Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore's state controlled newspaper the Straits Time's online edition of March 13, 2008 has the story "WSJ editor faces contempt".
I wonder whether the Guinness Book of Records has a section for the largest number of lawsuits filed against newspapers by any government. If it has Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore would be the winner by a mile, hands down!
This time it is the Wall Street Journal Asia, a highly respected newspaper. It's editor Melanie Kirkpatrick is charged with having committed contempt of court in 3 articles published in it last year. Really there is no need even to examine the articles. There is nothing incendiary in any of them since no one expects a responsible newspaper such as this to have "scandalized" anyone, Singapore's favorite phrase used, whenever they want to go against any critic.
Which brings me to the question, why. Why do they repeatedly do this, when no possible advantage can be gained, except to frighten the local population even further from any dissent.
Are they trying to silence foreign newspapers. It can't be since foreign newspapers are not like Singaporeans who would be cowed and silenced by some dictator of a South East Asian country like Singapore.
The only possible reason would be to send a message, not to the foreign press, but to local Singaporeans who have already been silenced long ago, to remind them one more time that criticism is not tolerated in the island. And if this is so, it is quite unnecessary. So many people have been sued, charged and bankrupted in that country that the message has been roundly driven home a long time ago. Singaporeans are not going to criticise. Any further actions such as this is merely cumulative without any tangible effect.
In fact, if Lee Kuan Yew thought about it, it is entirely counter productive. This repeated abuse of the legal process there only drives home what Singaporeans and foreigners already know, that Singapore does not have the rule of law; that the law courts are routinely used to punish critics of the system and the country slips a few notches down to the level of lawless countries the likes of Burma and North Korea.
But it serves no point in my saying it. Lee Kuan Yew, it seems, is determined to make a mockery of Singapore. He, it appears, is determined to make a fool of himself. And if he determined to do it, we might as well step aside and let him.
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