Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lee Hsien Loong visits

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives in New Zealand today for a five-day visit. According to the government's press release, the visit will focus on

the economic relationship between New Zealand and Singapore, which spans trade and investment and which sees Singapore as the hub for many New Zealand businesses in Asian markets.

Left unmentioned, of course, will be things like human rights and democracy. While an economic success, Singapore lags well behind in these areas. Freedom House's 2005 country report for Singapore sums up the problem:

Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP's manipulation of the political system means that they cannot be termed fair. Opposition parties are constrained by the ban on political films and televised programs; the curtailing of expressions of political opinion by the threat of libel or slander suits; strict regulations and limitations on associations, including political associations; and the PAP's influence of the media and in the courts, among other things.

The net result is that Singapore's "parliamentary democracy" is reduced to a charade.

A graphic example of this is the treatment of Chee Soon Juan, an opposition politician, who is currently facing charges for speaking in public without a licence - something we take for granted in a democracy.

In the Herald today, Fran O'Sullivan rightly asks whether any of this will be raised by our government, or whether it will simply turn a blind eye. Based on their past performance, I'm expecting the latter.

However, while our government may remain silent to avoid upsetting a valued trade partner, there's no reason we have to be. Prime Minister Lee will be welcomed to Parliament at 10:30am on Monday. It's an excellent chance to stand up for democracy in Singapore. As fow how to do it, I'd recommend subtlety - gags, or maybe a sign saying "I'd be arrested for this in Singapore".


You would have a stronger and more credible argument (albeit without the pretty map) by thinking to an objective site such as Reporters sans Frontieres, rather than FH, which is a well-funded, politically motivated site in the mould of other US organs of 'democracy' (any flavour you like so long as it elects the right people..) such as the National Endowment for Democracy.

RSF rates Singapore at 147 out of 167, which is more damning than FH (154/208).
But it also corects some anomalies, eg:
FH places nasty Venezuela 168/208 whereas RSF rates 90/167.
FH places nice Australia at 33/208, whereas RSF goes for 41/167.
RSF also introduces the very relevant category of US in Iraq - 108/167.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/18/2006 05:03:00 PM

There was just one very vocal protestor at the state welcome today...

Posted by Anonymous : 6/19/2006 11:17:00 AM

Good job. One protestor is better than none.

Stuff has the story here

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/19/2006 02:18:00 PM