28 Jun 2006

Email Reply on article, ""No regrets over glint of toughness on democracy, says Lee"

With regards to the online news report, in New Zealand Herald, "No regrets over glint of toughness on democracy, says Lee" published on Wednesday June 21, 2006, written by John Roughan, I subsequently sent an email reply to his article. I have yet to hear a reply.

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Dear Mr Roughan,

As a Singaporean currently travelling overseas in Australia, I am glad to to be able to read online about the Singapore Prime Minister’s press conference from your paper. In my opinion, the New Zealand Herald has chosen a much more objective reporting on the Singapore’s Prime Minister visit to New Zealand than any of the Singaporean press.

While the paper has tried to present as much as possible an objective report, some of the comments made by the Singapore Prime Minister needs to be challenged. I hope New Zealand Herald will publish my letter or at the very least, do another more in-depth story on the political situation in Singapore. I believe this is crucial as the free trade agreement between New Zealand and Singapore; as well as both countries’ close ties mean that the political situation back at home generally has an impact on New Zealand. New Zealanders must recognize that Singapore is not a democracy, as its leaders claim; and that the authoritarian Singapore government retains a tight grip on the city state in many political and social aspects.

In Singapore, it is not uncommon for PAP and especially its leaders to call Opposition names. Our Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien, has now chosen to call Dr Chee names in an overseas trip. His father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, has also done the same over the years against his critics. During the last election, Mr Lee Kuan Yew called Mr James Gomez, an Opposition Party Candidate for the Worker’s Party, “a bad egg”. Upon calling their opponents’ names, they go on to taunt the other party to sue them for defamation. As is commonly well-known, no one has ever won any defamation suit against the Lees. Even foreign papers have been forced to issue apologies or risk having their circulation curtailed.

With regards to the defamation suit that both Mr Lee and his son has chosen to file against SDP and its Council Executive Committee members, Dr Chee and his sister has chosen to stand firm, while the other members has chosen to apologise. This occurred prior to the recent General Elections over an alleged defamatory article printed on the New Democrat, which is the Singapore Democrat’s Party newsletter. Currently, the Lees have applied for a summary judgement on this case which means that it will be decided in chambers behind closed-doors. It is ironic that the Lees, who felt that they have been wrongly defamed, have chosen to avoid an open hearing.

Mr Lee also mentioned that permits are required for outdoor gathering. Again, it is well-known that the government has constantly denied application permits for protests.

When Mr Lee said that we can have “any number of gatherings (by which he means indoors) [and] you can publish anything you like in writing”, it is again misleading to readers who are unaware of what is happening in Singapore.

Indoor political gatherings such as forums have been subjected to intrusion by the secret police department, commonly known as the Internal Security Department in Singapore. Such gatherings do not allow overseas speakers to participate. The government has banned Amnesty International spokesperson, Mr Tim Parritt, from speaking in an anti-death penalty forum on 16 April 2005. The government has also detained and deported Mr Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, a representative of Nonviolence International from Singapore's Changi airport, on the evening of 13th May as he was invited to Singapore to conduct a non-violence workshop.

It would be of interest to readers of this paper that the PAP pays its ministers highly grotesque amount salaries. The government maintains that it is necessary to keep “talent and making sure we were the best qualified team.” Such vague terms are debatable. Not to mention that the Singaporean population has never been consulted on this issue.

Mr Lee also said that the government keeps “a broad central view of Singapore” in perspective. He said, “We are not representing one section of the population, workers against employers or any other group. We are representing the whole country."

In that regard, how does he explain that the government continues to repress the rights of the sexual minority? Homosexuality remains a punishable crime and People Like Us, a gay rights group, was denied legal registration as a society. The government also banned Fridae.com, a regional gay portal, from holding outdoor dance parties such as Nation, Snowball and Feeling Good. The government has refused to act constructively against the increasing HIV rates amongst the MSM (Men Who have Sex with Men) community but instead, chose to react with a homophobic attitude. How does the government expect the community to deal with HIV if it chooses to see gays as a “outsiders” or worse “criminal outcasts”?

The Singapore government has also refused to pass legislations which will elevate the plight of foreign domestic workers. On December 6 2005, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a detailed report on actual and potential abuses of foreign domestic workers and recommended remedial actions.

Mr Lee also mentioned that Singapore conducts “elections” and that there are other Opposition parties, news media and blogs in Singapore; which unfortunately only “keep up the appearance” of a democracy. The Singapore Elections are neither free and fair. The campaign period is over a limited period of 8 days and political parties are denied of using effective means to reach out to voters, even on the Internet. There is a list of do’s and don’ts on what is allowed. The Singapore Democratic Party podcast was removed during the campaigning period to comply with regulations. Blogging and vodcasting is also banned during this period as citizen journalists are barred from reporting on rallies or commentaries (though some bloggers have refused to comply with the regulations). Anonymity is however not guaranteed in blogosphere. The police is recently investigating a blogger for posting Jesus Cartoons. It has charged three bloggers for “sedition” on making racist comments.

The police has harrassed individual activists over the years. Martyn See, who made a short documentary, entitled, Singapore Rebel, about Dr Chee, has had his equipment confiscated and questioned for an extended period of time. The police has however not filed any charges. It is effectively a dasmacus sword and a precautionary tale to Singaporean filmmakers. Mr Robert Yeo, an internet activist, has a less well-known story to tell. After distributing leaflets at a shopping mall which raised questions about the counting process in the 1997 General Election in Cheng San GRC, the police went to his house, arrested and sent him to the Institute of Mental Health. His computer was also seized.

Mr Lee closed his speech saying that human rights are familiar issues to Western journalists and maybe readers, but that it does not define Asia. He said that New Zealanders need to come and learn how people live.

As a Singaporean and more importantly, a human being, I take offence at Mr Lee’s remarks which suggest that Asians are either non humans or a substandard derivative form of living being. Unfortunately, as a Singaporean, I cannot openly criticize our Prime Minister and the comments he make. In what way then, can he claim, that Singapore is a democracy.

What I have written in this letter, is just the tip of the iceberg of the going ons in Singapore.

I hope the paper will publish my letter or do another in-depth story on the political situation in Singapore. I will be very happy to provide any information that I am in possess of. I would also encourage the editors of the paper to contact the various people who are involved with the democratic struggle in Singapore, if there is a need to do so.

4 comments:

feeblechicken said...

This letter is gut wrenching.. It summarises all that is wrong with Singapore politics. The Lee's definition or rather excuse that we go by asian values are tipping.. Taiwan, Hongkong, Thailand and even China are much more liberal than we are in discussing politics and gay issues. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

this letter is only the tip of the iceberg, the Lees will use every trick in the book, and even bend existing laws to remain in control.

They will also ignore any pressure from the outside world claiming their island is run by their island and they are not interested from outside opinions.

So until the day the whole lee dynasty dies, singapore is in one bloody great shit hole.

Matilah_Singapura said...

>"Mr Lee closed his speech saying that human rights are familiar issues to Western journalists and maybe readers, but that it does not define Asia. He said that New Zealanders need to come and learn how people live."

Yeah, c'mon over 'ere! See the iron fist of the state and the steel capped boot of the government kick the humanity out of human beings.

Citizens have numbers assigned to them in many Asian societies. Their rulers live off them parasitically.

And the multinational corporations just looove it. Why not? An oppressed, compliant and obedient workforce controlled by a friendly boot-licking government willing to do the bidding of a multinational.

Why bother reading 1984? Just c'mon over and learn experientially!

In that respect, I totally agree with Mr Lee!

Anonymous said...

so, was this letter ever published?