Singapore PM slags off rival
TVNZ, Jun 19, 2006
Singapore's Prime Minister is in New Zealand mainly to talk about defence and trade, but the question of free speech is not on the table given Singapore's opposition leader faces charges in that country for speaking in public without a government permit.
At a media conference at the Beehive, Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong and Prime Minister Helen Clark were asked if they had discussed free speech in relation to the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, Chee Soon Juan.
Lee then launched an attack on the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party.
"This man and his party are not credible - 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 matyr."
The Singapore Democratic Party won 23% of the vote in recent elections but Lee says that does not put him above the law.
"If you take that attitude the law applies to everybody and if you decide to infringe the laws you have to take the consequences," said Lee.
However some believe Clark should speak out about how the Singaporean government operates.
"If you criticise the government they take defamation against you, they make you pay a large fine, and then because you can't pay the fine you go bankrupt, and because you go bankrupt you get kicked out of parliament," said Green Party co-leader Russsel Norman.
"It's pretty obvious that Singapore runs in a way that wouldn't be acceptable to NZ, but I haven't raised that specific issue with him."
Lee also called on Don Brash, but any sympathy the leader of the opposition has with his counterpart in Singapore went unspoken - free speech didn't get a mention.
Green Party of New Zealand Press Release
The price of freedom
Russel Norman, Green Party Co-Leader (right)
19th June 2006
“Helen Clark’s reported comments that she did not intend to raise human rights issues with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee during his visit are quite shocking,” Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.
“If true, it is inexcusable that the Government refuses to raise or criticise human rights in Singapore during the visit of Singapore’s Prime Minister. I can only presume that this is because of the sensitivity over trade issues,” says Dr. Norman, the Green Party trade spokesperson.
“The Singapore Government routinely suppresses free speech and the right to free assembly, as documented by Amnesty International reports.
“We have a duty to the ordinary citizens of Singapore to speak out about the human rights abuses of their Government because they are not allowed to speak out themselves.
The leader of the opposition in Singapore faces expulsion from parliament because he dared speak out against the Government. He was sued for defamation and fined $500,000 and now faces bankruptcy and expulsion from parliament, just as the leader of the opposition Workers’ Party was before him.
“If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, as Thomas Jefferson once said, then we shouldn’t let our vigilance lapse just because the Government is aiming at more free trade deals in Asia.
“If New Zealand MPs were thrown out of parliament for disagreeing with the Government, would we not expect other democratic nations to speak out,” asks Dr. Norman.