22 Jun 2006

No regrets over glint of toughness on democracy, says Lee

No regrets over glint of toughness on democracy, says Lee
Wednesday June 21, 2006
By John Roughan

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who gave New Zealanders a glimpse of the hard edge of Singaporean democracy during his state visit this week, has no regrets about it.

Mr Lee, son of the city state's patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, was asked at his Wellington press conference why he is suing an Opposition politician for defamation and pursuing charges against him of speaking in a public place without a licence before Singapore's recent election.

"He's a liar, he's a cheat, he's deceitful, he's confrontational, it's a destructive form of politics designed not to win elections in Singapore but to impress foreign supporters and make himself out to be a martyr," the newly re-elected Prime Minister said of his unsuccessful opponent, Chee Soon Juan.

Speaking to the Herald in Auckland yesterday, Mr Lee did not believe the previous day's outburst had left a bad impression.

"No I don't think so," he said. "It depends what you are doing and why you are doing it. Everybody has to abide by the laws.

"If you deliberately defame somebody then there has to be consequences. If we didn't act against somebody who defamed us then it is not a matter of being generous and forgiving but the question arises if no action is taken, surely there must be some truth to it."

As for licensing public speaking, "Our main concern is race, language and religion. These are issues where you can rouse people and words cannot be taken back and you can cause riots and bloodshed."

It applied only outdoors, he insisted. "Indoors you can have any number of gatherings [and] you can publish anything you like in writing. But to organise a crowd and harangue the crowd - we thing it's wise to have precautions."

You'd wonder why they bother. Singapore has been ruled by the Lees' Peoples Action Party since its independence 40 years ago. At the latest election the party won 82 seats, opposition parties just two.

Elections are so one sided that the constitution now awards the Opposition three seats in the legislature, regardless of the election results, and there are nine seats reserved for nominees from occupational groups, including the media.

Mr Lee is only the third Prime Minister the country has had, following his father, who retired in 1990 (though he remains in the Cabinet as "minister mentor"), and Goh Chok Tong, who was thought to be a seat-warmer for Lee junior, known as BG ever since he became the youngest Brigadier General in the Army's history.

Mr Lee's political apprenticeship was longer than expected, perhaps partly due to his brush with cancer of the lymph nodes in 1992.

He is said to be arrogant and autocratic, which possibly explains the tension in the hotel room as his entourage awaits.

But when he enters he is affable, languid and surprisingly tall.

How then did he explain his party's unbroken record in power?

There have been other countries, he points out, with one party in power for a long period: Japan, Mexico.

"In our case special circumstances made us the dominant party after independence and keeping that position by a series of actions.

"One, by keeping talent and making sure we were the best qualified team. Two, we have kept ourselves renewed - same party but not the same people, new MPs, new ministers, new ideas ...

"Three, keeping a broad central view of Singapore. We are not representing one section of the population, workers against employers or any other group. We are representing the whole country."

But democracy is about dealing with differences of opinion. How does Singapore manage that?

"We have elections, many parties, news media report a wide range of views and now the internet. There are any number of blogs on Singapore.

"It's not possible for us to have unanimous views ... but on major fundamentals of the country - that you have to be self-reliant, have a strong defence, good multi-racial relations, that you have to plug into the world and globalise and earn a living for ourselves - those are broad principles which command very general support."

Singapore and New Zealand have a free trade agreement, our most comprehensive after CER with Australia, and just last month the Singapore deal was the basis of a four-way Pacific pact with the inclusion of Brunei and Chile.

Mr Lee hopes his visit to Australia and New Zealand, his first overseas since his re-election, will help bring us closer. "I think you need a population more attuned to what is happening in Asia."

Human rights, he said, "are familiar issues to Western journalists and maybe readers too, but really they don't define Asia. You need to come and learn how people live."


* Born February 10, 1952, Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest child of former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

* Studied at Cambridge and Harvard, gaining a first-class degree in mathematics and a masters degree in public administration.

Military service
* Joined Singapore Armed Forces in 1971. Rose quickly through the ranks to become brigadier-general.

* In 1984 followed his father into politics as a member of the ruling People's Action Party. Elected to the party's central executive committee in 1986. Appointed Deputy Prime Minister in November 1990. Became Prime Minister in August 2004.

* Married to Ho Ching, executive director and chief executive of the Government-owned Temasek Holdings.

The couple have one daughter and three sons, including a daughter and son from Lee's first wife.


Anonymous said...

The outburst in NZ against a fellow Singapore citizen who was then 10,000 miles away, was not very Prime Ministerial, not "toughness" and not necessary.

It was more the glint of arrogance and a hint of ugliness.

Granted not every foreigner is attuned to Asia but many people living in Australia and NZ will be intelligent enough to see through the poor reasons given for the attack on such a personal level.

The reasons given for licensing public speaking are self serving. So many countries today are much more multi racial in composition than Singapore and their people can live together without the need to gag public speaking by licensing.

Maybe we should "come and learn how people live" (in Asia)?

Maybe not - we were born there and have lived there long enough.

Anonymous said...

Over the past months bloggers have wasted thousands of words criticising Singapore style Politics, to no avail.You must understand a one party dictatorship will exist until the day this Island gasps it's final breath

As poor cowardly mini Lee, an insult to the title Prime Minister, has explained, too much money and time would be spent entertaining a two party government.

He sited Australia and New Zealand governments as bad, and in Singapore's case, the wrong way to go.

Of PaP and it's ga ga minsters, who cannot utter a complete sentence, would be unable to hold their own in say France or the UK. They would be swamped by the reterick, unable to keep their end up in the heat of a really professional debate, were politcians speak off the cuff without having to read robotically from sheets of paper.

Whether or not the Singaporean will ever be able force a change, I seriously doubt. New legislation and modified laws will
always keeps them from speaking their minds.

So bloggers if you are praying for a Brave New world, forget it.

While the Lee dynasty exists some form of dictatorship will always rule, until Singapore makes so many enemies outside rapid change if forced on them.

Anonymous said...

i agree with the anon above me, the nature of despotic rule and tyranny is that they have set up the rules of the game in their favour. One cannot win in this game where the rules can be changed anytime by their whims and fancy. To put it bluntly the game is rigged, there is no chance ever of winning by playing within by the rules and within the system. Sporeans who doesn't realise this, and still bear hopes that they can change the system from within through PAP-sanctioned methods, are simply deluded.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I still believe LHL is a libertarian at heart.

His dad is decidedly a statist with shades of both communism and fascism.

Lee Jr is definitely not so "hard core" and even his body language seems to be more "in the moment" at times.

teck soon said...

"He's a liar, he's a cheat, he's deceitful, he's confrontational..."

Could PM Lee be sued for defamation in a New Zealand court by Dr. Chee over these words? Just because the Singapore courts have ruled that Dr. Chee is a "liar" does not necessarily make it true.

Anonymous said...

If PM Lee cannot prove what he said was true, he would have defamed.

A NZ Court would ensure both parties will get a fair trial

There will be a jury to decide on the meaning of the words used

You can be certain there will not be a summary judgement if the issues are disputed

Anonymous said...

You know bloggers, they sound like an old British musical hall act, arsehole lee, who has lost telecoms billions of dollars, mini lee, our glorious prime minister, and the evil papa lee who still pulls the strings, which allows the poor singaporeans to be shat on from great heights.

The Lee empire built the Island as they will eventually ruin it.

rench00 said...

to the anonymous person who said "So bloggers if you are praying for a Brave New world, forget it."

do you actually know what a Brave New World is? have you read Aldous Huxley's book by that title? if anything, i bet that's the kind of a nation that LKY would love to have created.

Anonymous said...

No I mean Brave New World, where it would be possible to genetic engineer courtesy into your new babies, something lacking in the singapore make up.

Matilah_Singapura said...

To teck soon:

Probably not. In most "mature" countries, politicians have what is called "parliamentary privilege" which means the statist wankers can say what they want, whilst the rest of the population is subject to these brand new laws relating to "seditious speech"—apparently because there are "terrorists hiding everywhere".

In a totally "enlightened" country, there would be no libel, slander, defamation or seditious speech laws. Speech, hurtful, hateful, untruthful or otherwise, would be completely free.

With all these "speech laws" hanging about, it becomes very challenging for comedians to make a living. Race, religion and politics; along with the notables in these areas usually set themselves up for a slap in the face by our modern-day court jesters.

Anonymous said...

yeah...abide by the law. LAW WAS MADE to STRENGHTEN his ONE-PARTY POLITICAL POWER mah!



Evil deed of Chinese Communist Party to maintain its one party political power – including Organ Harvesting from LIVING Falun Gong practitioners in Labour Camp in China



To download ‘9 ping’ 《九评共产党》- (writings of evil Chinese Communist party) http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/4/12/13/n746020.htm (Source: 9ping.com)

or tune in to 106.5 FM (radio) for the reading of 9ping everyday at Singgapore time 3pm and 10pm