18 April 2005
Open Singapore Centre's Media Release
The Government's response to the denial of Amnesty International's (AI) Tim Parritt to speak on the death penalty in Singapore is so lame it beggars belief.Chee Soon Juan
The Home Affairs Ministry says: "We do not require a foreigner to tell Singapore and Singaporeans how our criminal justice system should function," and then cites the Political Risk and Economic Risk Consultancy's (PERC) – an organization run by a US citizen based in Hong Kong – praise of the legal system here.
The truth of the matter is that the Government will make sure that whenever foreigners make positive remarks about Singapore, no matter how wrong they are, they always make the headlines. But when international organizations criticize the PAP, they are promptly prosecuted, sued, or accused of interfering in our domestic affairs.
No foreign interference? Our National Wages Council, a body that effective determines the wages of Singaporean workers, include three foreigners: representatives from the German, American and Japanese chambers of commerce. Do we interfere in other countries' affairs? The Singapore Government got a-hold of Boeing, Exxon-Mobil, and UPS to lobby the US Congress to approve the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement a couple of years ago.
The reality is that in this age of globalisation societies and their systems are becoming more interlinked. We are moving towards greater free trade and democracy. But while the PAP wants to talk about trade and commerce, it prevents criticism of its undemocratic ways. Unfortunately in this day and age, the countries that will move ahead fastest and remain most stable are the ones that are open in terms of economics and democratic in terms of politics.
Still this doesn't answer the question of why an organization like the PERC speaks so well of the PAP and its system. Remember, this is the same consultancy that showed that Singaporeans were more expensive than Americans, which was then so comically cited by Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan as justification for the further reductions of Singaporeans' wages. A closer look at PERC's set up reveals that the company's clients are businesspeople and corporations.
Accordingly, their surveys often depend on corporate executives who have limited knowledge and understanding of the justice system in Singapore. It is highly unlikely that PERC surveyed judges and lawyers, journalists, academics who are familiar with Singapore's legal system. If it did, the results would be vastly different.
Open Singapore Centre
18 April 2005