June 20, 2006
By Ruth Berry
QUESTIONS about Singapore's commitment to freedom of speech drew an impassioned defence from visiting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, June 19, while Helen Clark was criticised for her silence on the issue.
Mr Lee flew into New Zealand on Saturday and was greeted by a haka party and a 19-gun salute, followed by a state lunch when he arrived at Parliament yesterday.
In his first overseas visit since Singapore's recent election, he stressed the close relationship, saying as small countries "we both place importance on a stable and peaceful region, and on maintaining open, free-market economies to secure or countries and improve our lives."
During a press conference with Helen Clark, the pair were asked about freedom of speech in Singapore, in light of Mr Lee's decision to sue Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan for defamation and to pursue charges against him for speaking in a public place without a permit in the lead-up to the election.
Helen Clark said she had not raised the issue with Mr Lee. Mr Lee said Singapore was not restricting free speech, before lashing out at his Singapore Democratic Party opponent, who appears in court to contest the claims again today.
Mr Chee's party won a quarter of the votes in the seats it which it fielded candidates, Mr Lee pointed out.
"They did miserably and there's a reason for this. It's because Singaporean voters are not fools. They judge who are the more credible candidates and they know that this man and his party are not credible. That he's a liar, he's a cheat, he's deceitful, he's confrontational and it's a destructive form of politics designed not to win elections in Singapore but to impress foreign supporters and to make himself out to be a martyr."
He defined the foreign supporters as "the usual human rights groups who are linked up with him".
Green co-leader Russel Norman said afterwards it was "inexcusable" of Helen Clark not to raise the Chee issue.
"I can only presume that this is because of the sensitivity over trade issues," said Dr Norman.
"The Singapore Government routinely suppresses free speech and the right to free assembly, as documented by Amnesty International reports.
"The leader of the Opposition in Singapore faces expulsion from Parliament because he dared speak out against the Government.
"We've got a duty to ordinary people in Singapore to stand up for their democracy and human rights using our freedom."
Helen Clark said later: "It's pretty obvious that Singapore runs in a way that wouldn't be acceptable to New Zealand ... presumably they have a law of the land, they have constitutional processes, those are what's operating.
"I think it's a question of what the threshold for that is. We always raise arbitrary arrest, detention, gross abuses," she said. "But I don't have a brief that Singapore has breached that threshold."
- via Singapore Window
Oh no, quick! Lock up your daughters and hide, because CSJ and his evil "human rights" are coming to town! OK Minilee, you can be the hero in this movie and CSJ will be Dr Evil. You will fight CSJ and his evil, evil, evil axis of... evil, with your allies GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, BP, Shell, HSBC, Standard Chartered and every other business that loves you so much.