17 February 2017

The Syonan Gallery Clown Show


The Omnishambles so far...

On 10 February 2017, Singapore's National Library Board (NLB) unveiled the new name for the Old Ford Factory WW2 history museum. It would be called the Syonan Gallery, in memory of the name Singapore was administered as during the Japanese Occupation.

Tempers flared. According to the rising ire of detractors, the name Syonan (昭南 or "Light of the South") was an affront to survivors of the occupation. It glorified the imperialist project of the Japanese. The minister in charge of culture disagreed. Syonan is the most appropriate name to remind ourselves never again.

Of course there isn't a doubt that Syonan Gallery was a mistake. It's a mistake that hasn't been seen before in the field of cultural and historical production. To my knowledge, there isn't a Sudentenland Museum in the Czech Republic, or a Lebensraum Museum or a Heims in Reich Museum in Poland - because competent historians and curators elsewhere know better than to name a war museum using the frame of reference of the historical villains.

17 October 2016

Copyfight! What happens when copyright meets official secrets?

In his judgement, the honorable Tay Yong Kwan appears to have made a Solomonic decision: the Attorney-General gets his Official Secrets Act to apply to the interview and transcripts, and the Estate of the late Mr Lee gets its full copyright to the same interview and transcripts. That is to say, the Estate has "full copyright and literary rights", only to the extent of checking that the Government complies with the Interview Agreement.

Rafael's Judgment of Solomon


13 October 2016

Memories, Official Secrets, and the National Archives: A matter of governmental judgment or archival discretion?

In the case of Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang vs Attorney-General, the honorable Tay Yong Kwan has ruled that the transcripts of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's interviews with the National Archives are:
1. covered by the Official Secrets Act;
2. copyrighted by Mr Lee's estate, but only to the extent of "ensuring the Government's compliance with the Interview Agreement"; and
3. in custody of the Cabinet Secretary [our note: till 2020, when the Government may exercise the discretion to hand them over to the National Archives then, at a later date, or never, or indefinitely delay that decision].

Both the Estate and the Attorney-General appear to have disregarded the consideration and interests of the Archives itself when they argued their cases. Neither the National Archives of Singapore, any of its fellow SARBICA member associations, or even the International Council of Archives have not been called by either side to submit an affidavit for the case. It thus falls on us at Illusio to illustrate how an archival institution or a community of archival experts may possibly view the case. Or at least, weigh in on whether and when archival interviews should be official secrets, and who typically has copyright, and explain why.

23 September 2016

Balled Over by the Empire

In our "Rise of the anti-intellectual, illiberal left" category, the question is:
Which of the following did not happen this week?

A. Social Justice Warriors waging war on pie. Empire Pie. I miss fafblog and its pie jokes.
B. Social Justice Warriors waging war on a museum. It put on a fundraising dinner called the Empire Ball to kick of its curated exhibition of the Tate's edgy, critical, anti-colonial take on Empire and Artists (co-branding yay or nay?). They object to the word empire, of course.
C. Social Justice Warriors waging war on Fox's Empire. The word empire is imperialist (duh) and triggering.

18 July 2016

"Prosecution or persecution?" The continuing Judge Dredd tendencies of the Elections Department


As we argued last month, the principles of the exercise and distribution of power by the state and its agencies, in the event of an investigation, have been contravened in the investigation of alleged breaches of the cooling off amendments of the Parliamentary Elections Act. The police have usurped the role of the public prosecutor and attorney general in their questioning of Roy Ngerng, and more importantly, both the ELD and police have usurped the role of the courts in their joint press statement.

One month later, the separation of investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial roles of state agencies continue to be blurred. This is cause for major concern.

07 June 2016

"Prosecution or persecution?" Public law issues in the investigation of Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng for Cooling Off Day violations


In the distant future of the 2000 AD comic books, Mega-City One is patrolled by a police corps empowered to arrest, convict, sentence, and execute criminals. Judge Dredd pushes the popularity of authoritarian anti-crime rhetoric in society in the 1980s to its most logical conclusion: a world where due process and separation of powers mean nothing. The gimmick is fashioning a hero for a world where these authoritarian fantasies have come true, while the twist is showing that what passes for justice in this world is hardly something we'd recognise or desire.