26 Feb 2004

Human Rights Report on Singapore 2003

Human Rights Report on Singapore 2003

US State Department on Singapore. Click Here

US slams Asian rights violations

US slams Asian rights violations
By Jon Leyne
BBC state department correspondent

The US has focused criticism on China, North Korea, Burma and Cuba in its annual human rights report.

The state department survey also condemned the activities of the Russian government for weakening civil society.

The report insisted that the United States was not compromising on human rights to help the war on terror.

The massive annual analysis - hundreds of pages long - contains a detailed review of the human rights in just about every country in the world.

The US state department insists it has not watered down its views to help allies in the war on terror and the document points out that the current focus on the Middle East has not taken attention away from the rest of the world.

Among the countries facing tough criticism is China, where the report says there was backsliding on key human rights issues.

It also highlights North Korea where it describes what it says is a bleak picture of one of the world's most inhumane regimes.

Standards 'not met'

The report says that Burma's extremely poor human rights record worsened last year, particularly with the attack on a convoy containing the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

And it says human rights abuses in Cuba also worsened dramatically.

Russia comes under criticism for a number of its actions. The report says elections held by Russia and Chechnya failed to meet international standards.

It also points to the closure of independent TV networks and the prosecution of businessmen who support the opposition, which, it argues, weakens civil society and raised questions about the rule of law.

With the United States under attack for its own record on Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq, some human rights activists have asked whether Washington has any right to produce this report, but its authors argue that promoting respect for human rights is a central dimension of American foreign policy.

Story from BBC NEWS:

The following is a link to The US State Department's report on Singapore. LINK

24 Feb 2004

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

"The King is Dead, Long Live the King"

The 'charismatic' issue facing the Lee family has become entrenched at least in their own psyche. The continuing dominance of Lee offspring in the large economic institutions in Singapore seems to allude to a rather old and tested impetus of transition of power from one generation to another. The argument from the powers that be is that 'they' are the most able. Do they claim that the qualities of their father have been genetically passed on to them, by chance of birth and genetic imprint? Surely the 'nature/nurture' debate has more than 'genetics' as an answer.

In his famous typology of forms of authority, Max Weber distinguishes the traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal types. Charismatic authority disrupts tradition, and rests only on support for the person or leader. Weber defines charisma as 'a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as leader' (Economy and Society, 1922).

Yet we are told the selection process is based on principles of 'meritocracy'. The soon to arrive hand over of power to Lee Junior will result, if not Singaporeans becoming aware of the dynastic under-pinning of the structure of authority in Singapore, then the non-Singaporean 'economic herd' becoming aware of it in all its tainted glory. And the 'economic herd' is a jittery species. Investment in Singapore has already taken a turn for the worse.

Weber viewed charisma, as a force of social change but it is unstable. Many will feel that it is their duty to obey the leader. However, as Weber puts it, 'from a substantive point of view, every charismatic authority would have to subscribe to the proposition, 'It is written... but I say unto you..."'

Constant intervention in disputes between the SIA and pilots seems to imply this motivation. Can one man or family dictate policy, policy that alters electoral boundaries, Universal Humans Rights, and employer-employee contracts at will?

Charismatic phenomenon is unstable and temporary. In the longer term, he or she will die. For that reason, charismatic authority is often 'routinised' during the life time of the leader and succeeded by a bureaucracy vested with rational-legal authority or by a return to the traditional structures that have now become infected with the charismatic impetus.

The authorities in Singapore would like us to believe that it has been replaced with 'rational-legal', but the placing of the charismatic leader's son in power will undermine such an attempt. The coming hand over of power will need to be handled extremely carefully. Currently there is no question of power going to other cabinet members and so the PAP seems determined to go ahead with 'the plan'. But as soon as power is handed to Lee junior the international press will throw the spot light on the process and the process needs to stand up to scrutiny that M.P.s in Singapore do not have to face in local press.

The local media may be able to screen the nasty comments aimed at the process from the gaze of Singaporean's, but the 'economic herd' is beyond the PAP's authority. The people of Singapore have taken blow after blow in the current economic slump, if it is exacerbated by 'the plan' of the PAP, things can only get worse. A testing time is on the horizon. The full might of the PAP's authoriy and dominance will swing in to action to dampen discussion within the country, and Internet activity will be heavily scrutinized. Recently introduced legislation seems to be gearing up for a showdown.

13 Feb 2004

Birth Rate

Birth Rate

Singaporean government policies implimented over 20 years, aimed at increasing the birth rate of the better educated, have failed. The rate is currently 1.37 (Straits Times, 2004). The following hypothesis may shed some light on 'Why they have failed and continue to fail on a global scale.'

Thirty years ago, Professor Abernethy coined her "economic opportunity hypothesis".

It describes how people increase the size of their families when they are convinced that economic opportunities are expanding and rein back on their objectives when they believe resources are shrinking and the difficulty of raising children is increasing.

5 Feb 2004

Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders (click here)
Annual Report on Singapore 2002

The victory of the People's Action Party, in power for the past thirty-six years, in the November 2001 legislative elections, was expected. The opposition was only present in twenty-nine districts, and won only two of eighty-four seats. The regime can count on unwavering support from both public and private media.

The two large press groups, Singapore Press Holding and Mediacorp, are controlled by people close to the party in power. While coverage of international politics is more open than in many other Asian countries, censorship and self-censorship affect the way the country's news is presented to its people.

Opponents and journalists who are critical of those in power face two threats : the law on internal security, which allows police to hold anyone threatening "state security", and lawsuits filed for slander asking for huge amounts of damages. These two swords of Damocles have led to "very strong self-censorship", according to Amnesty International, and citizens of Singapore are afraid to participate in democratic debate. During the 1997 elections, leaders of the party in power won more than two million dollars in a lawsuit against an opposition candidate.

Opponents of the party in power use the Internet and radio to get around censorship. All the opposition parties have Web sites, but, before the November elections, the government passed a law prohibiting the publishing of political content on Singaporean sites. The Singapore Independent News Service radio station was launched in August, and broadcasts news bulletins from Indonesia to Singapore.

On 17 February 2001, Lee Yock Suan, Minister of Information and the Arts, announced the introduction of a new law (an amendment to article 42 of the 1994 Audiovisual Authority Law) allowing authorities to limit the distribution of foreign audiovisual media accused of "interfering with internal policy". Lee Yock Suan specified that "the goal is not to censor but to exercise control." On 19 April, Parliament passed the government's bill. Lee Yock Suan said, before the National Assembly, that this new law provided for financial sanctions - fines of more than fifty-five thousand euros - for foreign media who violated it, and allowed the government to suspend them for short periods. These measures already existed for the written press (Newspaper and Printing Presses Act). When answering questions from Members of Parliament, Lee Yock Suan said, "Our policy belongs to us and us alone, foreigners have no business coming here and telling us what is good for Singapore." The government criticised foreign media for regularly publishing articles on the regime's authoritarianism.

On 28 February, authorities banned a demonstration in favour of press freedom organised by a human rights association. Demonstrators wanted to protest against the attitude of the Radio Corporation of Singapore which had censored a story about a rally held by human rights activists. The journalist who wrote the story about this event was fired.

On 1 April, the government declared that two organisations defending freedom of expression, Open Singapore Centre and Think Centre, were "political organisations". Because of this, they could no longer receive foreign funding.

On 10 June, Othman Haron Eusofe, Minister of Employment, criticised the media's point of view on Islam. He criticised them for being "sensationalist" and "perpetuating a negative image" of Islam. He claimed that this "hindered social cohesion".

On 13 September, Media Watch Community, an independent organisation that monitors media, stopped its activities after failing to collect enough money to fund itself. Created by retired journalists, university professors and opposition leaders, Media Watch Community hoped to encourage journalistic objectivity, and had planned to launch a Web site and publish an annual report on the state of media. Public and private institutions refused to fund the organisation, under the pretext that their rules prevented them from having any sort of "political leaning". Tan Chong Kee, one of the leaders of the organisation, regretted that this type of initiative was inevitably seen as political.

Today Newspaper

Is it just me or has the Today Newspaper become errily quiet recently? After the visit to Him that must be obeyed...

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945