It is unfortunate that the Workers’ Party Chairman Sylvia Lim feels that Singapore can deal with rule of law issues without support from the international community.
If that were the case, then why did Mr Chia Thye Poh remain detained without trial for 32 long years?
Ms Lim says that: “We Singaporeans are quite capable of deciding what kind of country we want.”
By logical extension, did Singaporeans want Mr Chia Thye Poh’s three-decade detention? Did Singaporeans want the media to be completely under the thumb of the PAP? Did the people support the manipulation of the electoral process?
The truth is that Singaporeans, while wanting to decide what kind of country we want for ourselves, have been unable to do so because our rights, including our right to free and fair elections have been crushed by the PAP.
It is therefore disappointing that as an opposition leader, Ms Lim feels that the election system is acceptable and that the outcome must be respected. We may not be able to do anything to change the election outcome but we do not have to respect it.
We need to fight to win back these rights and we need to change our political system. In short, we need reform.
To be very sure, only Singaporeans can effect that change. But let us not fantasize. We also need support from the democratic world as Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa, Poland, Serbia, Chile, etc. needed it. And as Burma now desperately needs it.
On this matter, isn’t it a trifle hypocritical for us to condemn the regime in Burma and call for democratic change there while in the next breath call on others to stop interfering in our own affairs?
It is true that the PAP says it doesn’t want foreign interference. It is also a lie. What do you call the National Wages Council having American, German and Japanese business representatives sitting on its board deciding the wage levels of Singaporean workers?
If we shun foreign interference, why did the Singapore Government invite the IBA here. Shouldn’t the Government have taken the IBA president to task for saying that Singapore has an “outstanding legal profession and judiciary?”
The truth is not that the PAP does not want foreigners interfering in our domestic affairs. Comments from foreigners, be they compliments or criticisms, are consider interference. While the PAP welcomes the former, it rejects the latter.
In a similar vein, Ms Lim accepts the accolades of the legal/judicial system of business groups. What is troubling is that she ignores studied criticisms of legal watchdog organizations such as Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, New York City Bar Association and the International Commission Jurists.
Does she consider these researched but critical reports “foreign interference” while welcoming the complimentary surveys of organisations cited by Mr Lee Kuan Yew?
In order for Singaporeans to decide what we really want for our country, we need an election system that is free and fair, a media that is not controlled by the ruling party, and the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
None of these institutions exist in Singapore. Without them the wishes and wants of Singaporeans can be, and are being, manipulated by the PAP to serve its own interests.
Help for Singaporeans so that they can be empowered to speak up against the suffocating grip of the PAP is not interference. Interference is when a foreign government supports one party over another as the British did with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wing in the PAP.
For the record, the SDP welcomes support for efforts to democratise Singapore. Beyond that we reject attempts to influence the policies of any political party by outsiders.
It is disappointing that the Chairman of the Workers’ Party cannot see this distinction but instead parrots what the PAP so disingenuously advocates.
Appeasing the PAP so that we can be an acceptable opposition is not to “draw a balance” as Ms Lim claims. It is rather an unfortunate tactic that will be conveniently exploited by the PAP.
The SDP said it before and we say it again: Singapore’s Opposition cannot stand up for the people on bended knees.
WORKERS’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim said Singapore is capable of dealing with rule of law issues on its own and does not need outside interference.
Ms Lim, a law lecturer, was a panellist at a Rule of Law Symposium that ended the week-long International Bar Association (IBA) conference.
She was making a point about checks on executive power when she observed that much as she desired political reforms, these have to be pushed within the boundaries of the law. The election outcome must be respected.
And while the IBA and other global conferences are useful for Singapore to measure itself against international benchmarks on issues like rule of law, no external help is needed, she indicated, saying:
‘We Singaporeans are quite capable of deciding what kind of country we want…I don’t think we need anyone outside to canvass our agenda for us.’
She had prefaced her speech by saying she wished to ‘draw a balance’ between the rule-of-law positions held by Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar and Singapore Democratic Party politicians, who had questioned Singapore’s rule of law.
Like her, National University of Singapore law lecturer Simon Tay also touched on interference.
In his comments on the brightening prospects for the rule of law in South-east Asia, on the same panel, he said: ‘The international community has a very influential role.
‘But I think for Singaporeans and the region, if that influence turns to interference, it will be resented and resisted, not only by the Government and the state, but also really by many of the people.’
International standards or the international community is often ‘a code word for the US or the West’, he said, adding: ‘It will take time for Asians and others to put up their own normative ideas of what we think of as content of law.’
Nigerian lawyer Funmi Oluyede said that while rights are universal, cultures and traditions are different. ‘The mistake the West makes is in foisting what works in their society on ours.’