20 Sep 2005

Singapore defends controls on public speech

To look at the title above and then reading the article below you might get the impression that Lee Hsien Loong is Singapore.

LHL is rightly concerned that we don't want to trivialize these discussions, what he means by 'glamourise' is beyond me though, does he mean commercialise or is he referring to Xiaxue's site?

To the list I would like to add the previso that he and his fellow 'elected' [I use the term loosely] representatives also refrain from 'criminalising' the online discussions on social and political issues. The process of criminalising politics is so deep rooted that many refuse to discuss politics beyond the boundaries of humour or parody. The recent hauling before court of three alleged racists under the heavy handed enforcement of the Sedition Act further reinforces the idea that discussing serious issues and voicing alternative viewpoints could have one labelled as subversive and criminalised in Singapore.

Surely such an intelligent individual would be aware of the major hurdle undermining social and political discussion in Singapore. Aware of it and yet contented.

2005-09-20 / Associated Press /

Singapore's prime minister has acknowledged tensions over the country's tight controls on public speech and political activity, but defended the regulations as necessary to maintain order, a newspaper said yesterday.

"I think we have two contradictory requirements," Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with The Straits Times. "On the one hand, people want to explore social issues and political issues and talk about subjects which people are concerned about. But at the same time, you don't want your politics to become trivialized or glamorized."

"I think there's some tension," he said.

Singapore, a stable and thriving Asian economic hub, is known for its extremely safe streets and clean government. But strict laws discourage dissent, making public debate muted in comparison with poorer but more freewheeling countries in the region.

Conscious of the city-state's staid image, leaders have relaxed some controls. Lee said there was a trend toward more openness - but only within government-mandated boundaries.

"There are ways you can work within the law and get your message across," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "If you want to express yourself, there are no lack of avenues for doing so either on the Internet, in the media. Or you can make a (theatrical) play, and many people do."

However, three Singaporeans were charged last week with sedition for allegedly posting racist remarks on the Internet. One, a 17-year-old, allegedly made inflammatory comments on his personal Web site about the country's Muslim ethnic Malay minority. Singapore is 80 percent ethnic Chinese.

In a separate case, Singaporean director Martyn See is under investigation for making a documentary called "Singapore Rebel" about an opposition leader. Police have said See may have broken the law by knowingly showing or distributing a "party political film."

In 2000, the government approved a "Speakers' Corner," a small area in a downtown park where people can speak in public - but only if they register with police first, use no amplification equipment and avoid race, religion and inciting hostility toward the government.

There is little interest in the site.

Lee defended a police investigation of an incident in which some people displayed eight cardboard signs depicting white elephants - a symbol of waste and poor planning - during a Cabinet minister's visit last month to a train station that has yet to open after long delays.

Police had "received a complaint, I think a 999 call," Lee said, referring to an emergency phone number. "If they didn't investigate, they might well be accused of being partial or being less than zealous in their duty. So they have to deal with it. You need public order."

1 comment:

akikonomu said...

Hi Steve, the title was an editorial decision by etaiwannews or Associated Press? Unless you're saying that Minilee insisted on this title...