28 Mar 2007

Singaporean rights activist criticises ANU over Honour

Wednesday, 28 March 2007. 18:33 (AEDT)

Pictures from New Mandala
A leading Singaporean civil rights activist says the Australian National University's decision to honour former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is baffling.

Dr Chee Soon Juan is the secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party.

He has been imprisoned several times for speaking in public without a license and alleges mistreatment while in custody, including food poisoning.

Dr Chee has criticised Mr Lee's civil rights record many times and is surprised by today's awards ceremony.

"It's just very baffling, given the track record of Singapore," he said.

Dr Chee says the legal honour for Mr Lee is inappropriate, given the erosion of civil rights under his government.
"Lee has used laws very cleverly to make sure that democratic activities, political activities are kept to a bare minimum," he said.

He says the award for the visitor is sending the wrong message.

"I think it's a big slap, I think Australia is sending this signal that, look come here, we want your dollars, we really don't care how society functions for you," he said.

Mr Lee has defended himself, saying that Singapore topped reports by the World Economic Forum.

"Rule of law, transparency, integrity of the system, efficiency of the civil service, confidence of the courts both domestically and internationally, it's at the top," he said.
But Dr Chee disagrees.

"There is no rule of law in Singapore," he said.

"The Government of Singapore use laws to run the country the way that it sees fit."

Mr Lee is currently the Singaporean Minister Mentor to his son's Government.

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