Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th May, 2008
Singapore has many things going for it. It is prosperous, authentically multi-cultural (despite the large Chinese majority) and squeaky clean — in fact, they even banned chewing gum for many years, so as not to mess up the streets and the transport system. Singapore has an airport that regularly tops the ‘favourite airport in the world’ list (eat your heart out, Heathrow). And despite the high population density on the island, it is green and in large parts a model of urban planning.
However, Singapore has a dark secret. It is a democracy that isn’t. Firmly seen as ‘one of us’ by the West (including Washington and London), it is actually a one-party state. Any attempt to create a viable opposition, and for that to function properly, is thwarted at every turn. Take the latest developments. The Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Dr Chee Soon Juan, and a senior fellow party member, Mrs Chee Siok Chin, will be in court on Monday to hear what damages may be awarded against them for ‘libeling’ former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew (still the power behind the throne), and the current Prime Minister, Lee Hsen Loong (his son, surprise surprise). If past experience is anything to go by, the damages will be so high that the defendants will face bankruptcy. At other times, people who have dared to disagree have ended up in prison. That’s how Singapore deals with its opposition.
It’s all so sad. What ought to be a beacon of modernity and openness in South East Asia is actually a blot on the landscape, because of its systematic suppression of free democratic activity. Liberal International has appealed for urgent action by parliamentarians, the media and ordinary concerned citizens around the world. We are always keen to stand up against nasty dictatorships. Let us be true to our principles and stand up to the superficially charming anti-democracies as well.