawyer came on the scene when he was elected as the president of the Law Society towards the end of 1985. Lee Kuan Yew was alarmed for it was also the transition of power from him to the second generation leaders. He could not afford to see more opposition candidates in the next general election which had to be held in 1988 or 89. He had to “finish off” Jeyaretnam and all potential candidates.

In 1983, Jeyaretnam was charged for misappropriation of party funds amounting to $2,600 and making of a false statutory declaration. The First District Judge, Michael Khoo acquitted Jeyaretnam of 3 charges and fined him $1000 for the fourth charge. About a year after, Michael Khoo was transferred to the AG’s Chamber to become a Public Prosecutor. It caused grave unhappiness among lawyers as well as the general public.

In parliament, Jeyaretnam raised the issue of Michael Khoo’s transfer. Instead of simply answering his query, Jeyaretnam was referred to the Privileges Committee. All hell broke loose when complaints against Jeyaretnam was brought before the Committee of Privileges and the appeal against Michael Khoo’s judgement went before the High Court.

To cut a long story short, Jeyaretnam was ultimately fined $5000 and jailed for one month. He was therefore disqualified from being a member of parliament on 9 Dec 1986.

With Jeyaretnam out of the way, it was the Law Society and its president, Francis Seow who came under scrutiny. Again to cut a long story short, four lawyers and all those who helped in the publication of The Hammer were ultimately arrested and detained under the ISA in 1987.

Jeyaretnam offered to be legal counsel to his volunteers but due to coercion from the ISD, his offer was rejected. Jeyaretnam together with two other party members protested outside the Istana, seeking the release of the detainees. They were arrested and charged in court for attempting to conduct an unlawful assembly. Fortunately, the law in 1987 was not as severe as it is today. It needed five people to form an unlawful assembly. So they were all acquitted.
A year later, in 1988, several ISA detainees who were released issued a joint press statement and were immediately rearrested. Shortly after, two of their lawyers, including Francis Seow were also arrested under the ISA. That year, the electoral system was changed and GRCs were introduced. Anson was merged into Tanjong Pagar.

1988 however ended with the best news for Jeyaretnam. His appeal against the High Court barring him from practising law was heard before the Privy Council. In October, the Privy Council delivered a judgement exonerating Jeyaretnam and severely criticising the Singapore judiciary. He had finally won a major victory. But the Privy Council was powerless with regard to Jeyaretnam’s convictions and his seat in parliament.

The attacks on Jeyaretnam did not end with his exoneration by the Privy Council. Immediately after the 1997 general election, Jeyaretnam was again sued for defamation by PAP ministers represented by their army of senior counsels. He was ultimately made a bankrupt in 2001.

When Jeyaretnam was fighting his legal battles and trying to avoid bankruptcy proceedings, he was a very lonely person. He worked all he could to stave off bankruptcy. He stood at street corners to sell his books. Yet many of us shy away from him. Understandably, he developed a psychological complex. When friends tell me that he did not smile when they greet him on the street, I told them that it is difficult to trust strangers. He had been played out by strangers who offered assistance only to be disappointed and humiliated. I never encounter such problems with him. He was always glad to have coffee with me. And even when he was down and out, he would insist on paying the bill.

As Singaporeans, we have failed Jeyaretnam miserably. He used to tell me that if only every Singaporean would give him $1, he would not have to become a bankrupt. Jeyaretnam was a gentleman and a true warrior. We should always remember his huge sacrifice for us and honour his memory by doing what he tells us. Get rid of Fear and Wake Up!

It is unlikely that we will ever have another JBJ, at least not in my lifetime.


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thenewpaper-16-feb by Teo Soh Lung

I was quite surprised to read what the Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said at the opening of the exhibition at the Old Ford Factory (the newpaper, 16 Feb 17). He considers “dissonant voices” a threat. Just look at this:

“… how the way of life here is being challenged by a host of threats – from increasingly dissonant voices to terrorism.”

I don’t think the way of life of the people can be threatened by dissonant voices. The minister must be referring to the “way of life” of the PAP or its government.

Further down the report, he said:

“These threats are very present and may already be here.
They may be a cyber attack or a terror threat, or perhaps the spreading of misinformation or disinformation. How can we ensure that WE (emphasis mine) are resilient enough – and committed enough – to respond to these threats, and to recover quickly when crises strike?”

The WE here must refer to the government because I don’t think the people today are resilient. We have for decades been told to be dependent on the government. And the government has always prided itself as knowing everything and doing everything for the people. It spends a huge part of our budget on defence. It knows a citizen’s public and private life. It interferes with everything a citizen does, including harmless postings on facebook. It has installed cameras everywhere, from the expressways and roads to public flats and parks.

We are depending on the government to do the job of defending us. Don’t depend on us, the people. The government has emasculated us because it has never accepted dissonant voices and quite frankly, there isn’t any left.

The government having interfered with every aspect of our life must not abandon us when a crisis arises. It should not behave like the British during the Japanese occupation. The British was a colonial power and it can shamelessly abandon us. The PAP government on the other hand is elected by the people and should not abandon us. Forget about we being a resilient united people. We are softies.

That said, a serious concern bothers me. When even dissonant voices are considered a threat, I wonder if the PAP government will be able to discern a real threat and take us through a crisis.

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