31 Aug 2004

Trafficking in Persons Report

Trafficking in Persons Report

Released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
14, 2004

IV. Country Narratives: East Asia and Pacific


Singapore is a destination country for a limited number of girls and women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation; while small, this number is likely more than 100 cases per year. Some of the women and girls from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the People's Republic of China (PRC) who travel to Singapore voluntarily for prostitution or non-sexual work are deceived or coerced into sexual servitude in Singapore. A small minority of foreign domestic workers face seriously abusive labor conditions; in a few such cases, these circumstances may amount to involuntary servitude.

Singapore was not in the 2003 Report but is included this year because of newly available information indicating it has a significant trafficking problem. The Government of Singapore does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledges the existence of the problem of trafficking in persons but does not consider trafficking for sexual exploitation to be a major problem in Singapore.However, the government over the last year identified cases of potential trafficking for sexual exploitation and has taken steps to improve its response to this form of trafficking. The government maintains effective border and immigration controls. Singapore has no national action plan to address trafficking. Prostitution is not illegal and procurement of sex from 16- and 17-year old prostitutes is not criminalized. Authorities generally tolerate prostitution, which largely involves foreign women, a few of whom are trafficked. The government should consider changing its law to enhance penalties against persons who facilitate prostitution by 16- and 17-year olds and enact and publicize laws against customers involved in commercial sex acts with prostitutes of these ages.
Singaporeans employ an estimated 140,000 foreign domestic workers. A small minority of these workers experience seriously abusive employment conditions; in rare cases, such conditions may amount to involuntary servitude, though documenting such cases is problematic. The Government of Singapore took several positive steps in the last year to address abuses of foreign domestic workers.

Singapore should consider adopting stronger anti-trafficking (for sexual exploitation) laws, and improved victim protection measures. It should also engage more with international and regional bodies involved in anti-trafficking activities. Singapore does not face the resource constraints of its neighbors and therefore has the capacity to increase funding for prevention and protection efforts.

There is no comprehensive law against trafficking in persons but Singapore's criminal code criminalizes some forms of trafficking. Such acts are punishable under laws prohibiting the trafficking of women or girls into the country for purposes of prostitution, unlawful custody or control of children, wrongful confinement, and trafficking of illegal immigrants. Laws against forced or coerced prostitution mostly carry maximum sentences of five years. Procurement of commercial sex from a prostitute16 years or older is not a crime. The government tracks the number of trafficking-related prosecutions, repatriations of foreign women and girls who are suspected sex workers, and complaints from foreign domestics. Authorities reported seven alleged coerced prostitution cases in 2003, resulting in two convictions and sentences of up to 18 months imprisonment. Singaporean police also reported the detection and detention of 21 minors under the age of 18 involved in prostitution during the last year. There is no information on the number of arrests made of violators of national prostitution laws (violations concerning children and other exploitation). The government investigates cases involving allegations of abuse of foreign domestic workers and in 1998 raised the mandatory sentences for employers convicted of physically abusing foreign domestic workers to 1 ½ times the sentences given to persons convicted of the same abuses against Singaporeans. There is no evidence that government officials are complicit in trafficking.

No NGOs in Singapore focus exclusively on trafficking although several assist foreign workers and seek the enactment of enhanced labor protections. The government does not provide assistance to NGOs, except limited assistance to shelters. Trafficking victims are generally referred to shelters that offer counseling while abused foreign domestics are referred to such shelters or to shelters run by their embassies. Singapore in 2003 created an office in the Ministry of Manpower to promote the welfare of foreign domestic workers and to educate employees and employers on acceptable employment practices.

There is no specific anti-trafficking campaign directed at the use of fraud or coercion to recruit foreign women as prostitutes. The government does not take measures to reduce the demand for sex tourism junkets organized in Singapore to foreign destinations, nor to publicize the problem of sex trafficking in these destinations. The government maintains effective border and immigration controls. Singapore has no national action plan to address trafficking.

30 Aug 2004

Singapore's moment

Singapore's moment

NYT Saturday, August 28, 2004

Singapore is rich, but seldom envied. Outsiders have long viewed the
gleaming city-state that attained its independence in 1965 as a tidy
but soulless place, the nanny state that banned chewing gum. The good
news is that new prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, the son of longtime
ruler Lee Kuan Yew, seems to realize that Singapore needs to loosen
up. At his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, he said what not
long ago would have sounded like heresy in a nation where the bottom
line is the bottom line: "Prosperity is not our only goal, nor is
economic growth an end in itself."

Lee followed up his inaugural address with a more detailed speech
last Sunday in which he announced a long-overdue relaxation of some
restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly. No longer will all
indoor political speeches and rallies require a police-
issued "entertainment license." That's a start, but younger
Singaporeans, who have no memories of the colonial period and only
vague recollections of the cold war, will expect Lee to be far more
aggressive in liberalizing the city-state's political culture. It
isn't clear that he can deliver. Earlier this year, Lee told an
audience at the city's Harvard Club that "not all policies are
amenable to public consultation," and went on to include foreign
policy and taxes as examples of things best discussed in private.
Equally troubling, Lee's authoritarian father still lurks in the
background, with the title of "minister mentor."

As for chewing gum, it is now available in Singapore, but only in
pharmacies, and only if it's sugarless and "therapeutic." That's the
kind of surreal in-between state of affairs that typifies the
nation's reluctance or inability to surge ahead and become a more
self-confident, tolerant and democratic society.

If Lee fails to forge this transition in short order, or insists on
only taking half-steps, Singapore's vaunted prosperity will probably
suffer. For decades, a business-friendly but politically
authoritarian Singapore thrived in comparison with its regional
competitors. Corruption sank the Philippines, Hong Kong suffered from
its uncertain status, and Singapore's immediate neighbors were even
more authoritarian backwaters. But now, with China opening itself to
the outside world and countries like Malaysia and Thailand prospering
and stealing manufacturing jobs from Singapore, the island city-state
needs to foster a free-wheeling society if it wants to remain the
region's primary economic hub in an age when the free flow of ideas
and knowledge is as important to the bottom line as the free flow of

24 Aug 2004

Let the hundred flowers bloom

What follows is an extract from the recent National Day Rally Speech in which Lee Junior actually refers to a policy introduced by Chairman Mao, which eventually led to a crackdown on political dissenters in China.

"The second thing we are going to do is to open up the Speakers'Corner where you can go and make any speech you like and we are going to say, 'Well, if you want to go there and have an exhibition, go ahead.'

Once in a while, Think Centre says they want to go to the Speakers' Corner and they want to plant 100 flowers there,let the hundred flowers bloom.

Well, I think go ahead. They want to water the flowers, go ahead.

They want to turn the flowers down, go ahead.I mean, free expression as long as you don't get into race and religion and don't start a riot.

It's a signal that speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions. "

Of all the quotations in the "Little Red Book", by Chairman Mao, none is more inspiring or chilling than this. It comes from a brief period of reform in the fifties known as the "Hundred Flowers Campaign" during which Mao encouraged complete freedom of thought, including criticism of the Party. The result was much more vigorous debate than Mao had expected and the period ended with an abrupt crackdown against those who had raised their voices in opposition. It could stand as a critique of the failures of the Cultural Revolution itself, which tried to settle ideological questions by force under the guise of debate.

You have been warned.

Kimina Lyall has also picked up on the similarity...
Mao echo in Lee's free speech pledge
By Kimina Lyall, Southeast Asia correspondent

NEW Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to "let the hundred flowers bloom" in Singapore, using his first major policy speech to announce relaxations on the Government's tight controls on free speech.

In an eerie reference to former Chinese leader Mao Zedong's campaign to open up a forum for his critics, Mr Lee said many of his Government's critics "want to plant 100 flowers" at the country's only public forum for free speech, Speaker's Corner.
"I think, 'go ahead'," Mr Lee said as part of a three-hour National Day Rally speech on Sunday night. "They want to water the flowers, go ahead. They want to turn the flowers down, go ahead.

"Free expression, as long as you don't get into race and religion, and don't start a riot. It's a signal that speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions."

Mr Lee, who also announced other major policy shifts including a five-day week for civil servants, equal access for women to medical benefits and the possibility of the country opening a casino, is hoping to mark himself as a leader of Singapore's new generation.

The announcement that Singaporeans could hold public indoor talks without a licence may one day be seen as the nation's true starting point in its transition from economic powerhouse to liberal democracy.

Long-time political opponent JB Jeyaretnam said yesterday that he was not ready to "shout for joy" about the new provisions, because he wanted to see how they were implemented.

Speaker's Corner, established by Mr Lee's predecessor, Goh Chok Tong, was once heralded as a similar turning point. There was an initial opening flourish but it is now little used, largely because microphones are banned and names and addresses of speakers must first be given to local police, who record the event.

Senior members of Mr Lee's authoritarian People's Action Party, established by his father, Lee Kuan Yew, have used the country's defamation laws to sue and bankrupt political opponents, helping the party keep a tight grip on parliament.

But such tools of repression are mild, compared with those used in the wake of the world's first Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom campaign.

A year after coining the infamous phrase in 1956, Mao, surprised by the outpouring of criticism against his policies, began to round up his detractors and send them to labour camps for "thought reform".

Ordinary Singaporeans may need a few more signals from their leader before they begin to break their political silence.

23 Aug 2004

SDP threatened with legal action

The following refers to an article that this site published, as of today I have received no word via 'blogspot' of impending legal action.

SDP threatened with legal action
17 August 2004
The Singapore Democrats recently received a letter from a law firm, Bindman and Partners, to its webhosts threatening legal action if an article originally published in the Financial Times was not removed from the SDP website. We reproduce it below. Readers can draw their own conclusions after reading it.

It is of interest whether the Financial Times and other websites that posted the piece were similarly threatened.

11 August 2004

75 Science Park Drive
02-06/08 Cintech II
Singapore Science Park I
Singapore 118255

And by fax on 0065 6773 9389

Dear Sirs


We act for the Medical Protection Society. We understand that you are the Internet Service Provider for the site named above. This site contains an archived Financial Times article which is attached to as a link to the accompanying e-mail and in hard copy to this letter.

The article states that the MPS suggests that foreign doctors should not work in Singapore and claims that this “recommendation” could set back Singapore’s efforts to attract medical researchers and become a leading biomedical centre.

The plain meaning of the words complained of and highlighted in the attachment is that MPS adopts the views of the doctors quoted and recommends that doctors should avoid Singapore. There is a suggestion of racist motivation or, at the very least, ill conceived and improper advice likely to cause serious damage to legitimate and worthwhile aims in Singapore.

The allegations are accessible in this jurisdiction and the laws of England and Wales therefore apply to the publication in this jurisdiction.

ISP’s are generally entitled to rely on the statutory defence provided in s.1 of the Defamation Act 1996 which applies to those who are only involved “ as operators of or provider of access to a communication system by means of which the statement is transmitted, or made available, by a person over whom he has no effective control”. However, Godfrey v Demon Internet established that ISP’s may not rely on that defence and will be liable for damage caused by defamatory material appearing on any site access to which is provided by the ISP if access to the defamatory material is not prevented immediately after the ISP has been made aware of its existence.

The purpose of this letter is to give you notice that you are storing and/or disseminating defamatory material published on the site above and to require you to remove the material, or to prevent access to the material in this jurisdiction, at once. Following receipt of this letter, you will no longer be entitled to rely upon the defence at section 1(3)(e) of the Defamation Act. There is no other defence available to you. If you continue to store and/or disseminate the material following receipt of this letter, our client will look to you for damages as the publisher of the material. Damages are likely to be substantial.

We should be grateful for your confirmation by return that the article complained of is no longer accessible from this jurisdiction. Checks on the site will be made regularly. We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully

Bindman & Partners

20 Aug 2004

Get Adam Smith into the Lion City

By Alan Oxley Published 08/16/2004

Asians evidently like political dynasties. India, the Philippines, Indonesia and North Korea have had Leaders who were children of Leaders. Singapore has anointed a new Leader and joined the club. The line from the Lion City, Singapore's self-adopted tag, is that this is a signal that stability will continue and there will be no dramatic shift in policies. But for Singapore's own good, and for the rest of Asia, it is time there was a dramatic change. It is time Singapore released Adam Smith's animal spirits.

On 12 August, Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister replaced Goh Chok Tong who lead Singapore for 12 years. He in turn replaced Lee Kwan Yew who ruled Singapore since independence from Britain in 1963. Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kwan Yew's son.

Singapore has been an unabashed economic success story. Britain gave the city state of 3 million independence in 1963 and, thereafter, it traded on its natural place as a commercial hub in one of the fastest growing regions of the world, and prospered mightily. For several years, its per capita GDP has ranked with OECD economies. It is also economically and politically closer to the US than any other country in Southeast Asia.

Lee Kwan Yew built modern Singapore with an interesting blend of Western economic models and Asian political absolutism. He set Singapore determinedly on a capitalist path, but under firm government direction. He created a "nanny state" European socialists could only dream of. But he based it on a very Chinese value (most people in Singapore are émigrés from China) - savings.

In Singapore's development strategy, savings came first. A compulsory national savings scheme was introduced. Employers and workers paid for national welfare. Profit was second, but was important. Unprofitable state-owned businesses were shut down. The national union movement was integrated into the State system and given monopolies to run, such as supermarket chains and taxi companies, but only if they were profitable.

Singapore's annual economic growth has consistently averaged seven percent over the last thirty years, one of the highest in the world. When it falls to five percent or below, the Government goes into panic mode. Singapore has been a leader in the "flying geese" economic formation which Japan so proudly touted as the Asian development model until it went into it its own prolonged economic slump in 1990. (In this formation, Japan's booming economy leads the wing and Asia's tiger economies follow, emulating Japan's growth strategy.)

When the Asian currency crisis unveiled fundamental weaknesses in economic governance in Asia in 1997, it was Singapore which implored analysts not "to throw the baby out with the bath water". The message was that Singapore had got the Asian economic model right.

But there are worrying features about Singapore's economy. Sixty percent of productive activity is accounted for by businesses owned by the State and the public sector. Singapore Airlines, Chartered Semiconductor, SingTel, PSA Corp, Singapore Technologies , Changi Airport, DBS Bank, Keppel Corporation, Singapore Press Holdings, and Raffles Corporation, for example, are all state-owned and owned by either Temasek Holdings (owned by the Singapore Government) or by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

These businesses displace private business. In Singapore, private and small and medium sized enterprises generate 20 percent of economic activity. In Taiwan and Hong Kong they generate 75 percent. Nevertheless, private business would claim to do well in Singapore. In times of recession, the Government invariably acts to reduce costs controlled by government to ensure profits remain buoyant.

The state-owned businesses in Singapore, while profitable, are generally not producing returns comparable to privately-owned businesses in other markets. And the value of their publicly-traded shares is marked down by the inevitable weighting markets attach for the risk inherent in government control of a company.

Singapore has problems. Unemployment is now around 5 percent. The "nanny state" is under challenge. People have been told the State will not now provide for them "from cradle to grave". The change is on.

The Singapore Government has begun a steady process of selling shares in its companies on the open market and exposing these companies, like SingTel, the national telecommunications provider, to competition. In its recent Free Trade Agreement with the US, Singapore committed to create competition policy law which guaranteed state-owned companies could not secure privileged positions in the Singapore economy.

But the approach to change is oxymoronic. The Singapore government wants to control the rate at which Adam Smith's animal spirits are released. Its leaders know that growth and enterprise in free market economies comes from entrepreneurship. But they seem not to understand that animal spirits generate that, not special business schools or courses on how to be an entrepreneur which it has fruitlessly fostered over the years.

Singapore has a fabulously wealthy base, but too much of it is in the wrong hands - the Government. It is in danger of going the way of the leader of the flying geese unless it transfers a large slab of that wealth quickly to the private sector and sets the animal spirits to work.

Until Singapore takes that step, its prosperity today might be a plateau rather than a base from which to move to the higher level of quality necessary to prosper in the world economy. When Singapore takes that step, the economic model that emerges may well make it the leader of the flying geese.

Alan Oxley is host of the Asia Pacific page and Chairman of the Australian APEC Study Centre.

Copyright © 2004 Tech Central Station - www.techcentralstation.com

In Singapore Every Sperm Is Sacred

I have decided to contribute to the debate regarding the birth rate in Singapore. I suggest that the following song be sung every morning in schools and places of work throughout the land, replacing the national anthem. The government should also pass a bill that makes masterbation ilegal, ban the condom and start genetically cloning the entire Lee family for the sake of the nation. Although how you would police the first one is beyond me.

Every Sperm Is Sacred
Composers: David Howman & Andre Jacquemin
Authors: Michael Palin & Terry Jones
From the Movie 'The Meaning of Life'

There are Jews in the world.
There are Buddhists.
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then
There are those that follow Mohammed, but
I've never been one of them.
I'm a Singaporean,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Singaporeans is:
They'll take you as soon as you're warm.
You don't have to be a six-footer.
You don't have to have a great brain.
You don't have to have any clothes on. You're
A Singaporean the moment Dad came,
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.
Let the non-Singaporean spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found.
Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.
Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,...
...God get quite irate.
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed...
...In your neighbourhood!
Every sperm is useful.
Every sperm is fine.
God needs everybody's.
And mine!
And mine!
Let the Pagan spill theirs
O'er mountain, hill, and plain.
God shall strike them down for
Each sperm that's spilt in vain.
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite iraaaaaate!

The Battle of Sexuality in Singapore

The word on the street is that our recently enrolled eugenically engineered clone is going to turn its attention to the falling birth rate. And the usual approach to fixing this problem will be applied. No. 1 assume that it is the females job to look after children, so increase maternity leave, ommitting paternity leave. No.2 Throw some more money at the problem. This tactic of viewing child-rearing as the Sinagaporean females national service has not worked, even with the introduction of the Singapore Development Unit in 1984.

My argument is simple. If you remove the emotional connection and see it in instrumentalist terms. For a long long time the male has dominated life in Singapore, hell he can even go to Bintan to wife number 2, Gaylang if he feels like being unfaithful.

If a company had failed to be productive for the last 16 years and you owned that company what would you do to the employees. You could sack every employee or you could change the management. Put the female in charge, empower women.

There is a silent revolution going on in Singapore.

Read a previously published article... from the last time this same old problem arose and they threw the same tired solution at it...

The Battle of Sexuality in Singapore
Recent debates in the national media and newspapers are attempting to defend male domination in Singapore, (patriarchalism). Whether it is a debate focusing on the birth-rate, homosexuality, (gay and lesbian) or oral sex legislation I feel that the following section from a well known and highly regarded sociologist seems to place Singapore's 'problems' in a wider global issue. The statistics referred to in the article are American, but finding statistics on this area in Singapore is not possible. However, survey conducted by Durex concluded that Singaporeans have the least sex in the world. I wonder if that survey questioned the frequency of other sexual activity. How would Singaporeans have been ranked if the "perverse" pleasures had been assessed?

In the TODAY newspaper there is a letter from someone condemning 'oral sex'. Here is my rebuttal. What follows are not my own words but those of Manuel Castells.

"[C]onsumerist sexuality" appears to be on the rise, although the indications here are rather direct. Laumann et al. analyze their sample in terms of sexual normative orientations following the classic distinction between sexuality (procreational), relational (companionship), and recreational (orientated towards sexual enjoyment). They also isolate a "libertarian-recreational" type that seems closer to the images of pop-sexual liberation or, in Giddens terms, "plastic sexuality." When analysing their sample by major regions in America, they found that 25.5 percent of their sample in New England, and 22,2 percent in the Pacific region, could be included under such a "libertarian-recreational" category: this is about one-quarter of the population in some of the most culturally trend-setting areas of America.

A meaningful indicator of increasing sexual autonomy, as a pleasure-orientated activity, is the practice of oral sex which, I remind you is catalogued as sodomy, and explicitly prohibited by law in 24 American states, albeit under conditions of doubtful enforcement. Laumann et al., (1994) commenting on these findings, assert that:

The overall trend reveals what we might call a rapid change in sexual techniques if not a revolution. The difference in lifetime experience of oral sex between respondents born between 1933 and 1942 and those born after 1943 is dramatic. The proportion of men experiencing oral sex in their lifetime increases from 62 percent of those born between 1933-37 to 90 percent of those born between 1948-52. The timing of sexual techniques appears to have been responsive to cultural changes in the late 1950s, changes that peaked in the mid to late 1960s, when they approached saturation level of the population. The lower rates among the youngest groups in our survey are not evidence of decline in oral sex; these groups simply have not yet engaged in sexual relationships in which oral sex has become likely if not normative. [Laumann et al., (1994)]

Incidentally, between 75 and 80 percent of women in the latest cohort also experienced oral sex, and in the younger groups their occurrence is higher than for men. Laumann et al. Also report widespread incidence of auto-eroticism (associated with high levels of partnered sexual activity), and of masturbation, hardly a novel technique, but that seems to involve two-thirds of men, and over 40 percent of women.

Thus, if instead of reading sexual behaviour under the norm of heterosexual, repetitive partnership, we take a more "perverse" approach to it, the data reveals a different story, a story of consumerism, experimentation, and eroticism in the process of deserting conjugal bedrooms, and still searching for the new modes of expression, while watching out for AIDS. Since these new patterns of behaviour are more visible among younger groups, and in trend-setting cities, I feel safe to predict that, if, when, and where the AIDS epidemic comes under control, there will be one, two, three many Sodoms, emerging from fantasies freed by the crisis of patriarchialism, and excited by the culture of narcissism. Under such conditions, as Giddens proposes, sexuality becomes the property of the individual.(Giddens, 1992) Where Foucault saw the extension of apparatuses of power into sexuality constructed/construed subject, Giddens sees, and I concur, the fight between power and identity in the battleground of the body.

Click here to learn more.
Castells, M., (2004), The Power of Identity, Second Edition.

Singapore is a patriarchal society in the midst of a quiet revolution, led primarily by females and declining marriage rates and birth rates are the front line. The old male guard will not even admit that there is a battle between the sexes centering on female ownership of their own bodies but also sexuality in general.

19 Aug 2004

Singapore's ruling party seen preparing for new elections

SINGAPORE (AFP) -- Singapore's ruling party has begun interviewing potential candidates, indicating an election to give new Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong his own mandate may be looming, a report said Wednesday.

The Straits Times newspaper said potential candidates, including top lawyers and doctors, had been invited for "tea sessions" with cabinet ministers in recent months.

Lee, 52, took over last week from Goh Chok Tong, 63, who stepped down after 14 years but remains in the cabinet as senior minister.

Prominent people already known to the ministers had been invited for one-on-one lunches with cabinet members, who ask them if they are willing to enter politics, the report said.

Giving a glimpse of the recruitment process for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), which has dominated Singapore politics since the island gained self-rule from Britain in 1959, the report said those short-listed would go for more rigorous interviews.

Questions thrown at these interviews by senior party members can be "intensely personal" or "invigoratingly intellectual," the report added.

Analysts said the interviews mean a general election could be coming soon to provide a popular mandate to Lee, son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, 80, who is now an adviser to the cabinet.

"Elections are not very far away because the interviews for potential MPs (members of parliament) have already started," Bilveer Singh, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, said.

"Elections are part of the political culture. The new man will want to have a mandate for himself," he told AFP last week.

Goh called for general elections nine months after taking over from Lee Kuan Yew in 1990.

The Straits Times report quoted veteran and former MPs as saying the PAP had been asking for "more names", especially potential women candidates. Many of those who were invited for the sessions are in their 30s.

Prime Minister Lee in his inaugural speech emphasized Singapore's next generation of leaders must be drawn from those born after Singapore's statehood in 1965, meaning those aged 39 or younger.

Many of the invitees are lawyers and doctors.

"And these are not your usual run-of-the-mill lawyers and doctors. They're all high-fliers in big firms and heads of hospitals or departments," one potential candidate told the newspaper.

Engineers, bankers, economists, journalists, entrepreneurs and professionals into volunteer work are also on the list.

The PAP has always drawn heavily from the private sector for fresh blood. Goh was a top executive of shipping giant Neptune Orient Lines when he was asked to run for politics in 1976.

17 Aug 2004

Making sense of Singaporean policies

(Singapore Studies)

Ever wondered what it means to be a Singaporean? The reason why this could be a difficult question, even for Singaporeans, is that contemporary Singapore is open to the ongoing dialectics of both local and global processes.

Monday, 16 August 2004

by Victoria Yew

Coming to grips with these forces has prompted Singapore to adopt numerous policy changes to keep up with the times. Indeed, the impact is often immediate, particularly given its diminutive population size, an approximate of a mere three million.

Yet, playing the role of the ancient chameleon is not simply a matter of colour management for the awkward fledgling lion. On a national scale, even for a city-state, this requires ongoing reflections and adjustments in policies and practice to cope with global changes.

In Singapore, such ongoing monitoring has been compared to deliberate socio-engineering. More importantly, the effects of these changes are often felt unequally by different groups in society.

For example, a diminishing fertility rate prompted the Graduate Mothers Scheme in 1983. This came as a surprise, especially after two decades of unabated commitment to a two-child family policy.

Even more surprising was the claim that graduates produce better babies and are more likely to be proficient at parenting given their scholastics merits. In practice, the scheme granted privileges to children of graduate mothers.

As for their less-educated, and low-income counterparts under 30 years of age; they would be given $10,000 if they had themselves sterilised after their first or second child. The scheme went unheeded and was abandoned shortly after its implementation.

When the birth rate continued to dip, the government did a volte-face and encouraged all citizens to go forth and multiply.

Another similar incident concerning the rights to citizenship: As from May 15, 2004, children born to Singaporean women abroad are able to obtain Singaporean citizenship by descent.

Singaporean men residing abroad, have always been permitted to pass on their citizenship to their children born overseas. In a statement released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), it was claimed that the law will become gender neutral to reflect the trend of increasing numbers of Singaporean men and women traveling overseas.

Arguably, the declining birth rate among Singaporeans might have inspired the change. Suffice to mention that a large number of Singaporean women living abroad include university graduates or the equivalent.

Misplaced perception

To date, we witness growing discourse concerning Singapore, in an effort to make better sense of this tiny champion of modernity. In fact, to use a sociological catch-phrase, Singapore is under siege by post-modernity and its discontents. As a result, the meaning of contemporary Singapore is anything but predictable.

Take, for instance, the common assumption that the shape of modern Singapore is a direct consequence of stringent policies and censorship via deliberate socio-engineering, as cited in the cases above.

The claim is further mooted on a civil society in absentia and that any attempt to promote its development has been futile in the past.

Despite its meteoric rise to economic success, the member of the Asian Tigers is often criticised for promoting capitalism and material well-being in exchange for personal freedom, political stability for expression, and so forth.

This is open to a variety of critiques. Most common among them being the case of excessive socio-engineering, particularly of a society fresh out of its colonial clutches.

This is often compared to the transference of political subservience from the foreign (then British Empire) to the local governing elite minority.

While this may be a misplaced perception and its independence from British rule has generally been viewed positively, given its post-colonial economic success, many are still uncertain if Singapore has truly arrived as a developed modern nation.

Given this interesting development, there remains many unexplored avenues in the study of the Singaporean phenomenon.

For example, many studies can be broadly grouped under two strands, political and cultural. While the first may be categorised in the light of the above comments, the latter is often relegated to discussions of consumption habits that banish Singaporean society to the realms of materialistic pursuits.

This discussion challenges the above assumption and proposes an alternative view of Singapore as a post-modern and multifarious society that far eludes rigid categorisations.

This is not to suppose Singapore as a society removed from the discontents of modernity. On the contrary, being Singaporean is only a point of departure.


The forces of modern instrumentalism have hitherto driven the making of Singapore, thus relegating all activities to the criterion of economic effectiveness and pragmatism. Such rationality has been embraced as the essence for progress.

It is also the cornerstone underlying the transformation of the pre-modern pre-industrial Lion City to the modern industrial Singapore. The family policies discussed above reflect these sentiments.

It would seem that Singapore has indeed emerged a winner by global standards, having arrived as a forerunner amongst other developed counterparts within a period of just over three decades.

Indeed, the progress of Singapore is no foregone conclusion. Singapore's hardline attitude towards modernisation via socio-engineering, beginning with language policies, economic re-structuring and the like, seeks to counteract every socio-cultural pressure that stood in the way of modernity.

Undoubtedly many benefits were reaped, such as better standards of living and education. But just as other nations that have done likewise, Singapore did not escape from its unpredictable outcomes.

In the push for progress through the instruments of capitalism, other aspects of modernity have been neglected or even sidelined.

Thus, to make sense of Singapore, one must examine this curious case of modernity without the sentiments of Western ideals. Singapore uniquely challenges these rigid Western categorisations and continues to elude a simple analysis.

Letting a hundred flowers blossom

The rise of Lee Junior heralds a new era of openness and freedom. This all sounded familiar when I listened to the PAP Party Political broadcast on the 12th of August 2004. His exact phrase was, "Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas or simply be different,"

Of all the quotations in the "Little Red Book", by Chairman Mao, none is more inspiring or chilling than this. It comes from a brief period of reform in the fifties known as the "Hundred Flowers Campaign" during which Mao encouraged complete freedom of thought, including criticism of the Party. The result was much more vigorous debate than Mao had expected and the period ended with an abrupt crackdown against those who had raised their voices in opposition. It could stand as a critique of the failures of the Cultural Revolution itself, which tried to settle ideological questions by force under the guise of debate.

Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting the progress of the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land. Different forms and styles in art should develop freely and contend freely. We think that it is harmful to the growth of art and science if administrative measures are used to impose one particular style of art or school of thought and to ban another. Questions of right and wrong in the arts and sciences should be settled through free discussion in artistic and scientific circles and through practical work in these fields. They should not be settled in summary fashion.Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (February 27, 1957)

An editorial piece by The Age picked on a similar undertone of a little bit of history repeating itself...

Another Lee leads Singapore
August 17, 2004

A second generation of leadership confirms the dynastic rule of the island state.

The swearing in of 52-year-old Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore's third prime minister in 45 years of self-government formally cements the place of the Lee dynasty in the tiny nation state's history. It also underscores the political pre-eminence of his father, Lee Kuan Yew. Not that there has ever been much doubt about that. By the time Mr Lee snr retired as prime minister in 1990, the younger Mr Lee was already a junior minister. He was then appointed deputy prime minister and eventually finance minister and head of the central bank. Other Lee family members are prominent in Singapore life, too. Lee Hsien Loong's wife, Ho Ching, heads Temasek Holdings, the Government's investment arm. His brother Hsien Yang is head of SingTel, the regional telecommunications giant. And Lee Kuan Yew remains a pivotal figure in the Government, lately as senior minister and now, aged 80, with the new title of "minister mentor". It would not be wildly speculative to suggest that few decisions of substance are made in Singapore without his knowledge, if not input. There are cultural norms that inform this process of empowering families in Asia, but they are squarely at odds with modern democratic practice.

Singapore, an island on the end of the Malay peninsula with a land area almost exactly the size of Western Port and a population of 4.2 million, has grown to be the sort of Asian society to which its neighbours have long aspired. It emerged from sleepy British colonialism to become a prosperous, well-educated and politically stable economic powerhouse. It exploited its geographical position as an Asian hub to become an important trading centre. With English as its official language and a commercial legal tradition rooted in its colonial past, it became an attractive regional centre for business. The sticking point for many Singaporeans and outsiders is the authoritarian, undemocratic rule imposed by the Lee-led People's Action Party for the past half-century. Originally a bulwark against communism, many of the more repressive measures have continued to be used to keep the PAP in power, even though their original justification disappeared long ago. The party holds all but two seats in the 84-member Parliament. Political opponents have been subject to harsh anti-subversion laws and the use of crushing defamation actions as a means of bankrupting them. The media have been effectively cowed by a system of annual licences and pressure not to air certain subjects.

Lee Hsien Loong, Cambridge and Harvard-educated and a former brigadier in the Singapore armed forces, is promising a more sympathetic, caring and open society. "Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas or simply be different," he said after being sworn in last week. Given the nation's disdain for dissent, it will be a brave Singaporean indeed who interprets this invitation literally.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

14 Aug 2004

Singapore must drop 'out-of-bounds' censorship

By Michael Backman (michaelbackman@y...)
Asia Online
August 13, 2004

What is Singapore? A country or a child-care centre?That is a question Singapore's new Prime Minister, LeeHsien Loong, might do well to reflect on.

Singaporeans are sophisticated, well travelled andrich - yet the rules governing their media belong to another era. When it comes to local media,Singaporeans are fed a diet of mush and only the occasional solid.

Why? Singapore is no longer threatened by communism. The battle was won long ago and it's time to loosen up. Media freedom today is a business issue. Media that doesn't simply report but also scrutinises promotes better corporate governance in government andbusiness. The threat of media exposure is a powerful one. But not in Singapore.

Defamation laws and anti-racial vilification laws can deal with libel and racial vilification in the media, but Singapore maintains a system whereby practically every media outlet ultimately is controlled by the Government, is licensed annually and is subject to unwritten and vague "out-of-bounds" (OB) markers -topics that the Government doesn't like canvassed in the media. And in the event these OB topics are
discussed in the media, the Government promises retribution.

Last year, I fell foul of these mysterious markers. Information Minister Lee Boon Yang said in a speech that I had "crossed the line" and sought to intervene in Singapore's domestic politics. I'd written a column on media regulation in Singapore, published in the local, Government-linked Today newspaper.

Dr Lee's definition of what constitutes politics seems unique. Not that he's defined it, of course.

Earlier this year, another of my columns was published in the Today newspaper. It was about the high salaries awarded to Singapore Government ministers. I wrote that I felt those high salaries were justified. The piece received the relevant OKs from the information ministry and was published. This made clear something else about Singapore's OB markers. You only actually cross one if what you say differs from the Government line. From that, I deduced that it's not me that's
political, it's the OB markers.

In the absence of written guidelines, I suspect that Dr Lee really wanted me, to put it crudely, to keksai. In Hokkien this means to "hold shit", that is to hold in a bowel movement, a local euphemism for self-censorship.

OB markers that are not spelt out demand that people think within a certain mindset and their nefarious nature means that people err on the side of caution. OB markers contribute to the problem of the lack of creativity and entrepreneurship in Singapore, the very problem that the Government always complains about.

Look at the case of AirAsia, Asia's first budget airline and the most significant development in East Asian aviation in decades. Where did AirAsia originate? Not in Singapore with its excellent, Government-built aviation facilities, but in Malaysia. And so on this, as in many matters now, Singapore isdancing to a Malaysian tune.

OB markers encourage people to think only inside the box, to avoid being courageous and daring - the very attributes that we associate with Lee Kuan Yew, particularly in the early years. Singapore needs more people with the courage and the daring of a young Lee Kuan Yew, not just in politics, but in business and in all aspects of life. But what has happened to those attributes? There is far too much cowering in Singapore, particularly by its journalists.

But the greatest threat posed by the Government's OB markers is to the rule of law.

Singapore has become as rich as it is because it has a strong rule of law. The rule of law requires that laws be written down, that they are precise and that they are gazetted.

But the Singapore Government's OB markers are nebulous. They are not written down. They are not transparent. And they are applied in a discretionary manner. They are absolutely contrary to the rule of law. They offer a sample of the sort of legal chaos that reigns in China and Indonesia.

The views of foreigners particularly are targeted by the Singapore Government for censorship. But surely foreigners have a right to comment on Singapore, in Singapore. They have a right to be part of the national debate. Why? Because foreigners have invested billions of dollars in Singapore. Those billions might not buy the right to vote, but they buy the right to express an opinion. Taking foreigners' money but not allowing them a voice betrays a lack of self-confidence on the part of the Government.

Uncodified OB markers threaten Singapore's reputation as a place that observes the rule of law. And they threaten its prosperity. The Singapore Government's needless, exquisite sensitivity on this makes the world laugh at Singapore. That is a great shame because in so many other areas the Singapore Government has done so well.

At the very least, if the Singapore Government must have OB markers, it should clearly spell out what they are and enshrine them in law. Better still, it should get rid of them. In a global world built on information and knowledge, countries, and particularly little countries, that demand that thinkers kek sai, will end up with a sai economy.

If Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wants to demonstrate that "generational change" really is under way in Singaporean politics as he claims he does, then one of his first acts ought to be to drag Singaporean media law into the 21st century. But so far, the signs are not good. On Tuesday he reaffirmed the existence of the Information Ministry, when it should be abolished. And the incumbent was reappointed as Information Minister.

12 Aug 2004

Singapore's philosopher-prince'

Andrew Wood
BBC correspondent in Singapore

On Thursday, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, will be sworn in as the republic's third prime minister after spending 14 years as deputy premier.

Lee Hsien Loong is perhaps the closest the modern world has to the ancient thinker Plato's idea of a philosopher-prince. Mr Lee junior is undoubtedly intelligent, with degrees from Cambridge and Harvard universities, and he has been groomed from an early age to lead his country.

"The son has now achieved the father's ambition," one shopkeeper said, who did not want to be named.

Lee Kuan Yew has long said that his son was talented enough to have been prime minister years ago, but for misplaced concerns about dynastic successions.

Whatever the official denials, having an eldest son as leader plays well in Singapore's Confucian-flavoured patriarchal political culture.

"There are a few wry smiles about the succession, but there are no doubts about his [Lee Hsien Loong's] competence," says David Cohen, director of Asia economic forecasting at Action Economics in Singapore.

"I think no-one is anticipating a radical departure from what we have come to expect from the Singapore government."

That is echoed by social critic and gay activist, Alex Au. "He's not a new prime minister. He's been a cabinet minister for two decades, and deputy prime minister for 14 years."

Mr Au dismisses hopes that Mr Lee will free Singapore's nanny state from its strict social controls.

"He's had a lot of input into current policies. I don't think he has any new ideas or style of leadership. That hasn't come through. I don't see any major departure from current policies."

The outgoing prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, suggested that Mr Lee try to soften his no-nonsense, uncompromising and tough image.

Mixed signals

In recent months, Singaporeans have been treated to lots of articles and programmes in the government-controlled media that show Mr Lee's cuddlier side.

"We need to keep a certain stability and ballast so that when we move, we have the advantage of the experience of people who have moved ahead of us"
Lee Hsien Loong

However, Mr Goh's attempts in a 2003 National Day rally speech to quash rumours that Mr Lee once slapped a colleague in a cabinet meeting may have backfired.

One look at the satirical website TalkingCock.com (named after a Singaporean expression for spouting nonsense), suggests that Mr Goh may have inadvertently stimulated more jokes at Mr Lee's expense.

He has had a troubled personal life. He has suffered - and overcome - cancer. His first wife committed suicide. Their son is albino and autistic.

Mr Lee gives mixed signals about the direction he will lead Singapore. He has hinted that Singapore needs modernisation, and more openness.

But he has also promised to fight political enemies hard - even Singapore's weak and fragmented opposition.

Singapore is trying to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. It has big ambitions to lead the world in anything from logistics to biotechnology.

Business as usual

But Mr Lee seems to prefer his country to take things slowly.

In April, he told parliament: "If you are absolutely up at the leading edge in matters of social change, you are never quite sure whether the leading edge has taken a wrong turn, needs to back track and make a U-turn.

"We need to keep a certain stability and ballast so that when we move, we have the advantage of the experience of people who have moved ahead of us.

"And when they have gone a strange way, we will wait and see and if after one or two generations, it still makes sense, and if yes, then we follow them."

Stability has long been one of Singapore's selling points, something that few other countries in the region can offer.

The change of leader has been flagged for years.

The People's Action Party has been in power since 1959. Its pragmatic, business-friendly economic policies have delivered wealth, homes and jobs.

It is not a liberal democracy in the Western sense, but that does not seem to worry Singaporeans. At elections, the vast majority of people who can vote, choose the PAP.

There are few signs that Lee Hsien Loong will radically change course for his country. Success has bred success.

But cruelly, the roots of failure are often nourished by the same conditions that led to that success. That may be the biggest challenge to the reign of the philosopher-prince.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/08/11 20:39:37 GMT


11 Aug 2004

A soulless hotel called Singapore

(Singapore Studies)

Singapore is becoming a more open and civic society. It must be so, because editorials in The Straits Times - a paper which unlike its decadent western counterparts, only deals in fact - constantly referred to it throughout June, two months before the transfer of leadership.

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

by David Martin Jones

Indeed, the city state ruled uninterruptedly since independence from the British - and later separating from Malaysia in 1965 - by the People’s Action Party (PAP) now encourages homosexuals to enter the civil service and tolerates a sanitised form of table-top dancing in bars around Clarke Quay.

More particularly, prime-minster-in-waiting Lee Hsien Loong made it clear that his mission, when he assumes office on Thursday, is to promote openness and transparency.

However, this can only be effective if Singaporeans care deeply about what goes on around them. Indeed, if they see a problem they need to speak up, or better still do something, Lee told the alumni of Singapore’s elite Harvard club on Jan 6, 2004.

Only then, he added, would a vibrant civic society emerge. He foresees such a society emerging through debating policies and national issues rigorously and robustly. But for debates to be fruitful it has to be issue-focused, based on facts and logic, and not just on assertion and emotions.

For Hsien Loong’s and the nation’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, destiny, rather than crassly nepotistic motives, required that the son also rises because in his generation he was more passionate about the future of the country than other people.

Leadership, Lee senior maintained, demanded an ability to persuade and mobilise. This task had become increasingly onerous as popular expectations had risen. Today, Lee Kuan Yew observed, Singaporeans were well-educated, comfortable and demanded more.

Yet the media attention devoted to the transfer of leadership and the new path Hsien Loong seeks to chart seems long on rhetoric but short on content. His desire to forge a vibrant civic society seems somewhat cliched.

Indeed, the ambiguity surrounding the term civic (as opposed to civil) society and its repetitious use in the state-licenced media indicates an incoherence at the core of PAP ideology and its leadership style, which despite the shift from Lee Kuan Yew’s paternalistic authoritarianism to the avuncular style of Goh Chok Tong’s second generation team, and shortly to the robust technocratic guidance of Hsien Loong remains unresolved.

The Next Lap

Consequently, Hsien Loong’s current concern with building a robust civic society rehashes arguments apparent in second generation PAP discourse since Lee Kuan Yew stepped aside from, but not out of, government, in November 1990. At that time, Goh’s new team announced ‘The Next Lap’ in development.

Interestingly, Goh’s1991 vision entailed a culturally vibrant and physically robust society. Subsequently, Goh’s new team ideologist, and Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo worried, in a curious analogy that Singapore was more like a hotel than a home. Clean, well managed and efficiently serviced, the city state nevertheless lacked soul.

Yeo consequently argued, that the state must withdraw a little and provide more space for local initiatives. He contended that good government required local initiatives and a balance between state intervention and the pluralistically diverse initiatives that emerge from civic society.

Singapore, in other words, has since 1991 confronted a paradox. A single party managed state pragmatically organised as a corporation achieved spectacular economic and social development. However, in the process it created, not an organically integrated community, but a five-star hotel where residents might like to spend a vacation, but not a lifetime.

In 1991, Yeo maintained that the paradox of sustained economic growth inducing social sterility might be resolved by the state retreating from the civic domain. A central feature of Next Lap thinking, thus, required disengagement of the state from society in order to facilitate active citizen participation.

Developing a metaphor that gained increasing currency in the course of the decade, the banyan tree of the state had to be pruned so that civic society might catch the light and grow. Of course, as Yeo argued in 1991, Singapore would always need a strong centre and pluralism but not too much because too much will destroy it. In other words, pruning judiciously.

Elaborating the theme and mixing the metaphor, Straits Times political editor Han Fook Kwang concluded that the Next Lap would be run as a mass participation sport. The problem was getting enough Singaporeans to participate as players, not just as spectators. Thus in January 1991, the challenge of building a vibrant civic society constituted the political challenge of the future and it was to be managed from above - by technocratic guidance yet promoting liberal spontaneity.

It sounded incoherent even in 1991 and in practice, it was. In fact, the second generation leadership deliberately chose the denotation, civic, to connote the more open, civil, while at the same time retaining the meaning of civic (that which pertains to citizens) to manage the space opened after 1991 to civil/civic participation.

Ersatz society

Ultimately, state-managed openness produced not a robust but an ersatz society. As C O Khong observed, in 1995, a civic culture acutely conscious of being itself a prime beneficiary of Singapore’s economic paternalism found it impossible to break away from comfortable certainty.

Indeed, the majority had made the pragmatic calculation that swings towards inaction. That those misguided enough to test the limits of civic robustness and who discovered that debate often entailed a quick visit to the most efficient judiciary in the world only reinforced a growing middle-class propensity to inaction.

Thus those like Chee Soon Juan in 1992, Tan Lian Hong in 1996 and J P Jeyeratnam at various times tried to engage in vigorous political contestation outside PAP-determined OB markers found themselves castigated, sued and politically exiled.

Ironically, despite the desire to promote a more critically engaged polity, the qualifications and exceptions to Singaporeans’ freedom of speech actually grew in the 1990s, with new restrictions on political films and websites.

Thus although the government-licenced Speakers Corner to encourage free speech, and the 2003 Committee for the Remaking of Singapore outlined new directions for Singapore’s social and political development actual levels of political participation have declined since the inauguration of the Next Lap.

By the time Hsien Loong delivered his address to the Harvard Club in 2004, observers struggled to identify more than a handful of groups devoted to civil activism. Indeed, there are increasingly few avenues for the citizen to debate issues of political interest outside the remit of state-sanctioned civic participation.

Significantly, the most robust group of self-determining, civic-minded citizens promote an issue close to the bowels of the PAP. Thus Jack Lim’s Restrooms Association of Singapore is one of the few civic groups where citizens enthusiastically contribute to Hsien Loong’s vibrant civic society.

Ultimately, Hsien Loong’s determination to build a dynamic society remains trapped in the incoherent desire of the administrative state’s need to micro-manage citizen participation. This seemingly endless recycling of state-led anxiety, however, by no means indicates failure.

Uncertainty about what civic obligation entails actually reinforces the neurosis that binds a citizenry inured to compartmentalise commitment while at the same time responding loyally to the latest injunction of the administrative state without acknowledging its constituting incoherence.

10 Aug 2004

New Water

While watching, (very briefly) the National Day rally for the PAP i was struck by the number of shiny happy people.. Then I read on the BBC that traces of Prozac have been found in drinkning water in the UK. Where those taking part in the celebrations provided with free NEW Water. If so, I think I have found an answer to the smiley happy people.. read on

Prozac 'found in drinking water'

Traces of the antidepressant Prozac can be found in the nation's drinking water, it has been revealed.

An Environment Agency report suggests so many people are taking the drug nowadays it is building up in rivers and groundwater.

A report in Sunday's Observer says the government's environment watchdog has discussed the impact for human health.

A spokesman for the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said the Prozac found was most likely highly diluted.


The newspaper says environmentalists are calling for an urgent investigation into the evidence.

It quotes the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, Norman Baker MP, as saying the picture emerging looked like "a case of hidden mass medication upon the unsuspecting public".

He says: "It is alarming that there is no monitoring of levels of Prozac and other pharmacy residues in our drinking water."

Experts say the anti-depression drug gets into the rivers and water system via treated sewage water.

Prescriptions increase

The DWI said the Prozac (known technically as fluoxetine) was unlikely to pose a health risk as it was so "watered down".

The Observer says the revelations raise new fears over how many prescriptions for the drug are given out by doctors.

In the decade leading up to 2001, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants went up from nine million per year to 24 million per year, says the paper.

The Environment Agency report concluded that the Prozac in the water table could be potentially toxic and said the drug was a "potential concern".

The exact amount of Prozac in the nation's drinking water is not known.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/08/08 04:17:04 GMT


Asian values behind Singapore son's rise


Asian values behind Singapore son's rise
By Gary LaMoshi
10 August 2004

HONG KONG - Despite well-publicized signs that Singapore is loosening up by allowing dancing on bars, funding performances that include the f-word, and even legalizing chewing gum (for medicinal purposes, available from pharmacists) under pressure from United States trade negotiators, writer Alfian Sa'at contends little has changed.

"Remaking Singapore" - the government's campaign to encourage creativity among the island's 3.8 million citizens - "is nothing more than Re-branding Singapore," he claims. According to Sa'at, the list of restrictions on freedom of _expression recently grew. "Dynasty and nepotism - definitely taboo," warns the enfant terrible of Singapore's literary scene on the eve of the good son rising to the office of prime minister.

Singapore celebrates National Day on August 9. In future years, perhaps in connection with its campaign to increase the birth rate, August 12 may come to be known as Family Day. On that date this week, Lee Hsien Loong, the oldest son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, takes over from Goh Chok Tong to become the island nation's third prime minister.

The younger Lee was elected to Parliament following a military career that saw him reach Brigadier-General by the age of 32. After his father stepped aside in 1990, Lee warmed up for the prime minister's job by serving as finance minister and central bank governor. He's expected to cede at least one of those posts in the new Cabinet.

Current Prime Minister Goh has been tapped to succeed Lee Kuan Yew as senior minister, which Lee calls the "number two" post. The elder Lee promises that, whatever title he's given, he will continue to exercise significant influence and speak out on key issues, privileges still denied average citizens in this state created in Lee's own image.

The party line is that Lee Kuan Yew discouraged his son from joining the political fray. That's another dubious tale from the Singapore myth machine. That mechanism's greatest achievement is perpetrating the lie that Singapore ranks among the freest economies on earth (See Singapore's capitalist myth November 7, 2002).

It probably feels like a free enough economy for the Lee family. In addition to his key economic posts, the incoming prime minister's wife, Ho Ching, chairs Temasek, the state investment corporation that scratches acquisitive itches at home and abroad using the Finance Ministry's checkbook, while his younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, heads SingTel, the state-owned telecom company that is spreading its wires around the globe. That's not just a nanny state, it's a socialist family business.

Lee Kuan Yew deserves praise for raising Singapore from a down at the heels harbor town cut loose by Malaysia into a modern economic showplace. Based on that success, Lee and his People's Action Party could have dominated the political scene fair and square.

Instead, Singapore's leadership developed the bad habit of using the apparatus of government to stifle opposition. But trusting in the judgment of others isn't in Lee's nature. Neither is humility for this man whose success in tiny Singapore has led him to offer prescriptions of the world at large, the equivalent of getting 100%
on a spelling test and thinking that is sufficient to practice medicine.

Before the economic crisis, Lee lectured the world about what he called Asian values. At the center of these Asia values was the appealing notion that Asians - except some very special ones named Lee, for example - sacrificed individual aspirations for the greater good of society. After drinking some of this Kool-Aid before I moved to Hong Kong a decade ago, my discovery of real Asian values was a
great disappointment.

Rather than a heightened sense of responsibility to society at large, I've noticed precisely the opposite. East Asians generally show little consideration for people around them, whether it's rampant spitting in Hong Kong, complete disregard for other vehicles by motorists, bicyclists and even pedestrians in Bali, or simply the
unwillingness to help a bewildered visitor without a product or service to sell him. Asians raise indifference - as opposed to outright rudeness, as practiced in my native New York - to an art form.

This bewildered visitor couldn't understand the contradiction between Lee's Asian values and Asian behavior until an Indonesian friend came to the rescue. Of course we sacrifice for the greater good, she explained, but that greater good extends no farther than our own clan. The closer the connection, the more we'll sacrifice, so we'll do the most for our families, then perhaps our friends. But without some personal connection, we couldn't care less.

That understanding of Asian values makes Asian behavior much clearer. For example, it puts the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s and the ineffectiveness of subsequent reforms into a sensible perspective. Crony capitalism wasn't the result of some structural or legal deficiency that can be fixed through restructuring or stricter regulation, it was, and is, a natural consequence of the government
and its business supporters becoming a clan unto themselves. Until governments stop playing a leading role in national economies, the problems underlying the crisis will persist.

Asian values explain the widespread acceptance of Indonesia's disgraced former president Suharto turning his children into business tycoons, and why families loll down a crowded sidewalk as if they own it. Most of all, Asian values explain why, even with a population that he declared was prepared to sacrifice for the greater good, Lee Kuan Yew fashioned Singapore into a restrictive society that proscribes choices narrowly.

When he takes office on Thursday, Lee Hsien Loong will become the fourth ruler in East Asia currently occupying their father's old post. He'll join Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, whose dead father remains head of state. The
younger Lee is the first to reach the top while his predecessor-father remains on the scene.

So instead of worrying about taboos and restrictions on freedom, let's celebrate Lee Hsien Loong's ascension as a grand triumph of Lee Kuan Yew's celebrated Asian values. They've always been a family affair.

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5 Aug 2004

The Son Rises

Strange how the new Mr Lee looks remarkably like the old one

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.

NGOs try to spare maids from Singapore gallows

Jakarta Post: NGOs try to spare maids from Singapore gallows

NGOs try to spare maids from Singapore gallows
A. Junaidi, Jakarta

Activists from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) urged the government on Wednesday to take diplomatic measures and legal action to help five Indonesian female housemaids now facing possible death sentences in Singapore.

The activists delivered their demand during a meeting with Indonesia's Ambassador to Singapore Mochamad S. Hidayat and Singaporean defense lawyer Muhammad Muzamil at the office of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in Jakarta.

"The government should be more active in using diplomatic pressure and legal measure to save the housemaids," Nurmawati of the Indonesian Migrant Worker Protection Association (PPTKI) said.

Five Indonesian workers are currently facing the possibility of a death sentence in Singapore for separate murders over the last year. They are as Sudarti Supriyanto, Purwanti Parji, Sumiyati Karyo, Juminem and Siti Aminah. They have all been charged with murder, which carries a maximum sentence of death.

The verdict against Sudarti is expected to be issued on May 10, while the remaining four are still being handled by Singaporean police and have yet to reach the courts.

According to Nurmawati, government officials, including those at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore, had paid very little attention to problems faced by Indonesian housemaids there.

Singapore is one of the destination countries for unskilled Indonesian workers, who left the country in a desperate search for work of any kind.

The majority of around 1.3 million Indonesian migrant workers overseas, including 60,000 in Singapore, are women, who on a number of well-publicized occasions, have suffered abuse at the hands of their employers, but even more common is the rampant extortion by Indonesian officials.

Nurmawati said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should use diplomatic channels to spare the housemaids from the gallows, and that President Megawati Soekarnoputri should request the Singaporean government to lighten their sentences.

Many activists from various NGOs, including Migrant Care, Dompet Dhuafa and the Committee for Migrant Workers Protection (Kopbumi) attended the discussion.

Ambassador Mochamad S. Hidayat claimed that the government could not use diplomatic measures while the case was still being heard in the courts.

"We can't interfere in the court system. But after a sentence is handed down, we promise to use diplomatic channels to assist the housemaids," Hidayat.

He admitted that Sudarti's case was very serious as she was charged with murder in the death of her employer and her child, as well as burning her employer's office and robbery.

Sudarti's lawyer Muzamil, who was appointed by both Singaporean and Indonesian governments, said that he would use a self-defense argument to get Sudarti off.

Muzamil revealed that based on the court's hearings, Sudarti had not been given meals by her employers for three days before the murder occurred on June 22, two years ago.

"Her employer was known for being cruel. Another maid also testified that she was tortured by the same employer," he said.

However, he said that although evidence, including a post-mortem examination, showed that Sudarti stabbed her employer to death, the defendant refused to admit it and maintains that her employer committed suicide.

He said Sudarti's mother Binarti has been brought to Singapore to visit her and asked her to admit to the crime in order to save her from death penalty, but so far the defendant still claims that the employer committed suicide.

"Sudarti often tells me that she prefers the death sentence rather than a life sentence," Muzamil said.