Some salient points regarding the political situation are made but fails to grasp one important matter. Singaporean politicians have never claimed to aspire to anything resembling a democracy. Lee Hsien Loong recently stated that Singapore would not be a 'liberal-democracy' for the next 20 years. It is a petty dictatorship that HAS NEVER pretended to be anything else.
Friday, October 28, 2005 - 05:03 PM
If all else fails, as seems the case, what can we do to vent the fury that many of us feel about the impending execution of Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore? I know what I'll be doing: following the advice of my colleague Mark Baker in The Age, and having as little to do with this quasi-democracy as possible.
The country seems deeply precious -- in the bad way -- its leaders devoid of any sense of humour, always attempting to censor and silence anyone who disagrees with them. As Reporters Without Borders highlights, the Singaporean media are cowed and compliant. It all occurs under the spurious cloak of "Asian values" and respect for the wisdom of elders. What hogwash.
It is a petty dictatorship, where after a suitable interregnum, the ruling family has been restored to power. It is effectively a one-party state, where the government uses its iron grip on the legal system to drive any opponents from office.
First it was Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, who in 1981 smashed 16 years of one-party rule when he was elected to Parliament as the sole representative of the Worker's Party. Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who has since put his son on the throne, said the courageous Jeyaretnam should be "destroyed" for bucking the system.
Lee family regent, Goh Chok Tong, also tried to drive another opposition figure, Chee Soon Juan, from office, by suing him with the aim of bankrupting him, thereby making him ineligible to run for office.
Lee was also an apologist for the tyrants of Burma -- or Myanmar, as he acquiescingly calls it -- and its brutal suppression of Aung San Suu Kyi.
And, of course, it has a politicised legal system, which always seems to find in favour of the whinging government minister suing the opposition into oblivion, and now imposing the death sentence on an unfortunate young Australian. Yes, Nguyen Tuong Van was carrying drugs, not into Singapore, but through Singapore and into Australia, and only to raise enough to pay the debts of his imperiled brother.
Was he aware of his crime and the disastrous impact of heroin addiction? The answers are, respectively, yes and probably. But should his penalty be judicial murder in a country with, according to Amnesty International, the highest per capita execution rate in the world? (More than 420 people have been executed since 1991, the majority for drug trafficking.) I think not but maybe you disagree.
Some correspondents have responded to Mark Baker's call for a boycott -- both as a travel destination and of its companies, such as Singapore Airlines and Optus -- by asking why single out Singapore.
I tell you why. Because it is a petty dictatorship that pretends to be so much more.
Posted by Andrew West at October 28, 2005 05:03 PM