Singapore PM defends island's democratic freedoms during New Zealand visit
Monday June 19, 2006
Lee was asked by journalists about democratic freedoms in Singapore during his first-ever visit to New Zealand, where he held talks with Prime Minister Helen Clark Monday on trade, investment and other bilateral issues.
Clark said the issue of free speech had not been discussed at their meeting.
Lee told reporters Singapore's government had "no reason to want to restrict any democratic or political rights of opposition politicians or leaders'' and that free speech was allowed as long as speakers stayed within the law.
"You can make speeches, you can publish articles, you can put things up on the Internet, you can speak. We have a speakers' corner which is highly underutilized and contest elections,'' he said.
Lee's ruling People Action Party, which has won every general election held since Singapore became independent in 1965, maintains sharp limits on freedom of speech and assembly, and its leaders have sidelined some opposition figures with defamation suits that have rendered them bankrupt, making them ineligible for office.
Forty-seven opposition politicians contested May elections, but "the electorate rejected them,'' Lee said. - AP