AP , SINGAPORE
Monday, Apr 18, 2005,Page 5
Advertising Singapore's government on Sunday defended its decision to bar an Amnesty International researcher from speaking at a public forum about the death penalty in the city-state, saying it doesn't need a foreigner to lecture it on its criminal justice system.
Timothy Parritt from London-based Amnesty International -- which has frequently criticized Singapore authorities for their use of the death penalty and curbs on free speech -- attended the forum on Saturday but did not speak.
Instead, organizers read out a statement he issued, which expressed disappointment at not being allowed to speak and called on Singapore's government to place a moratorium on executions.
"Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world. We do not require a foreigner to tell Singapore and Singaporeans how our criminal justice system should function," a Home Affairs Ministry spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity yesterday.
She also cited international surveys, such as one conducted last year by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, in which wealthy Singapore was named as having one of the best judicial systems in the region.
Amnesty says Singapore has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world. Singapore imposes a mandatory death penalty by hanging for anyone caught with more than 15g of heroin or more than 500g of marijuana. Singapore says it needs its strict laws to deter drug use.
Parritt's statement said the audience of about 100 people at the forum was a positive sign that public debate about the issue was growing.
The speaker would struggle to pass the IELTS.