16 Dec 2005

Human Rights Issues in Singapore

International Human Rights Day was over just recently but we should not forget the whole urgent notion of expanding civil and political expression in Singapore.

Singapore is shamefully not a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It just goes to show us how uncommitted the regime is trying to establish our rights as individuals to determine politics in Singapore. The regime in its feeble defence has given excuses that human rights issues will be gradually implemented in future only when the time is appropriate. Right.

What are the regime's past excuses for not expanding civil and political rights in Singapore? These are:

Communitarianism - the rights of the community comes before that of the individual

Relativism - Western notions of human rights cannot be applied totally in Singapore

Prioritising - that economic stability takes precedence and only when Singapore reaches a certain level of social stability and economic affluence can benevolent authoritarianism be rolled back

I would not criticise the communitarianism and relativism excuses for now and would only focus on the Prioritising argument. This argument is especially stale. It is also the easist to understand and confirms that at least one of the regime's excuses on why Singapore is not ready for more civil and political rights is pure rubbish. And if one argument is total nonsense, what about the other two? The deck of cards slowly collapses.

Hasn't Singapore reached a laudable GDP per capita level such that we, as a political community, are ready to allow and encourage some peaceful protests and democratic dissent?

The UN rates Singapore's human development (education, standard of living etc) as fairly high according to world standards. Singapore is easily one of the better off countries in the world, something that the regime always tries to remind the supposed ingrates among us. Yet, Singapore is one of the most restrictive globally in the area of political rights and civil liberties.

If we are ranked 140th in the UN Human Development Index, then I will buy the idea that some benign dictatorship is apt and economic priorities come first. Humans fundamentally demand a right to economic security and social stability. These come first, food on the table and roof over our heads. But we are nowhere the bottom in the UNHD index but yet this pathetic lack of civil and political rights remain. It is as if we were still economically struggling Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s. Look at the recent state of such rights being dismissed by the regime:

Article 19 of the Covenant

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The examples of Joshua B Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan are telling. They certainly do not have the right to peacefully express their political views without direct interference and intimidation from the regime. Even ordinary citizens standing on the sidelines are made to watch their mouth.

Article 21 of the Covenant

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Remember the 4-person CPF protest and the police's reaction? Wasn't that a blatant disregard of the right to peaceful protest as permitted in the laws of the land?

Something is rotten in the state of Singapore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Communitarianism - the rights of the community comes before that of the individual"

It is all nice and dandy for those who sits atop the community to blabber about group benefits before self. Solely as it benefits those who govern, especially when there is no transparency and accountability to their actions.