Tuesday, January 26, 2010 1:25 PM
From: "bel bel" .............@gmail.com>
Singapore doesn’t have democracy
Recently, Human Rights Watch called Singapore a “textbook example of a politically repressed state”. The Singapore government then responded by saying that Singapore is a democratic state. Which everyone, from Singaporeans themselves to foreigners know is a lie.
The Singapore government says that there are elections in Singapore and there is no rigging of votes. Which is true. But elections alone don’t make a democracy, if that was the case Zimbawe would be a democracy.
The Singapore government is not interested in rigging elections, it is interested in winning elections even before the elections themselves. It does this by suppressing opposition politicians and ruling with fear.
Suppressing opposition politicians
Opposition politicians like Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari and many others have been jailed for decades without trial. The government claims that they were communists but we will never know if they are because there was never a trial to begin with. There was no due process.
Even if they are communists, do they deserve to be detained without trial for decades? In democracies all around the world (Japan, UK, USA, etc), there are communist parties which exist legally and run for elections. They just never win enough votes for obvious reasons.
Opposition politicians have also been sue for defamation and bankrupted, thereby, rendering them unable to run for parliament.
Opposition politicians in Singapore have no way of conducting a meaningful campaign because they are jailed for even gathering to give out flyers in public. The recent case of Dr Chee Soon Juan being jailed for merely gathering with his party members to give out flyers illustrates this.
Opposition politicians are also fined/jailed for speaking in public without a permit and for peaceful assemblies without a permit.
How can one expect opposition politicians to run a meaningful campaign? Should they shout from their houses? But even that would be illegal I guess. The police would be called in to prevent them from disturbing their neighbors.
Ruling with fear
When Singaporeans see what happens to opposition politicians, they fear. Singaporeans dare not join opposition parties because they don’t want to lose their jobs or be jailed without trial or be bankrupted through defamation lawsuits.
Singaporeans would rather leave their country in self-exile, never to return, then join opposition parties. Indeed, many Singaporeans are leaving Singapore these days for this very reason.
In autocratic societies like China or Burma, you would never see their citizens approaching their leaders to talk about democracy or human rights. It is quite obvious why that is the case isn’t it? If you were to do that in China, you would be pulled into a van while walking down the streets one day, never to appear again.
Similarly in Singapore, the average Singaporean doesn’t dare to approach his MP to talk about democracy or human rights. He doesn’t dare to mention the fact that opposition politicians are being prosecuted or that 82 out of 84 MPs in parliament are from the same party. The Singaporean will complain about the train system or the influx of immigrants but he will not complain about anything that challenges the government’s hold on power, for example, the suppression of democracy in Singapore.
Because Singaporeans fear their government to death. They shiver at the thought of opposing their government openly. They would go online to complain about the suppression of democracy in Singapore but they would never openly walk up to their MPs to complain. In front of their MPs, they would smile and say Singapore is paradise, while they make plans to leave for Australia or Canada.
In every democracies in the world, the UK, USA, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and even non democracies like Hong Kong, you can see citizens walking up to their MPs to talk about human rights and democracy openly because they are democracies. But that will never be the case in Singapore.
Because Singaporeans fear their government to death, they dare not join opposition parties. Around 40% of electoral seats were uncontested in the past few elections, the government wins them unchallenged because no one dares to challenge the government.
82 out of 84 MPs in parliament are from the same party and they debate amongst themselves and pass whatever laws they deem fit. They raise their own salaries to amongst the highest in the world. There are no checks in parliament, made worse by the fact that the Singapore’s parliament is unicameral.
Why does Singapore bother to pretend to be a democracy when it is not?
The Singapore government pretends to be a democracy because it lends legitimacy to its rule. This is why Zimbawe carries out elections. To attempt to gain legitimacy.
The Singapore government is very smart. Indeed, they are made up of men and women who are educated in top universities of the world. They are no fools. They want to cling onto power for as long as they can. To do so, they know they have to be free of corruption and deliver a good material life for the citizens so that the citizens will overlook the fact that they do not really have a democracy or a say in things.
The autocratic Chinese government in China is doing the same thing. They are delivering economic progress in the hopes of clinging onto power for a longer time. They prosecute corrupt officials and have even started elections for local town governments where people can democratically elect their local government.
For all their gimmicks, we know the Chinese government in China would never relinquish its hold on power. It rules with fear and with heavy handedness. It amends the laws and constitution at will to suit its purpose and prosecutes any dissidents who challenge their rule. It justifies the lack of democracy by saying “Asians do not want democracy” and that “their system suits the Country”. All too familiar a story.
In the last elections in Singapore, 33% of the citizenry voted for the opposition parties. This is quite an amazing number given the extreme fear that permeates the Singapore society. Remember, around 40% of the seats were not even challenged.
The Singapore government knows that if the day comes where Singaporeans are not afraid, opposition politicians are not suppressed, every electoral seat is contested, basically if functioning democracy takes roots, a large number of opposition politicians would enter parliament. The government’s grip on power would weaken and their leaders might even be given the boot.
Therefore they are desperately trying to prevent this from happening.
Quite like China, they coin terms such as “Asian democracy”, “Unique Singapore system”, “Confucian values” etc to confuse people and defend their suppression of democracy.
Time for change
The state of democracy in Singapore is dire. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The entire world including Singaporeans themselves know that Singapore’s democracy is in shambles.
It is not merely the Human Rights Watch who criticizes Singapore’s democracy and human rights situation. Every single organization in the world who is concerned with democracy and human rights have criticized Singapore.
The Economist ranks Singapore as a “Hybird Regime” in its Democracy Index.
Freedom House (which is funded by many democracies ranging from the EU to Australia) gives Singapore a 5 for political rights and 4 for civil liberties. 1 being the highest score and 7 being the lowest score.
Reporters without borders ranks the media in Singapore as 133rd in the world. A mere 3 spots above Zimbawe.
The Singapore government has to face up to the fact that Singapore is not a democracy and stop making excuses. They have to improve the situation as soon as possible instead of dragging their feet.
But of course, like all rulers who want to cling onto power, they will continue to make excuses and delay the democratization of Singapore as much as possible ; for democratization would mean the end of their grip on power.
Democracy does not create an utopia but it creates the best societies to live in. It is the best system that mankind has ever invented. It is not perfect by any means but it is the lesser of all evils.
Autocratic societies, no matter how rich they are, are unbearable places to live in.
Human rights in Singapore
We all find ourselves in a minority at one time or another in our lives. For example, we may require crutches to walk due to a recent accident or we may find that the majority of society disagrees with the way we view a certain issue.
Therefore, it is very important that we respect the basic rights of our fellow humans no matter what we think of them.
Sadly being homosexual is still illegal in Singapore. The government and AG have said that they will not prosecute homosexuality but the very fact that it remains in the statutes clearly shows homosexuality is illegal.
The government lacks the political courage to repeal the law.
In Taiwan, Taipei, gays openly march in public and are now accepted by the mainstream society. Singapore, despite being an English speaking country, is still light years behind the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese government has the political courage to take the lead while the Singapore government does not.
The Singapore government is extremely conservative. The policies they have in place are for the 1970s and not for 2010. Prominent members of parliament go around Singapore telling the citizens not to forget the past history of Singapore. It seems like they have gotten to the point where they are actually living in the past.
The mentally ill and prisoners form the next two groups of people who are most vulnerable in Singapore’s society. The conditions of our mental hospitals and prisons are also onerous.
The mental hospitals are overcrowded. Singapore still believes in locking up its mentally ill. The mentally ill are not able to exercise outdoors or walk in a park. They are locked up daily. Common sense dictates that the mentally ill needs greenery, outdoor walks and lots of personal space to calm down and reflect, but that is obviously not the case in Singapore.
Prisoners in Singapore sleep on hard concrete, leaving them with backaches and even bruises. The prison boasts of how they have created a multi story prison which saves space but they have forgotten that this means prisoners cannot exercise outdoors in the open air anymore, which obviously is very bad for their mental health.
Prisoners also have no access to TV and radio which prisoners from all other democracies with similar GDP per capita as Singapore have.
There is still death by hanging ad caning of the buttocks, both of which are barbaric punishments long forgone by first world countries today.
If the government truly loves their country, they should place respect for democracy before their lust for power. They should install a system of functioning democracy and stop prosecuting the opposition politicians. Play the game fairly. Stop instilling fear in the hearts of its very own citizens. Allow citizens their right to peaceful assemblies as dictated by the United Nation declaration of human rights. Improve the human rights situation in Singapore.
But I guess all the above won’t happen. Simple because it is Singapore we are talking about. Heavy-handed government, fake democracy and caning of the buttocks for mere visa overstayers is the story of Singapore.