10 Feb 2006

Singapore Won't Allow Publication of Prophet Cartoons, Lee Says

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore won't allow the publication of a controversial sequence of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said late Thursday, condemning the caricatures as
insensitive.

Maintaining racial harmony is a higher priority than freedom of expression, Lee said in broad-ranging comments in a meeting with community leaders. He also warned Singapore remains a ``key target'' for terrorist attacks, according to a transcript of his remarks published in the Straits Times.

Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, first published in a Danish newspaper in September and subsequently reprinted in newspapers around the world, have sparked protests in which more than 10 people have died. Islam, followed by about 14 percent of Singapore's population, bans the visual depiction of the prophet, and Muslims were especially angered that one of the caricatures showed him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

``It's wrong, it's provocative. We would not have allowed in Singapore,'' Lee said in the two-hour dialogue yesterday with 1,700 community leaders and students. ``It was wrong for the Danish newspapers to publish the pictures, it was wrong for the other European newspapers to say, in solidarity, I will republish.''

Neighboring Malaysia, where three fifths of the population follow Islam, has also condemned the caricatures. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi suspended the permit of The Sarawak Press Sdn. after its Sarawak Tribune newspaper reprinted the cartoons, Malaysian state-owned Bernama News Agency reported late Thursday.

Furor

French Muslim leaders yesterday condemned the violence that followed the reprinting of the caricatures in France, though they will sue newspapers that carried the cartoons. The offending images were first carried in September by Jyllands- Posten in Denmark.

The Sarawak Tribune has apologized for republishing the caricatures, claiming a lone editor -- who has since resigned -- was responsible. The editor in question has said a superior cleared the offending page after he prepared it, the New Straits Times reported Wednesday.

Still, at a meeting on Thursday, ``all the Cabinet members, including non-Muslim ministers, described the reproduction as an irresponsible and insensitive act that warranted stern action,'' Bernama reported.

Satanic Verses

Singapore's Lee said that, in some circumstances, the maintenance of religious harmony is more important than freedom of expression. He cited the example of the city's ban on ``The Satanic Verses,'' the novel by Salman Rushdie that incensed many Muslims and led Iran's former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to sentence the author to death.

``In 1989, when Salman Rushdie wrote a book `Satanic Verses,' which many Muslims found very objectionable, we banned it,'' Lee said. ``People say, ``where is the freedom of expression?' We say maintaining harmony, peace, that's the first requirement.''

Singapore, which was expelled from a federation with Malaysia in 1965, was subject to communal violence in the 1960s and has since worked to avoid racial tensions. Unlike Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, the city has so far managed to avoid terrorist attacks by Islamist groups, though it has been the subject of several plots.

Indonesia last week deported Mas Selamat bin Kastari, known as Singapore's most-wanted man, to the city-state. The Singapore government said Mas Selamat planned to crash a plane into Singapore's Changi airport. It hasn't said whether he denies the allegations.

`Social Fabric'

Singapore has ``hardened'' potential terrorist targets such as hotels and entertainment areas, Lee said, comparing the threats with those it faced with communism and gang fights as the country became independent four decades
ago.

``Today's security problem is by far the most serious since the '50s and '60s,'' Lee said in the speech. In the event of a terrorist attack, ``it's not just the casualties and the physical damage, but the impact on our social fabric which will be severe and long-lasting.''

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

End of a democratic fighter?

February 10, 2006 Friday

HEADLINE: Hearing today on declaring Chee a bankrupt;
Court to hear application by SM Goh and MM Lee after SDP chief fails to pay $500,000 in damages

BYLINE: Sue-Ann Chia

BODY:
SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew

have applied to the High Court to make opposition politician Chee

Soon Juan a bankrupt.

This follows the failure of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)

chief to pay $500,000 in damages awarded to them by the High Court

last year in a defamation suit that he lost.

The application by the two leaders is scheduled to be heard this

afternoon in chambers, meaning the hearing is not held in public.

The High Court, in January last year, ordered Dr Chee to pay

$300,000 to Mr Goh and $200,000 to Mr Lee for defaming them during

the 2001 election campaign.

He had accused them of misleading Parliament over an alleged $17

billion loan to former Indonesian president Suharto.

Dr Chee did not file an appeal against the damages he was asked to

pay when the court made its decision on Jan 6 last year. He could

have mounted an appeal within a month of that decision.

Neither did he pay up. It was reported in March last year that Dr

Chee failed to meet a demand by lawyers acting for Mr Goh and Mr

Lee to pay the $500,000 in damages.

Lawyers from Drew & Napier, representing Mr Goh and Mr Lee, said

on March 16 last year that they had sent letters to Dr Chee on Feb

28, demanding that the court-awarded amount be paid within a

two-week period, that is by March 14.

According to the lawyers, the options that were open to Mr Goh and

Mr Lee included having Dr Chee's assets seized, or having him

declared a bankrupt.

They also had the option not to act immediately, as the court

judgment is valid for 12 years from the time it is delivered.

But in December last year, lawyers for Mr Goh and Mr Lee served Dr

Chee with a statutory demand, giving him 21 days to pay up. If he

failed to do so, they would apply to have him declared a bankrupt.

It is understood that the application to declare Dr Chee a

bankrupt was then filed last month.

Dr Chee, who contested in the 2001 General Election, cannot stand

in the next election, which must be held by June next year.

This is because he was fined $3,000 in 2002 for speaking without a

public entertainment licence. He was also fined $4,500 in October

the same year for trying to provide unlicensed public

entertainment and trespassing on government grounds.

Under the Constitution, a person who has been fined at least

$2,000 cannot stand for election to Parliament for five years.

sueann@sph.com.sg

soci said...

thanks anon

soci said...

"Maintaining racial harmony is a higher priority than freedom of expression," isn't Islam a religion and not a race or is he referring to the Malay population indirectly? And the idea that Singapore appears 140th in the press freedom index by RSF inorder to promote 'racial' harmony - I thought it denied freedom of expression in order to maintain its dominance of the political discourse and deny opposition MPs media coverage.

One major difference I have noticed is that LHL can categorically state that 'they' will not publish the images. Does 'they' refer to the media or the PAP or are they so obvisiously one and the same.

Anonymous said...

I have always found the so publicized harmony a Sham.

It's harmony compared to the riots of the previous century, it's harmony compared to what's hapening a the borders of Malaysia and Thailand.

But it's not harmony: the communities here are just that: there is not much mix between the them.
It's harmony like chickens, ducks and turkeys living together on green grass.
When the grass is green and every one has foodm chickens, ducks and turkeys can live together without a fight, yet they don't understand eachother one bit.
One there is no grass and no more food, what will happen?

rench00 said...

anon, i think you brought up a good point. this harmony is highly artificial. but it is harmony nonetheless. and the we have done a good job in achieving this level of artificial harmony given the short span of time we had to work on it.

i remembered coming back to Singapore after my first year studying in UK. and i stood on a street where there was a church, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Chinese temple along the very same street. and i felt proud to be Singaporean. there are parts of the world where people of these 4 faiths are killing one another and here, we have them all co-existing harmoniously, albeit artificially.

and then there was the time when there was a Chinese funeral at the void deck of my block and a Malay wedding at the void deck of the adjacent block. the rythm of the kompangs seemed to meld harmoniously with the shrill notes of the suo-na

but you are right. the harmony is indeed artificial. the quesiton i have for you, anon, is what are you going to do to make this harmony a real, natural and organically developing one?

Elia Diodati said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elia Diodati said...

My college newspaper dared to do what a nationally syndicated periodical dares not. Someone please spare me the irony.

Last time I check, Wikipedia had all those cartoons.

Anonymous said...

rench00, you said "this harmony is highly artificial. but it is harmony nonetheless." This is akin to saying the PAP govt is un-democratic but it is democracy nonetheless. Hahaha you are a sad PAP apologist.

rench00 said...

i don't think it is a matter of daring to do it or not. it is a matter of being clear what the purpose of having those cartoons. given the raging sentiments (not that i agree with the violence), what purpose does it serve to reproduce those cartoons? in defence of freedom of speech?

or perhaps it's more important to understand why the Muslim community is so outraged and tease out the fundamental reasons for the violent reaction (for the cartoons were but an excuse, the real reasons for the violence are probably more deep-rooted issues). and in order to do that, would it not make sense to stop reproducing those cartoons, appeal for calm on both sides and then bring both sides into a civilised discussion?

however, i feel that calm and civilisied discussions cannot come about if people keep reproducing those cartoons, if the 'West' keeps trying to portray that they alone are right and the Muslims are wrong.

Anon:
your analogy does not make sense. if harmony is defined as lack of conflict, then is not an artificial harmony still harmony? do you dispute that? and a government cannot be democratic. it can only be a democratically elected government. or not. but it doesn't make sense to say that a government is democratic.

however, it makes sense to say whether a country is democratic. Singapore might not be democratic, though i still think that it is, but to a fairly limited extent.

and what do you mean by PAP apologist? i defend what policies they have that i think make sense. and i am ready to criticise whatever policies they have that do not make sense. that is all. i have no great sentiments, good or bad, for the PAP.