By Bernice Han in Singapore
AN opposition candidate detained after Singapore's weekend election was released today but police seized his passport while investigating a criminal complaint filed against him by poll officials.
"I was told I cannot leave the country and they have impounded my passport," James Gomez, who ran unsuccessfully as a candidate of the Workers' Party in Saturday's parliamentary election, said.
The ruling People's Action Party (PAP), which won by a landslide, had accused Gomez of trying to undermine the election's credibility by falsely claiming electoral officials had lost one of the documents supporting his candidacy.
Mr Gomez, who has apologised publicly for the incident, said he was released after about seven hours of questioning after being stopped at Changi Airport, where he was about to board a flight to Sweden.
Mr Gomez, 41, is a British-educated political scientist who works as a policy analyst with the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Erik Jennische, secretary general of the Swedish International Liberal Centre, another pro-democracy institute based in Stockholm, criticised his arrest.
"It's just another manoeuvre from the Singapore Government to obstruct the political work of the opposition," he said by telephone. Mr Gomez is an outspoken critic of the PAP, which won 82 of the 84 seats in Parliament, even though more than 33 per cent of all votes cast went to the opposition, up from 25 per cent in 2001.
Analysts said this may be an indication of growing discontent with the party that has governed the city-state for 47 years.
In addition, the two opposition candidates who kept their parliament seats, one of them from the Workers' party, both increased their majorities.
Police said they were investigating Mr Gomez following a complaint from the Elections Department, which oversees polling, but declined to give details.
"It is inappropriate to comment as police investigations are ongoing," a police spokesman said today.
Mr Gomez said he was being accused of "criminal intimidation" following an incident at the department that became a heated campaign issue.
The controversy began after Mr Gomez claimed the department, an agency under the office of the prime minister, had misplaced a document required for his candidacy. He apologised after a security video proved him wrong, and admitted he forgot to file the document.
The ruling party accused Mr Gomez of staging the incident to undermine the integrity of the election. And the PAP's founder, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, called Mr Gomez a liar.
"I still affirm that any man whom I call a liar, dishonest and dares not sue me, is a liar and dishonest," the 82-year-old former leader said in comments broadcast by local media today. "I'm prepared to repeat this and be sued."
The elder Mr Lee remains a powerful figure in Singapore politics despite stepping down as prime minister in 1990 to make way for Goh Chok Tong, who in turn gave up the job in August 2004 in favour of the younger Mr Lee.
Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, who has also run into trouble with the law, said the investigation was "yet another sign of the insecurity of the ruling regime".
He said the case against Mr Gomez was "aimed at instilling fear in the populace" and warning the people against joining and supporting the opposition.
- Agence France Presse via Singapore Window.