counter Is Singapore a police state?

What characterizes Singapore's political system is the constant query, worry and anxiety among the majority of the citizens, foreigners and observers that individuals and groups will get into trouble with the police and the political authorities for challenging the political status quo. Such anxiety is based on repeated examples of political challengers consistently being found guilty of contravening the system of tight and restrictive laws that govern people in the city-state.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"You can get anything you want in Singapore. You can travel, you can bring it in. You can - you can organize what you want. You can say anything you want, and all sorts of things are said and debated in Singapore."
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, interview with Charlie Rose, Aug 2005

"No group is oppressed, suppressed or depressed. Instead we have a political culture that values integrity, meritocracy and fairness."
- Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, speech at the 50th Anniversary of the ruling People's Action Party, Nov 2004


Oct 1994 : In connection with a commentary he wrote in the International Herald Tribune stating how judiciaries in some Asian countries are compliant to ruling powers, American academic Dr.Christopher Lingle was questioned for 90 minutes by the Singapore police for possible contempt of court and criminal defamation. Within a week, he returned to the United States. Dr.Lingle and the Singapore printer were subsequently fined for 'contempt of court by way of scandalising the judiciary' and ordered to pay the government's legal costs, totalling in excess of $100,000. Dr Lingle did not return to Singapore to face the charges.

Dec 1994 : Although the International Herald Tribune published an apology for the above article, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew filed a civil libel suit. The IHT agreed to pay the Senior Minister US$213,000 in damages plus costs for the civil suit.

Feb 1995 : Singapore police mounted a major crackdown codenamed "Operation Hope," raiding private homes where Jehovah's Witnesses members were holding prayer meetings. Officers seized bibles, religious literature, documents and computers, and eventually brought charges against 69 members, many of whom went to jail. A month later, 73 year old grandmother Yu Nguk Ding was arrested for carrying two "undesirable publications" - one of them a bible printed by the group. She spent a week in jail rather than pay a fine.

Jul 1995 : Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son, deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, won a libel suit against the International Herald Tribune for an article, published in August 1994, suggesting that the younger Lee was appointed to his post on account of his father. The High Court awarded a record judgment of $950,000. The Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ), Asiaweek, and the Far Eastern Economic Review remained gazetted in 1995.

Nov 1995 : Parliament censured Dr Chee Soon Juan and the Singapore Democratic Party for allegedly endorsing attacks on the judiciary made by Chee's fellow panelists, dissident Francis Seow and academic Dr Christopher Lingle, at a forum held at Williams College, USA. Government leaders said that the failure of Chee and other SDP leaders to contradict the attacks made by Seow and Lingle constituted positive assent by "clever omission."

Jul 1996 : The SBA (Singapore Broadcasting Authority) issued a set of broad regulations for the internet. Prohibited material was defined as "objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony." Authorities underlined that the Sedition Act also covers the internet. The guidelines were subsequently elaborated on in SBA's Internet Code of Practice in 1997.

Aug 1996 : The Government denied the Singapore Democratic Party a request to produce and distribute video tapes on the grounds that visual images can be used to evoke emotional rather than rational responses. Moreover, according to the Government, the use of videos could allow political parties to sensationalize or distort information to capture the maximum attention of the viewer.

Dec 1996 : Parliament levied fines in excess of $36,000 against Dr Chee Soon Juan and three other SDP members, claiming that they had committed perjury and other offenses during the proceedings of a special parliamentary committee examining government health care subsidies.

Dec 1996/Jan 1997 (General Elections) : Despite being returned to power on polling day due to lack of opposition representation, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong threatened to turn constituencies into slums lest the rest of the electorate voted the ruling People's Action Party.

The Elections Department, under direct command of the Prime Minister's Office, redrew electoral boundaries. Amongst others, residents of Braddell Heights, located in central Singapore, suddenly found themselves registered as voters under Marine Parade, a constituency on the east coast helmed by PM Goh.

The Workers' Party complained to the police that PM Goh and other PAP leaders had been speaking to voters inside a polling station on polling day, an act deemed illegal under the Parliamentary Elections Act. But the Public Prosecutor ruled that the PAP ministers had been inside the polling stations as opposed to "loitering" on the outside, so no offence had been committed.

Name-calling by the PAP dominated hustings as Workers' Party candidate Tang Liang Hong was labelled an "anti-Christian, anti-English-educated and Chinese-language chauvinist." But it wasn't the PAP men who got sued. A group of senior PAP leaders - PM Goh Chok Tong, SM Lee Kuan Yew, DPM Lee Hsien Loong and eight other MPs - sued Tang for allegedly defaming them in a police report which he had filed to seek police protection. The police had handed Tang's report to PM Goh and SM Lee. Citing death threats, Tang fled to Malaysia shortly after the election results were announced. He did not return home that night and has remained in exile ever since.

For producing the police report at the election rally, Workers' Party leader JB Jeyaretnam was also sued. All in all, PAP leaders filed a total of 21 defamation suits against both Tang and JBJ.

Jan 1997 : While on their way to meet Tang Liang Hong in Johor Bahru, Mrs Tang Liang Hong and her daughter were stopped by immigration officers at the causeway exit. Her passport was confiscated. On her return home, they found a group of lawyers representing PM Goh Chok Tong, SM Lee Kuan Yew other PAP leaders waiting to serve 13 worldwide Mareva Injunctions to freeze their assets. Shortly after, Inland Revenue officials stormed into their house and carted away tons of documents and articles. A similar raid was carried out at Tang's office in the city.

Apr 1997 : PAP leaders cancelled the passport of Mrs Tang Liang Hong because her name appeared as a co-trustee in one of Tang's documents. If she was allowed to leave Singapore, PAP leaders had feared that they may be unable to recover damages from Tang.

July 1997 : Political prisoner Chia Thye Poh was allowed to travel to Germany to study but was not allowed to make any public statements or address public meetings. He also needed written permission to take part in any political activity or be a member, adviser, helper, official or participant in any organisation or association. Chia, previously an opposition Member of Parliament - was detained without trial in 1966 at the age of 26.

Aug 1997 : The Singapore Government demanded that the Foreign Correspondents Association cancel a speech by then Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. The group's executive committee acceded to the Government's demand.

Aug 1997 : The Internal Security Department, Singapore's secret police, was alleged to have burglarised the home of an American academic helping political exile Tang Liang Hong take up a six-month fellowship at an American university. The break-in, which seemed intended to find computer files and other records listing people interested in Singapore affairs, was investigated by local police and the FBI. According to a recent US State Department's human rights report on Singapore, it is "widely believed that the authorities routinely conduct surveillance on some opposition politicians and other critics of the Government." The same report also stated that the ISD is believed to run a network of part-time informants in the US, Australia and other countries.

Sept 1997 : JB Jeyaretnam was found guilty of defaming Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at an election rally when he told the crowd police reports had been filed against the PM and his PAP colleagues. He was ordered by Justice J. Rajendran to pay $20,000 in damages plus legal fees. After a subsequent appeal by Mr Goh, the damages awarded were increased five-fold, to $100,000.

Nov 1997 : The High Court ordered political exile Tang Liang Hong to pay the PAP leaders $4.53 million in damages.

1997/98 : In 1997 two persons were detained and in 1998, four were detained under the Internal Security Act, all for alleged espionage. Of these six, two remained in detention at the end of 1998. The names of the six detainees remained undisclosed.

Feb 1998 : Tang Liang Hong was declared bankrupt by the High Court after failing to pay $739,976 in damages and interests owed to PAP leaders. Assets belonging to him and his wife were seized. In addition, he was charged with thirty-three counts of tax evasion and there is presently an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Mar 1998 : The Films Act was amended to ban political films and videos. The Government justified the ban as protecting politics from sensationalism, innuendo, and inaccuracy. The legislation defines a party political film as one "made by any person and directed toward any political end in Singapore" or one that contains "partisan or biased references on any political matter."

Mar 1998 : The Singapore Government asked foreign TV stations to restrict coverage of political parties that do not have a wide following. "If we are not careful, foreign broadcasters, like foreign newspapers, can undermine some of our important social and other policies," the Straits Times quoted Minister George Yeo as saying.

July 1998 : The Government passed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, the Electronic Transactions Act and the National Computer Board (Amendment) Act. Under the amended CMA , the police now has lawful access to data and encrypted material in their investigations of offenses under the CMA as well as other offenses disclosed in the course of their investigations. Under the ETA, the police has been given broad powers to search any computer for an offence related to the act without a warrant.

Sept 1998 : The Undesirable Publications Act was amended to include CD-ROMS, sound recordings, pictures, and computer-generated drawings, and to raise the fine for distribution or possession of banned publications. The Government also publicized the list of banned English-language publications, which is made up primarily of sexually-oriented materials, but also includes some religious and political materials.

Nov 1998 : Political detainee Chia Thye Poh was granted unconditional release. He had spent 22 years, six months, two weeks and four days in jail, mostly in solitary confinement. He then spent another 9 years in Sentosa under severe restrictions.

"The best years of my life were taken away just like that without a charge or trial. As a victim of the notorious Internal Security Act, I sincerely call on the government to abolish the act," said Mr Chia.

Dec 1998 : JB Jeyaretnam and Workers' Party were ordered by the High Court to pay ten members of a committee which organised the first Tamil Language Week in 1995, including PAP MP R. Ravindran, $265,000 in defamatory damages plus legal costs for the 14-day trial.

Feb 1999 : Opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan was jailed twice for giving two speeches at Raffles Place without a licence. For both convictions he was fined a total of $3,900 but chose instead to serve two prison terms of seven and 12 days respectively. Chee's colleague, Wong Hong Toy, was also imprisoned for 12 days after refusing to pay a fine for adjusting the microphone and the volume of the speaker. Amnesty International named both men prisoners of conscience.

Mar 1999 : The ten members of the Tamil Language weekly filed a petition with the High Court to wind up the Workers' Party after it failed to pay over $500,000 in libel damages and legal costs.

Mar 1999 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was fined for selling his book, To Be Free, without a permit. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge as book stores and vendors had refused to sell his books out of fear of prosecution.

May 1999 : When JB Jeyaretnam and Dr Chee Soon Juan applied to register Open Singapore Centre, an official said the application would have to be sent for clearance to the Internal Security Department.

May 1999 : After a law student complained to police that someone with an account in the Home Affairs Ministry had hacked into her computer, the Ministry disclosed that it had secretly scanned the computers more than 200,000 SingNet and SingTel Magix customers, ostensibly for viruses. Singnet apologised to its customers - by email - and says the security check has since been abandoned.

However, according to a recent US State Department's human rights report on Singapore, the "Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Board, have wide networks for gathering information and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone and other private conversations and conduct surveillance. It is believed that the authorities routinely monitor telephone conversations and use of the Internet.. The law permits government monitoring of Internet use."

May 1999 : In a Straits Times interview, Minister George Yeo warned Singaporeans: "We have had occasions to tell women's magazines not to get involved in partisan matters. If we did not do this, every political party will use women's magazines to get their views across. I do not think that is healthy for Singapore...If you are a civic organisation, whether you are an organisation, if you want to get yourself involved politically, please get into the political arena and not hide behind a religious group, a tuition class, or a theatre troupe."

Aug 1999 : The police rejected two applications by Dr Chee Soon Juan to hold public rallies.The application was rejected because the venues were outdoors, and there was "a potential for trouble" and public "inconvenience," said the head of the police licensing division. But in a letter to the Home Affairs Ministry, Chee said officials and MPs from the ruling People's Action Party "routinely give political speeches in outdoor areas." Public gatherings of more than five people in Singapore require a police permit.

Sep 1999 : Mrs Tang Liang Hong lost her appeal for damages from PAP leaders, whom she claimed had caused her financial loss. The Court of Appeal also found that she was not entitled to damages for mental distress and anxiety.

Sep 1999 : Elected President Ong Teng Cheong resigned but not before criticising the PAP Government for not providing details of Singapore's financial reserves. They had told him that it would take "52 man-years" to provide the information. In rapid succession, Parliament passed four constitutional amendments to grab back some of the powers that had been vested in the elected president, like his right to veto both defense spending and laws that curtailed his own authority. In a news conference, Ong said that some Ministers and public officials had treated his office as a "nuisance."

"The elected presidency was Lee Kuan Yew's initiative. He came out with the idea way back in '82, '83," said Mr Ong.

2000 : According to the US State Department's human rights report on Singapore, the Singapore Government released a statement confirming that an individual detained by the Internal Security Act in 1998 was still in detention.

May 2000 : Parliament passed the Political Donations Act. Apart from disallowing political organisations from receiving foreign funding, the Act also prohibits anonymous contributions of more than $5000 in any financial year. The Home Affairs Minister has the freedom to define which civil societies are political in nature and are thus bound by the law.

Nov 2000 : Following a four-hour standoff at the Drama Centre, police arrested the president of a theatre company after she tried to rehearse a banned play about marital violence in Singapore's Indian Muslim community. The government said the ban was necessary because artistic works must "respect religious sensitivities in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore." Ms S. Thenmoli, who heads the Agni Kootthu theater group, was given "a stern warning in lieu of prosecution."

Dec 2000 : A Radio Corporation Singapore (RCS) radio report on a Human Rights Day event at Speakers Corner was re-edited after the first report went on air containing comments by JB Jeyaretnam and a letter by Kofi Annan. Shortly after, a spokesperson for RCS said that the journalist Fauziah Ibrahim had "resigned."

Dec 2000 : On Dec 31, police arrested and later charged 15 Falungong adherents for conducting a protest without a permit; only 2 of those arrested were Singapore citizens. The 15 persons arrested had participated in an assembly of 60 Falungong members who sought to draw attention to the arrest and killing of Falungong members in China. The group had not sought a permit, asserting that police had not responded to their previous efforts to obtain permits. In March 2001 seven of the group were sentenced to 4 weeks in jail for refusing to hand over placards to the police.

Jan 2001 : JB Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt after missing by one day the deadline for a $23,450 payment to eight claimants, members of the organising committee of Tamil Language weekly of 1995. As a bankrupt he is effectively disqualified from elections.

Feb 2001 : Police called up two activists from the Open Singapore Centre and Think Centre for questioning in connection with the above Human Rights Day event at Speakers Corner. In a strongly worded release, the Singapore Police Force pointed out that "it is one thing to have a group of people gather to hear a person or persons speak; but quite another when people come together for a specific cause, and in the process, they chant slogans, display placards and show gesticulations, such as clenching of fists. Police treat such actions as indicative of a demonstration or of disorderly behaviour."

Feb 2001 : Police rejected a permit by Think Centre who had wanted to protest outside a Singapore radio station next month to mark World Press Day.

Feb 2001 : The Public Entertainments and Meetings Act was revised to double the fines for holding a public talk or delivering a political speech without a police permit from $5,000 to $10,000.

Mar 2001 : The Government named Open Singapore Centre and Think Centre political associations, so making them ineligible to receive foreign funding. "An organisation which is not registered as a political party but carries out activities to influence the domestic political process should logically also be prohibited from accepting donations," the Government said in a statement.

Apr 2001 : Police summoned political discussion group Roundtable members Kevin Tan and Zulkifli Baharudin for questioning following an event in November to discuss freedom of assembly. Police had wanted to investigate whether the event had provided public entertainment without a license.

Apr 2001 : Parliament passed a law that allows punishment of foreign news broadcasters deemed to be "engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore." The rules are similar to those placed on the foreign print media in 1986.

Apr 2001 : Government officers raided Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscated film equipment and tapes after three lecturers had made a documentary about JB Jeyaratnam. The three were told that they could be charged in court if they went ahead with a planned screening of the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. They submitted written apologies for making the film and withdrew it from the Festival.

July 2001 : JB Jeyaretnam lost his Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat in Parliament after he lost a final appeal against a bankruptcy order. He has been subjected to lawsuits, fines and jail throughout his political career and is estimated to have paid more than $1.6 million in damages and costs so far. Three months later, he resigned from the Workers' Party.

Aug 2001 : Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng warned that Singapore could face the chaos that hit Indonesia after the fall of Suharto if there were too much emphasis on democracy, human rights and press freedom. "We do ourselves a great disservice if we import unthinkingly and wholesale fashionable and hollow abstractions...So do not believe those few Singaporeans who tell you that with democracy, human rights and press freedom a hundred flowers will bloom and Singapore will prosper," said Mr Wong.

Aug 2001 : Parliament passed new laws to restrict political campaigning on the internet. All political websites are to register with the authorities. Non-party political websites are not allowed to campaign for any party, such as displaying party banners and candidate profiles. Election surveys and exit polls are banned.

Aug 2001 : Sintercom, a popular political discussion website, shut itself down after eight years due to pressure by the Government to register as a political site.

Aug 2001 : The Singapore Democratic Party called off a planned political rally after a permit from the police came too late. Approval from the police licensing division had come only four days before the planned rally. "Approval for political rallies is rare in the strictly-governed city-state where the government has been accused of restricting freedom of speech," reported AFP.

Oct 2001 : Despite earlier promises to allow overseas voting, Parliament passed a bill to suspend overseas voting for citizens in the coming general elections, citing security concerns due to ongoing US military strikes in Afghanistan.

Oct 2001 (General Elections) : Snap elections were called 17 days before polling day - the shortest in Singapore Elections history. Parties were given only 9 days to campaign. Election deposits for each candidate were increased to $13,000, up from $5000 in 1997.

A Workers' Party team of candidates were disqualified by the Elections Department from contesting after submitting incomplete forms, resulting in the opposition contesting only two-thirds of the total number of seats, the lowest since 1968.

Under the New Singapore Shares scheme implemented before polling, Singaporeans were given between $200 and $1,700 worth of shares which could be converted to cash.

Non-party political websites were prohibited from political campaigning, while exit polls and appeals for funds over the Internet were banned. Restrictions were also imposed on campaigning via mobile text messaging service. Citing terrorist scare, police banned lunchtime rallies at the central business district.

Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party was labelled a "cheat, congenital liar and political gangster" by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Defamation suits followed, and again it wasn't Lee who got sued. Chee was sued by both PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew for questioning a $17 billion loan to former Indonesian President Suharto in 1997.

15 men and a woman were arrested for alleged "rioting" after an opposition rally. The police said the arrests occurred after about 200 people had gathered at a roadside and waved flags in support of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA). The crowd held up traffic and tapped on windows of passing cars, the statement added.

The US State Department's human rights report on Singapore's electoral system noted that "the PAP completely controlled key positions in and out of government, influenced the press and courts, and limited opposition political activities,"

Nov 2001 : Police arrested internet critic Robert Ho Chong at his home after being charged with an offence punishable by up to three years in jail. The 51-year-old former journalist had posted articles before the general elections urging opposition candidates to enter polling stations, as did the PAP leaders in the 1997 elections. The police classified Ho's article as an attempt to incite violence or disobedience to the law that was likely to lead to a breach of peace.

Dec 2001 : Singapore security police detained without trial fifteen suspected Jemaah Islamiah members. Thirteen of whom were ordered subsequently to preventive detention for a period of 2 years; two others were released with restrictions on their travel and their contacts. In August of 2002, additional terrorist suspects were detained. Three were subsequently released with restrictions. The Government does not allow human rights monitors to visit prisons although previous cases of torture in prisons have been documented by Amnesty International.

Jan 2002 : The Government attacked Muslim website for postings which allegedly condones violence. Information Minister David Lim called for fateha to be registered as a political website. "Spreading anything that goes against the public interest, public order or national harmony would be in breach of the SBA's Code of Practice," reported the Straits Times.

Jan 2002 : The Ministry of Education suspended four 6-year-old girls after their Muslim parents had refused to heed school warnings regarding the headscarves ban in public schools. One subsequently returned to school in June, and another moved to Australia in July. The parents of the other two challenged the ban, and attempted to bring in longtime Malaysian opposition leader and lawyer Karpal Singh to present their case. However, the application for Singh's employment permit was refused.

Feb 2002 : Dr Chee Soon Juan's application to admit Queen's Counsel Stuart Littlemore to represent him in the defamation suit brought by PM Goh Cok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew was rejected by the High Court. The court demanded that he post a $10,000 bond before appealing against the ruling.

May 2002 : The police aborted a Labour Day rally outside the Istana State compound by arresting speakers Dr Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam. The two men were whisked away into a police van moments after they arrived at the scene. The police had earlier turned down Chee's application to stage the 'People Against Poverty' rally on the grounds that it might disrupt law and order.

May 2002 : The court again rejected Dr Chee Soon Juan's bid to have QCs Martin Lee (Hong Kong) and William Henric Nicholas (Australia) represent him in his legal battle against PM Goh and SM Lee. Judicial Commissioner Tay Yong Kwang had ruled that the cases were "not complex" enough to warrant the admission of QCs. Both Mr Lee and Mr Goh were represented by Senior Counsel and PAP MP Davindar Singh.

Jun 2002 : UnionWorks' Mandarin radio station was fined $15,000 for adding "injections of personal remarks and observations by the newsreader, which were unwarranted in normal news bulletins," said the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA).

Jul 2002 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was charged and convicted with violation of the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act for speaking at the Speakers' Corner in February to criticize the government's enforcement of the headscarves ban in public schools. The $3,000 fine imposed on Chee meant that he cannot stand in a parliamentary election for 5 years.

Jul 2002 : The police again raided internet critic Robert Ho's home and confiscated his computer for two articles posted on soc.culture.singapore. On the same night, social activist Zulfikar Mohamad also had his computer carted away by the police for an article posted on Both postings had raised the issue of nepotism. The two men were being investigated for criminal defamation which can result in a prison sentence of up to 2 years, a fine, or both. Mr Ho complained that, 2 weeks after seizure of his computer, authorities had compelled him to stay in a mental facility for more than a week. Zulfikar Mohamad has since left for Australia.

Aug 2002 : Bloomberg news service publicly apologized and agreed to pay $595,000 in damages to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for an internet-distributed column which had alleged that Ms Ho Ching, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, was promoted to the senior position in government investment firm Temasek Holdings because of her relationship with the senior leadership.

Aug 2002 : The court ruled that there will be no trial for the defamation suits brought by PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew against Dr Chee Soon Juan. In a summary judgment pronounced by the registrar, Chee was found guilty of defamation.

Sep 2002 : Ho Peng Kee, the People's Action Party second organising secretary, dismissed a proposal by groups such as the Feedback Unit and Roundtable for an independent electoral commission to oversee the running of national polls. Singapore's Elections Department comes directly under the command of the Prime Minister's Office.

Oct 2002 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was charged under Public Entertainment and Meetings Act for holding an unauthorized "People Against Poverty" rally on Labour Day outside the Istana. Chee was fined $4500 and his colleague Gandhi Ambalam was fined $3000. Chee chose to serve a 5-week prison sentence rather than pay the fine. Amnesty International issued a scathing attack on the Singapore Government, saying that the detentions "typify a pattern of unreasonable restriction on public gatherings and on the free expression of opinion".

Oct 2002 : In response to calls to allow bar-top dancing in pubs, Minister of State Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament "If you want to dance on the bar top, some of us will fall off that bar top. Some will die as a result... Usually it is a girl with a short skirt who's dancing on it, who may attract some insults from other men. The boyfriend starts fighting. Some people will die. Blood will be shed for liberalising the policy."

Nov 2002 : A report by the Asian Human Rights Commission stated that Dr Chee Soon Juan was being "incarcerated in a poorly ventilated 7 foot x 15 foot cell with two other prisoners. Having been assigned to a straw mat next to the toilet "bucket", he sleeps only two to three hours each night. Dr Chee is afflicted with nausea and dizziness, and he lost 10kg of weight during his first ten days of incarceration."

Dec 2002 : Police rejected an application by JB Jeyaretnam to hold an anti-GST march on the grounds of maintaining "law and order", despite JBJ's assurance that "no one will be carrying any sticks or shouting anything, except perhaps the slogan 'Say No to GST'."

Dec 2002 : Muhamad Ali Aman, recently-appointed Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, was expelled by his union after he refused to resign over ties with the opposition. He was a branch chairman of a union which comes under the purview of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), an affiliate of the PAP Government. Following Aman's dismissal, Melvin Tan, a member of the Workers' Party, resigned from his union post.

Feb 2003 : On the weekend of 17 February 2003, while six million people all over the world were out on the streets in anti-war demonstrations, Singapore police arrested six Singaporeans who had turned up or were en-route to the US Embassy, and which prompted Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng to decree that "the government does not authorise protests and demonstrations of any nature."

US Ambassador Franklin Lavin saw it differently, "I don't see why a group of people who want to stand in front of my Embassy and tell me they don't agree with a policy of my country should not be able to do so. The right of peaceful expression of opinion is an important element of a successful society"

Feb 2003 : The Ministry of Defence disallowed a woman to open her home to the public for an anti-war candle-light vigil because her rented home was located within the Seletar Army Camp. An army spokesman told the press that "certain activities are not allowed within that area." Police spokesman, Philip Mah, referring to venues outside army jurisdiction, added, "When you have an assembly of five or more people in a location where the public can have access to, a permit is required under the law."

Apr 2003 : The police denied the Open Singapore Centre its application to hold a march for May Day. The OSC has applied for the march to take place starting at the Ministry of Manpower and ending in front of Parliament House where a rally will take place.

Sept 2003 : Think Centre's application for a proposed display of dolls to mark Children's Day at Raffles Place and Stamford Road was rejected by the police on grounds of "law and order considerations".

Oct 2003 : Information Minister Lee Boon Yang publicly reprimanded a London-based writer, Michael Backman, over the latter's article on Today, which had said that Singapore still maintains "the old-fashioned, outmoded trappings of a Third World dictatorship." Mr Lee told the Singapore Press Club audience that Backman "had clearly crossed the line and engaged in our domestic politics." He further said that one rule "that remains firmly in place is the requirement that foreign journalists stay out of Singapore's politics."

Nov 2003 : Following a report in Today newspaper on the trauma of SM Lee Kuan Yew in London after his wife had suffered a stroke, an advisor to Mr Lee reprimanded Today editor Mano Sabnani for allowing the report to be published. The young journalist who wrote the story, Val Chua, reportedly had her press card suspended.

Nov 2003 : The police rejected three applications by a White Ribbon Campaign group to stage outdoor events to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women. Police had first denied the group a permit for a march - and later turned down its application to hold a children's drama presentation - because such events could threaten "law and order." The group then applied to hold an outdoor children's choir performance, but that was also rejected.

Nov 2003 : The Computer Misuse Act was amended to allow government agencies to patrol the internet and swoop down on hackers suspected of plotting to use computer keyboards as weapons of mass disruption. Violators of the Act such as website hackers can be jailed up to three years or fined up to $10,000. A PAP MP described the Act as "the cyberspace equivalent of the Internal Security Act." An online poll by internet portal Yahoo Singapore showed that 70 percent of respondents felt the new laws gave the authorities too much power, and they were afraid they were being watched.

Nov 2003 : Labour Minister Ng Eng Hen accused the Air Line Pilots' Association-Singapore of being "self-serving and confrontational" after its members voted to sack its entire leadership over controversial wage cuts imposed by Singapore Airlines. The Government then announced it will amend the Trade Unions Act in a bid to restrict members' rights.

"(SIA) Pilots believe they are special, they got huge egos, I am told...I can assure you that in Singapore, when we decide that they are breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered, then either their head is broken or our bones are broken," SM Lee Kuan Yew told an audience at the World Brand Forum.

Dec 2003 : The Government banned a public forum entitled "Democracy in Burma: How can Asians help?" In a terse reply, the police stated that the application by the Open Singapore Centre was rejected because the "proposed event is likely to be contrary to the public interest."

Mar 2004 : The Government revoked the permanent residency of SIA pilot Captain Ryan Goh after the ministry deemed him an "undesirable" immigrant. SM Lee Kuan Yew had previously singled him out as "the instigator" to get the previous leaders of the pilots union sacked.

Mar 2004 : Young drama group The Fun Stage's planned series of talks and forums on gay representation, entitled The Lover's Lecture Series, was denied a licence by Public Entertainment Licensing Unit (Pelu). Pelu said the talks involving academics, critics and theatre practitioners "were contrary to the public interest."

Apr 2004 : Gay rights group People Like Us' second bid to register itself as a society was rejected. Its first application was turned down in 1997. According to the Societies Act, groups may be turned down because they are either likely to be used for unlawful purpose or purposes "prejudicial to public peace, welfare and good order," or are likely to act against "national interests."

Aug 2004 : Shortly after Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister, he promised an "open and inclusive society."

But his father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, told an international audience at the Global Brand Forum that "political reform need not go hand in hand with economic liberaliastion." He also invoked the ghost of Deng Xiaoping and said, "He took over, and he said: 'If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.'"

Sept 2004 : Despite amending the law to allow certain interest groups to register on a fast track, the Government announced that the following will not be included - groups whose activities relate to human rights, political rights, civil rights, animal and environmental rights, gender issues, religion, ethnicity and martial arts.

Sept 2004 : The Economist paid $390,000 in damages plus legal costs to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew for an article it ran mentioning "a whiff of nepotism'' upon the appointment of the Prime Minister's wife, Ho Ching, as chief executive of Temasek Holdings.

Sept 2004 : The Government extended for another two years the detention of 17 suspected Jemaah Islamiah members held under Internal Security Act. Eighteen other suspected members remain under ISA detention.

Nov 2004 : The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision to deny the application by JB Jeyaretnam to be discharged from bankruptcy. His liabilities are estimated at more than $600,000.

Dec 2004 : Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew issued a stern warning to foreign media against meddling in Singapore's politics. In a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association, Lee said, "We are not that daft. We know what is in our interest and we intend to preserve our interests and what we have is working. You are not going to tell us how to run our country."

Dec 2004 : Police rejected an application by a Hong Kong based gay portal to hold a Christmas party as "the event is likely to be organised as a gay party which is contrary to public interest."

Jan 2005 :The Internal Security Department arrested two Singaporeans for alleged involvement in terrorist groups, bringing the total number of ISA detainees to 36.

Jan 2005 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was ordered by the High Court to pay $500,000 in damages plus legal costs to MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong.

Mar 2005 : The High Court dismissed a defamation lawsuit by Dr Chee Soon Juan against MM Lee Kuan Yew. Chee had filed the counter suit in 2001 after Lee had called him a "political gangster, a liar and a cheat".

Mar 2005 : Police rejected an application by a local gay Christian support group to hold a concert because the Media Development Authority said that the show would "promote a homosexual lifestyle."

Mar 2005 : Chief Justice Yong Pung How sued his former remisier, Mr Boon Suan Ban, for defamation because Mr Boon was apparently pestering the Chief Justice on an outstanding financial matter when Mr Yong was the chairman of a bank. The Attorney-General charged Mr Boon for criminal defamation. The financier was subsequently acquitted because he was of "unsound mind", but was ordered to be detained at the Institute of Mental Health where he now remains at the President's pleasure. In June, CJ Yong ordered all court files relating to the case sealed.

Mar 2005 : The police rejected an application by JB Jeyaretnam for a march to protest the Government's decision to allow casinos to be built, saying it would have disrupted civil order.

Apr 2005 : The Government barred Amnesty International's Tim Parritt from speaking at a public forum entitled "Death penalty and the rule of law in Singapore". The police justified the ban by saying that it does not need a foreigner to lecture it on its criminal justice system.

May 2005 : Student blogger Chen Jiahao received an email from Mr Philip Yeo, a powerful state executive, who threatened to sue Chen because he had made disparaging remarks in his blog about Mr Yeo's company. The blogger apologised and shut down his website.

May 2005 : Police threatened filmmaker Martyn See with prosecution for a film he made about Dr Chee Soon Juan. See was forced to withdraw the film from the Singapore International Film Festival after authorities warned that he could be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $100,000 if it was screened. See withdrew his entry but got a call from the police for questioning anyway.

May 2005 : Two Falungong practitioners were imprisoned for handing out VCDs and gathering in public without permits. Singapore Falun Buddhist Society spokeswoman Diana Wang said in a statement that Singapore was the only country outside China that had brought charges against Falungong practitioners for carrying out "truth-clarification" activities. Handing out VCDs without a license is punishable by a fine of up to $40,000, or a one-year jail term, or both.

May 2005 : American activist Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan was denied entry and deported from Singapore. The government said that he has been banned indefinitely for interfering in the nation's domestic politics. Mr Yeshua had been invited to conduct a non-violence workshop for Singaporean activists.

May 2005 : In its annual report, Amnesty International criticized Singapore for its highest rate of executions in the world, and for its "broad array of restrictive laws" that curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Jun 2005 : Police denied the gay group Fridae permission to organise a public party, saying that this would be contrary to public interests.

Jun 2005 : Police warned would-be protesters at the Olympic vote held in Singapore that they would be arrested. A group of small businesses had threatened to stage protests against London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Jul 2005 : Police attended and videotaped Dr Chee Soon Juan's book launch on non-violence. They also seized a VCD and took down the particulars of the speakers. Investigations are on-going.

Aug 2005 : Police threatened organisers of an anti-death penalty concert that it would not give the licence if the photograph of Shanmugam Murugesu was not removed from the concert posters. The police said that they did not want to glorify an executed person. Shanmugam was executed in May 2005 after he was convicted of smuggling marijuana into Singapore.

Aug 2005 : Riot police, in full battle gear, were sent in to break-up a peaceful protest by four activists who were protesting against the non-transparent nature of charity organisation NKF, and government institutions such as the CPF, GIC and HDB. About 40 police officers were deployed. They confiscated the protesters' T-shirts and placards.

Aug 2005 : Filmmaker Martyn See was questioned for the second time by the police and was asked to surrender his video camera and six existing tapes used as part of his banned documentary. Police also called up blogger Mr Jacob George and filmmaker Ms Tan Pin Pin for questioning in relationship to See's making of his film. Investigations are on-going.

Sep 2005 : Police launched investigations into cardboard cut-outs of white elephants displayed in front of a railway station. The cartoons were put up to protest the non-opening of the Buangkok MRT station.

Sep 2005 :, an Asian online publication, issued an apology and agreed to pay an unspecified amount of damages and legal costs to PM Lee Hsien Loong, SM Goh Chok Tong and MM Lee Kuan Yew for an article about the Lee family and Temasek Holdings.

Oct 2005 : Two bloggers who allegedly posted racist remarks online were sentenced to jail under the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law used by the British to fight communist insurgency, and invoked for the first time since independence. In the same month, sedition charges were also brought against another blogger who allegedly posted inflammatory remarks about Muslims. The district court placed the 17-year old student on probation.

Oct 2005 : Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the Foreign Correspondents Association that Singapore will not adopt a Western liberal democracy with a multi-party system during the next 20 years.

Oct 2005 : Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng announced in Parliament that people who are arrested in Singapore have no right to immediate legal counsel. Giving the accused access to lawyers during investigations could impede police work, said Mr Wong.

Oct 2005 : Senior lecturers at Warwick University in the UK voted against setting up a branch campus in Singapore due to worries about limits on academic freedom.

Oct 2005 : The outgoing US ambassador to Singapore criticised Singapore's restrictions on free speech in a rare public rebuke. Ambassador Franklin Lavin said Singapore's 20th-century political model may prove inadequate for the 21st century, warning that the government "will pay an increasing price for not allowing full participation of its citizens."

Nov 2005 : The Government criticised Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for giving it low marks on press freedom. RSF had placed Singapore at 140 out of 167 countries. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong defended Singapore's pro-government media by echoing Lee Kuan Yew's 1959 statement to the foreign press, "You are not going to teach us how we should run the country. We are not so stupid. We know what our interests are and we try to preserve them".

Nov 2005 : Information Minister Lee Boon Yang told Parliament that the ban on satellite TV in homes is still valid as "we must remain vigilant against external influences which may seek to split and divide our society."

Dec 2005 : The Singapore Government rejected appeals from the United Nations, two Popes, human rights organisations and the Australian government to spare the life of Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van, who was executed on December 2 after being convicted of smuggling heroin through Singapore's Changi Airport. More than 400 prisoners have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, the highest per capita rate of execution in the world, according to Amnesty International.

Dec 2005 : The Media Development Authority ordered Mr Benny Lim, a theatre director, to remove all references to the death penalty in his new play.

Dec 2005 : High Court Judge VK Rajah dismissed an Originating Motion taken up by three of the four peaceful protesters against the Home Affairs Minister and the Police Commissioner. Mr Rajah ruled that Singapore citizens had no right to stage protests because this would undermine the stable and upright stature of Singapore.

Jan 2006 : US billionaire philanthropist George Soros told a Singapore audience that the city-state could not be an open society as long as its leaders use libel suits against opposition politicians. "The use of libel ...can be a tremendous hindrance to freedom of expression. Obviously, Singapore doesn't qualify as an open society," said Soros.

Jan 2006 : The police warned a group of schoolgirls that the wearing of T-shirts en masse might be misconstrued by some as an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public & Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Processions) Rules. The students had planned to help raise money for charity by selling white elephant T-shirts at the Buangkok MRT station's inauguration ceremony.

Jan 2006 : Singapore was singled out by a rights group for its denial of individual rights. The Asian Human Rights Commission described the city-state as a place where "freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the capacity to assert one's rights do not exist at all."

Jan 2006 : Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng told Parliament that the Government will not hesitate to cane and imprison protesters who commit violent acts during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting to be held in Singapore later this year.

Jan 2006 : The Economist apologized to MM Lee Kuan Yew and agreed to pay damages for statements in the magazine's obituary on Devan Nair, Singapore's former president.

Feb 2006 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was declared a bankrupt by the High Court after he failed to pay $500,000 in libel damages awarded to MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong. "Almost all of Singapore's leading opposition figures have faced legal action at some time by prominent members of the ruling PAP," reported Reuters.

"Not only did I not have legal representation but I also did not get a trial. It is well-known that Singapore has detention without trial. Now it seems that we also have defamation without trial," said Chee.

Feb 2006 : Dr Chee Soon Juan was charged with contempt of court for a statement he made at the above bankruptcy hearing in which he alleged that the judiciary is not independent and fair, especially in cases involving opposition politicians. The Attorney-General is pressing for a jail term.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Life in a police state

Police harassment at non-violence book launch11 Jul 05

Police seized a CD and demanded the particulars of two young activists who spoke at Dr Chee Soon Juan’s launching of his latest book The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore through Nonviolence.

Several police officers in plainclothes had attended the event and filmed the proceedings (see photos). At the end of the presentation, they demanded to know whether the organizers had a permit for a video clip that had run. They then seized a CD and said that it would be used for further investigation.

There was one officer in particular who seemed intent on offending as many people as he could. Incredibly at one point, after rudely demanding to see the CD, he wanted to borrow Dr Chee's laptop computer to view the CD he had seized whereupon Dr Chee replied: “The next thing you’ll want is to borrow some money from me to take a taxi back to the police station.”

Another police officer then filled out a form and wanted Dr Chee to sign it to acknowledge that they were seizing the CD. At this point lawyer Mr M Ravi who was also present took a look at the form and said that it was ridiculous for the police to seize someone’s property and then ask that person acknowledge it. Dr Chee then said to the officers: “If you want to take it, take it. Do whatever you want to do with it but return it when you’re finished with it.”

Upon hearing this, the rude officer barged in and threatened, “So I take it that you are refusing to sign the acknowledgment?”

“It doesn’t make sense for the police to seize something and then ask its owner to acknowledge that the property was taken as if the item was gladly handed over,” Mr Ravi chipped in. “I'm trying to explain that...”

“No point wasting time, let’s go! We have more important things to do!” the officer yelled to his colleagues.

Earlier, some of the officers had demanded to see the Identity Cards of Mr Charles Tan and Mr Jonathan Siow, both in their twenties. The officers took down the particulars of the two young activists who had spoken before Dr Chee’s presentation and they said that they found non-violent action to be meaningful and an effective tool in helping to empower Singaporeans. Messrs Tan and Siow had attended workshops on non-violence in recent months.

The Singapore Government had earlier refused Nonviolence International trainer, Mr Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, entry when he at the Singapore Airport and deported him. The non-violence expert was invited to conduct a workshop for Singaporeans activists.

On a previous occasion, the police also disrupted a forum on the death penalty by demanding the particulars of the moderator, Ms Salbiah Ahmad, a lawyer from Singapore. On that occasion uniformed officers were summoned in an apparent attempt to cause alarm to those present. The authorities had earlier banned Amnesty International spokesman from speaking at the forum.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Singapore police warn would-be Olympic vote protesters they could face arrest


SINGAPORE (AP) - Singapore police Tuesday said they would clamp down on any protest designed to disrupt the 2012 Summer Games vote, saying demonstrators could face arrest.

The warning came a week after a British group of small businesses opposed to London hosting the games said they were considering protesting at the Singapore meeting, which begins Sunday, to dissuade the International Olympic Committee from giving the vote to the British capital.

Other cities vying for the Olympics, which could bring up to $12 billion US for the hosts, are New York, Madrid, Paris and Moscow. The decision will be made July 6.

Singapore law dictates that outdoor gatherings of five or more people require a police permit. Public demonstrations are extremely rare in the tightly-controlled city-state. Police usually deny permits, citing "law and order problems." "

Anyone who organizes or participates in an assembly or procession without a permit is violating the law," said Aubeck Kam, the police's operations director, at a briefing about security for the July 2-9 meeting.

Heads of state expected to be in Singapore to support their countries' bids include British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a slew of celebrities and star athletes are also expected to attend.

People gathered to support a cause would constitute a demonstration, Kam said, adding the police have not received an application from the British group to protest.

Kam also said police would not authorize any application for outdoor marches or assemblies with the potential to "breach public peace."

More than 2,000 armed police, military and civil defence officers will maintain security at the event, which an estimated 3,500 delegates will attend, Kam said.

All vehicles and persons entering the IOC session at the Raffles City Convention Center will be checked, and concrete barricades will be set up around the building to prevent anyone from ramming a vehicle into it, he said.

The British Marshgate Lane Business Group claims they are being offered below-market rate compensation to move in preparation for London's hosting.

Why treat us like criminals?

Policemen's rude behaviour during security screening left wife in tears

I would like to bring to light my experience last weekend during a routine check conducted by the police at my very frequent hang-out at Orchard Towers.
My friends and I were the only Asians and we were also the only men who were put through a screening.
We were very co-operative but when I politely asked why the "ang mohs" were not being screened as well, I was told that I would be referred to the Internal Security Department.
As I understand it, these routine checks were to ensure that there were no illegals or overstayers among those patronising the place.
But isn't it quite obvious who the foreigners were?
It's ironic that one Singaporean discriminates against another.
On another issue, my wife was in a queue that had been set up for the female patrons.
Everyone in the queue was asked to show proper identification and undergo the same screening that we did.
She was talking to me while in the queue when an officer shouted and acted nasty towards her in front of every one else.
She was told not to talk while in the queue.
It was the first time we had ever had to submit to such checks. As she was a little shaken by the experience, she later cried.
I wonder why were we treated like criminals? We understand that the police are doing their jobs to make Singapore a better place to live. But was this kind of treatment necessary?
Letter from Muhammad Firdaus B Monir

S'pore govt uses fear to stifle freedom of expression: Canadian lawyers' group
Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
Press Release (18 Jul 05)
22 Jul 05

LRWC Press release – July 18, 2005

Singapore police used plain clothes officers to seize a video screened at the July 9, 2005 launch of the latest book by opposition leader Dr. Chee Soon Juan. Dr. Chee has long been an outspoken critic of the government, and the recent release of his book, The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore through Nonviolence, was no small step toward exercising a meaningful right to freedom of expression in Singapore. The attendance of the police at the event was a disappointing indication that the Singapore government, while professing to "open up Singapore" and adhere to democratic values, continues to use heavy-handed methods to rein in peaceful political dissent.

The book launch was held indoors at Singapore's Grand Plaza Parkroyal Hotel and attracted about 50 people. Plainclothes officers videotaped the proceedings, which included various speeches and a question and answer session. As the event drew to a close and Dr. Chee was signing copies of his book, a 2003 video clip of Hong Kong residents protesting peaceably against a proposed anti-subversion law was projected on to the wall behind him.

At that point, the police demanded to know whether the organizers had a permit for the video clip. They questioned Dr. Chee, then seized the CD and said that it would be used for further investigation. Police spokesperson ASP Victor Keong asserted that the CD was seized under the Films Act for investigation because it did not possess a certificate for public exhibition. Licensing rules were eased last year with respect to indoor public talks, but restrictions remain for public assemblies.

The officers also demanded identifying information from two activists who had spoken before Dr. Chee's presentation. Charles Tan and Jonathan Siow, both in their twenties, had said that they found non-violent action to be an effective tool in helping to empower Singaporeans.

Dr. Chee is Secretary General of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). The Singapore government is led by the People's Action Party (PAP), which has held power, uninterrupted, for the last half-century. The PAP has repeatedly targeted Dr. Chee throughout his public career. In 1992, three months after he joined the SDP, he was forced out of his university teaching position and faced charges of defamation when he attempted to dispute his dismissal. He was forced to sell his home to pay legal costs. In 1999, he served jail time on two charges of violating the Public Entertainments Act, which required police permits for public events involving more than five people. Dr. Chee had made public addresses, without a license, protesting the lack of freedom of speech in Singapore. In 2001, he faced a second lawsuit by government officials for allegedly defaming them during an election campaign, and subsequently signed an apology in order to avoid becoming ineligible to run in the election. for more information from Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada regarding those incidents, please see In The Matter Of An Addendum To The Report To Lawyers' Rights Watch On The Trial Of B. J. Jeyeretnam As A Result Of Observations On The Trial Of Chee Soon Juan; and, Newsletter VII, item I.3

The Singapore Constitution guarantees every citizen of Singapore the right to freedom of speech and _expression, the right to assemble peacefully, and the right to association. The PAP, however, has a history of using fear to stifle those very rights that the Constitution guarantees.

For example, in May the government refused entry into Singapore to international non-violence expert Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan to prevent his interfering in Singapore's domestic politics. On another occasion, the police disrupted a forum on the death penalty by demanding the particulars of the moderator, Salbiah Ahmad, a lawyer from Singapore. On that occasion, uniformed officers were summoned in an apparent attempt to cause alarm to those present. The authorities also barred an Amnesty International spokesperson from speaking at the forum.

In the past, Singapore has also silenced dissent by using its draconian Internal Security Act - ISA, which allows for detention without trial. In 1966, opposition politician Chia Thye Poh accused the PAP of harassing opposition leaders, and staged a boycott of Parliament. Soon afterwards, he was arrested and detained under the ISA. He was never charged and never received a public hearing, but nevertheless remained in detention for 23 years. Selective application of an array of criminal laws against government critics is a display of force by the state that serves to intimidate anyone who wishes to publicly express a dissenting political opinion. By doing so, the Singapore government strips meaning from its citizens' fundamental human rights and demonstrates its lack of commitment to a free and democratic society.

Singapore Police Ban Gay Christmas Party

The Advocate, December 10, 2004

A planned Christmas party organized by Asia’s most popular gay Web site is “against the moral values” of most Singaporeans, police said Thursday as they slapped a ban on the festivities,” Agence France-Presse reports. Police also indicated the future of the Nation Party, one of Asia’s biggest annual gay and lesbian festivals, held every August, was in jeopardy after complaints about public displays of affection at the last event. “Police’s assessment is that the event is likely to be organized as a gay party, which is contrary to public interest in general,” a police statement said in regards to the proposed Christmas Day party, called SnowBall.04. “Singapore is still, by and large, a conservative and traditional society. Hence, the police cannot approve any application for an event which goes against the moral values of a large majority of Singaporeans.”

Jungle Media, the Singapore subsidiary of Hong Kong-based, had applied to police for a license to organize SnowBall.04 to run all night at a disused nightclub from 9 p.m. on December 25, according to AFP. The police decision was a shock to, which had organized similar Christmas parties in 2002 and 2003 as well as the increasingly successful Nation parties, which have been held since 2001. “In the four years that we have been working with the police...not once have we been made aware that there was anything illegal about our events,”’s chief executive, Stuart Koe, said in a statement.

But the police said it had banned SnowBall.04 because Jungle Media had previously given assurances the Nation events would not be organized as gay parties. The police statement said this year’s Nation was advertised on, and listed a long range of complaints that included revellers cross-dressing and “openly kissing and intimately touching each other.” “Future applications for events of similar nature will be closely scrutinized,” the statement said.

Koe said had already lodged an appeal for the ban on SnowBall.04 to be overturned. “We are hoping that the Singapore gay community will be allowed to conduct itself like every other citizen of Singapore,” Koe told AFP. “It is ironic that gays are allowed to work in the civil service but not allowed to have our own private celebrations.”

Gay sex is still outlawed in Singapore, but the government allows gay-friendly facilities and shops to operate in the city-state and for gays to work in the public service. The police ban comes after Singapore’s senior minister of state for health, Balaji Sadasivan, said last month that gay men’s unsafe sexual practices were the biggest reason for an “alarming AIDS epidemic” in the city-state.

SINGAPORE - May 3, 2005

Four men were arrested by police on April 14 for engaging in sexual activity inside a private gay men's sauna.

Homosexual activity in Singapore is against the law and and hotel rooms and saunas are both considered public spaces by authorities.
Singapore still hauls out dusty antique British Colonial laws when it wants to harass and criminalize homosexuals (and even straight couples who engage in oral sex).

After four years of relative freedom for the local gay community, officials seem to be once again ratcheting up the anti-gay rhetoric which might have lead to these latest arbitrary arrests (tens of thousands of Singapore's 150,000+ homosexual citizens are having sex every day -- get used to it already).

This case appears to be the first since two men were caught in another gay sauna in 2001. In that case the victims were originally charged under Section 377A of the Penal Code which states "Any male person who, in public or private, commits or abets the commission of or procures the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years."

Later, the charge was amended to Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (Cap 184, 1997 Ed) which states: "Any person who is found guilty of any riotous, disorderly or indecent behaviour in any public road or in any public place or place of public amusement or resort, or in the immediate vicinity of, or in, any court, public office, police station or place of worship, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding S$2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months."

The men in the 2001 case were eventually fined S$600 each.

Singapore police arrests Falun Gong members for distributing VCDs

May 2, 2005 (CSN) -- How would you like to be thrown in jail, simply for leafleting (handing out free flyers and CDs) in a public park? To those who live in freedom, the thought seems outrageous. Likewise, for those who understand the information revolution, we know that similar things are downloaded, from millions of points to millions of users, every day. Should governments stand against the tide of information dissemination?

Free speech, and the information explosion, seem to be new ideas to the government of Singapore, where their recent treatment of two women of Falun Gong seems like a throwback to the middle ages. A flap and controversy now centers around two women, Ms. Ng Chye Huay and Ms. Cheng Lujin. The seven charges from Singapore include "Assembly without a Permit," and "Possession and Distribution of VCDs without a Certificate."

This, in a nation which purportedly follows the rule of law and has Constitutional protections for religious freedom, free speech, and freedom of assembly.

It should embarrass the government of Singapore to run afoul of Falun Gong, and sympathy protests have occurred in Taiwan, the US, and the UK. "Falun Gong protests, while always peaceful and orderly, are also relentless and brook no persecution," noted John Patrick, Director emeritus at the China Support Network.

Their arrest was in May, 2004, and their verdict, rendered April 27, 2005, ordered the women to pay $20,000 and $24,000 (Singapore dollars) respectively. (Those amounts in US dollars are $12,216 and $14,660, respectively.) They were also denied bail, a procedure that should have kept them free pending appeal. They were sent directly to jail, to remain prospectively up to 24 weeks. The two women have begun a hunger strike in prison, and in Singapore, "refusing to eat" is another charge that they are being slapped with under the Prisons Act.

A Singapore resident in New York expressed astonishment. "The laws don't exist to punish people for doing something good. The courts have better things to do than treat [Falun Gong] practitioners as criminals," said Elaise Poh, as reported in the Epoch Times. Human rights attorney Terri Marsh said, "The crimes that require redress are those perpetrated by the CCP in China," referring to the human rights atrocities that China visits upon Falun Gong practitioners and many other non-communist groups in Mainland China. "Marsh believes the court ruling may have been influenced by Chinese authorities in order to obscure the issue of who the real criminals are, namely, the CCP," per the Epoch Times.

CSN's John Patrick noted, "In light of the constitutional protections and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this becomes a human rights case." The President of Singapore, and four United Nations offices, are already being pressed on the case, through a human rights working group of Falun Gong. Patrick predicted, "The right side of history will prevail, and Singapore should feel ashamed by its authorities' pandering to Communists."

Singapore filmmaker faces police investigation

Country/Topic: Singapore
Date: 11 May 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Person(s): Martyn See
Target(s): other
Type(s) of violation(s): legal action , harassed
Urgency: Threat
(SEAPA/IFEX) - Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See has been invited for questioning by the police, news agencies have reported, two months after his documentary on a Singaporean opposition figure was forced out of a film festival in the city-state.

See, 36, told Reuters that he is expected to present himself before the country's police on 16 May 2005. The filmmaker said he expects to be questioned about "Singapore Rebel", his film on Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party.

The Agence France-Presse news agency said See was being probed under the Films Act pertaining to "party political" films. If convicted of violating the Films Act, See could be jailed for two years or fined up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (approx. US$60,800).

See had pulled his documentary from Singapore's International Film Festival in March after government censors advised him that the film was flaunting laws against political films.

Despite its economic strength and high standard of living, Singapore remains a highly restricted country in terms of political and speech rights. The city-state's rulers are notorious for intimidating both local and foreign media with financially crippling libel and defamation suits.

Most recently, even Singaporean bloggers have been scared by threats of defamation stemming from comments made about A*STAR, a government-related research agency. A Singapore student shut down his blog and apologised "unreservedly" after officials of A*STAR threatened to file a defamation suit (see IFEX alerts of 6 and 2 May 2005).

The subject of See's documentary, Chee himself is facing bankruptcy proceedings in Singapore after being sued for defamation by Singapore's two former premiers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, in line with speeches he made while campaigning for a parliamentary post in 2001. A Singaporean court ordered him to pay the former prime ministers 500,000 Singapore dollars (approx. US$304,000).

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Police State arrives in Singapore : Singapore installs CCTVs in schools and on street corners

Saturday November 6, 6:17 PM

All Singapore schools to have CCTVs and security guards

SINGAPORE : Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said all schools would get 10 to 12 closed circuit TVs on site and two security guards each.
The move to boost security in schools and junior colleges will cost the Ministry $15 million to $20 million a year.
Mr Tharman said this at a dialogue on National Security with Young Singaporeans at the National Junior College on Friday.
He said this was the outcome of a security review by the Education Ministry and the National Security Coordination Centre, following the Beslan hostage taking incident in Russia in September this year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Security and Defence, Dr Tony Tan, who was also at the dialogue, said that there is no current security threat and there is no need to be paranoid but Singapore just wants to continue being vigilant.
It is part of the overall move to harden Singapore against terror.
The CCTVs will be installed in all schools within six months, and security guards deployed within six to eight months.
Institutes of higher learning like the ITEs, polytechnics and universities - already have their own security measures in place. - CNA

Schools to tighten security through CCTVs, alarms and guards

By Ca-Mie De Souza, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Closed circuit TVs, alarm systems and security guards now form part of schools' network of resources to ensure that the premises are safe. This follows Sunday's announcement that the Education Ministry and the National Security Coordination Secretariat are reviewing school security.

The move is aimed at preventing any incidents such as the recent Beslan school tragedy in Russia. Opera Estate Primary School has two main gates, but one is always closed. The other is under the watchful eyes of a security guard employed by the school. Idris Mattar, Principal of Opera Estate Primary School, said: "Even the cars that come in will be directed to certain places where the security guard can have a look. If you were to look at the cones there, the cones there are blockades so to speak, not allowing people to park anywhere in the school other than the designated areas."

The school's Operation Manager Mr Ong, who has retired from the Police Force, patrols the school regularly to ensure that no outsiders are wandering around. All visitors have to sign in and exchange for passes at the office. Even maintenance personnel have their own passes and will be accompanied on their work.

A security guard is not mandatory for every school, but Opera Estate Primary School chose to employ one out of their own manpower grant. They are also tapping on parent volunteers to be their eyes for the school. Idris Mattar said: "They have also offered their services to help the school in anyway they can. So we are looking into parent volunteers being our eyes on security."

A check with schools showed that some have CCTVs and alarm systems, while most schools leave their lights on at night so that any intruders can be spotted. As for Tanjong Katong Secondary School, it has added help in the form of their neighbours who will alert the school when they spot anything amiss.

Staff are also rostered to patrol the school premises, as well as limiting the hours where the side gate is opened. - CNA

Sunday November 7, 12:52 PM
Report: Singapore to install more street cameras to fight terror

Singapore will install more closed-circuit security cameras throughout the tightly controlled city-state to guard against possible terror attacks, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Dubbing the cameras "eyes and ears on the ground," Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng declined to specify where they would be located, but said they would be in various public places and in areas with a higher incidence of crime, the Straits Times said.
Authorities installed 30 security cameras around the wealthy island republic last year. Wong did not say how many would be added, and stressed there was no specific threat to Singapore, the newspaper said.
"We're making Singapore a difficult target ... so that people are aware that we're always watchful, always vigilant," it quoted Wong as saying.
Singapore, a close ally of Washington, has arrested nearly 40 al-Qaida-linked terrorists who were allegedly plotting attacks on the U.S. Embassy, a U.S. naval facility and other Western targets.
A week ago the government announced it was placing more elite police personnel in areas frequented by foreigners. Authorities have also asked Singapore's 40,000 taxi drivers to be on the lookout for potential terrorists among their passengers.

Sunday November 7, 4:17 PM

More CCTVs around Singapore's street corners soon: Home Affairs Minister

SINGAPORE : Singapore plans to increase the use of closed circuit TVs around street corners islandwide soon.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said the move was not a result of a specific threat against Singapore, but is part of an on-going security review in a bid to fight crime and terrorism.
Elite police officers have started patrolling Singapore's streets. This was an idea from Mr Wong after seeing a similar deployment in New York.
And school security will be stepped up over the next few months with CCTVs and security guards in every school.
Mr Wong, who was at a community event in Bishan on Saturday, explained why these measures had to be taken.
Mr Wong said: "The threat is real but there is no specific threat that we are being a target. There is no particular plan that we know of at this time that they are going to hit Singapore. We know we are a target, we don't know when it may happen. If it happens, we do not know, but we cannot take chances, we cannot afford to be complacent and wait for it to happen before taking measures."
One new measure includes expanding the use of CCTVs.
More than 30 of them are already in place at Boat Quay, Little India and Newton Circus over the past year, and have helped lower the crime rate there.
But what about privacy?
Mr Wong said: "It's of course of concern to many people. We are too, we are not there to pry into people's private affairs. When there is a crime, it is of public interest. Between the two where there may be an incident involving lives, public interest has to come first."
Overall, most Singaporeans and tourists welcome the move. They say they will feel safer and that the surveillance cameras would not infringe upon their privacy at such public areas.
"You feel a bit safer that you are being watched and people are being kept an eye on so they don't do anything wrong."
"In public places like this, it's quite alright."
"It's very good so that Singaporeans more safety on the roads - can walk happily and safely."
"It's good as long as it's not instrusive - not going over the limits - where there's mass people, that's a good thing."
But for now, the Home Affairs Ministry is not saying where these new CCTVs will be placed. - CNA

Time is GMT + 8 hoursPosted: 01 November 2004 1243 hrs

Random armed patrols islandwide as Singapore steps up security

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Armed officers from the Police Special Operations Command will now patrol commercial, entertainment and residential areas on a random basis. The patrols will be conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The officers will be armed with machine guns, similar to the ones used by troops patrolling Changi Airport. Areas will be picked at random and these could include Orchard Road and the HDB heartland. So, do not be taken aback when you see the men in blue, armed with a service revolver and a MP5 sub-machine gun, walking down Singapore's famous shopping area along Orchard Road.

Police say this is an expansion of the patrols that are now carried out at the airport and other areas like Boat Quay and Newton Circus. Police told Channel NewsAsia that the expansion of the armed patrols is not due to any specific security threat to Singapore. The aim is to project an even stronger police presence on the ground and to reassure the public and deter any potential terrorist attacks.

Police say they have been thinking of implementing the stepped up armed patrols over the past few weeks. Feedback from members of the public is that they are happy and feel safer when they see armed patrols.

Aubeck Kam, Singapore Police Force's director of operations, said: "There is no particular threat information that is impelling us to do this operation at this point in time. We have had a relook on how to enhance the level of safety and security.

Singaporeans feel such a deployment of SOC troops in other parts of Singapore would be beneficial. Firstly, we want to deter any potential terrorist attack. Secondly, we hope it will provide greater assurance to the public and remind them to be constantly vigilant against any terorist threat."

Some members of the public took a double take when they saw the armed officers and expressed concern. "For tourists or people like me, it's a bit scary to see the army using big guns," said a foreigner. "We must educate the public on why we are having the patrols as we can't put them everywhere.

People will think what's wrong with Singapore," said a member of the public. But, most interviewed generally welcomed the move. "It will be a good move. People feel more secure and safer when they walk around prominent buildings here," said a member of the public. "I've lived in London, New York and now Singapore. They have the same procedure and it's fine with me. It gives a sense of security and safety," said another.

Police say 32 extra officers will be deployed in this islandwide operation. - CNA

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Singapore Enlists Taxi Drivers to Foil Terrorists

Oct 15, 2004 11:47 AM ET By Fayen Wong

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has enlisted its 40,000 taxi drivers to foil terrorists, telling them to be on alert for nervous or restless passengers and distributing pamphlets describing what militants might do or ask.

As part of a campaign, drivers have been told watch out for people who wear "thick or loose clothing," carry heavy luggage but decline offers for help, who leave taxies "in a hurry without taking luggage" or talk and behave suspiciously.

"Taxi drivers can unknowingly become instruments for terrorists to threaten the security of Singapore," Police Superintendent Ng Guat Ting said. "Taxis are also a common means of transport for terrorists."

Tightly controlled Singapore, a staunch U.S. ally, already boasts Southeast Asia's most advance security apparatus but still sees itself as a prime target after foiling plots by militants to attack the wealthy Southeast Asian island in 2001 and 2002.

About 75,000 pamphlets have been distributed, arming taxis with a detailed list of who may be bent on an act of violence.

These include passengers who ask to be driven to important government buildings, who want to stop some distance before or after their destination or who ask drivers to keep driving around the area of their destination.

Singapore's government, known for micro-managing its 4.2 million people, said militants may also ask about where and how to buy cheap, second-hand vans or trucks.

Passengers asking about major events, celebrations, or conferences attended by foreign "VIPs" could also raise the alert, along with those inquiring about where police, military and security agencies are based, said the pamphlet.

"It's a bit absurd," said 22-year-old student Serene Chua.

"Terrorists have their network and will know where to source out things like fertilizers or cheap second-hand cars. They won't need to ask taxi drivers that."

The campaign, which began this week, also includes a training video for drivers that shows footage of a 2003 attack in India's financial center of Bombay where suicide bombers placed explosives in two buses, killing 52 people including the drivers.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


The ‘War on Terrorism’ and Regime Implications

Following the end of the Cold War, the lack of an obvious security imperative had directed US foreign policy in ways that had emphasised economic policy and placed a limited but important emphasis on particular liberal political values. This was especially the case during the Clinton presidency (Nye 2004). After September 11, however, the ‘war on terrorism’ raised questions about the continued prospects for the development of economic and political liberalism in East and Southeast Asia, and the contexts within which the respective struggles to advance them across the region are likely to take place.

The elevation of security concerns within US foreign policy in the ‘war on terror’ heralds new challenges for the development of neo-liberal globalization, which may see a return to the kinds of political concerns that motivated Cold War thinking return to centre stage. Whereas the post-Cold War period witnessed an unprecedented privileging of the neo-liberal economic reform agenda, now this is to be balanced by considerations of how to contain terrorism.

A number of questions arise regarding the security agenda and neo-liberal globalization in the region: How are the conflicts over the nature of neo-liberal globalization affected? Which interests are best able to exploit this security dimension in the struggles over neo-liberal reform? What will be the impact on the nature of political regimes? Will authoritarian regimes be more or less difficult to reproduce? Will political authoritarianism be more sustainable in the new climate?

As has been widely acknowledged, the changed context has empowered neo-conservatives within the US administration, whose perspectives about markets has long been tempered by more traditional foreign policy emphases – or at least a different appreciation of the nexus between US economic and political power – than had been reflected in the earlier reliance on multilateral arrangements (see Higgott, 2004 forthcoming). The point here is not that this new arrangement is necessarily hostile to the global neo-liberal economic agenda, but that it has the potential to moderate the momentum for reform and for permitting differential responses among countries to
pressures for economic reform. In the Asian region, an excellent example of this changed perspective lies in recent moves towards bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), some of which have been specifically negotiated in the new security context.

The (re)newed relationship between security and economics was most clearly displayed at the October 2003 Bangkok Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The US unambiguously tied security to its trade agenda. Washington insisted that Asian states meet its security demands, and was clear that those that did actively support the ‘war on terror’ would have preferential access to the US market. Singapore was one of the first beneficiaries of an FTA with the US, and Thailand, following its capture of terrorist leader Hambali, was next. As US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick explained, the US was ready to extend free-trade initiatives to ‘can-do’ Asian countries (Far Eastern Economic Review, 30 October 2003). Majority Muslim nations Indonesia and Malaysia expressed serious reservations, as did domestic business groups in the
region, fearing that security would be an excuse for trade barriers. The point is that security concerns are, as in the Cold War period, structuring economic and political relations in the region, revealing deep divisions across the region over (see Beeson, 2003). While security had been an issue since 9/11, it was this meeting of APEC – a quintessentially economic forum – that indicated the unequivocal linking of security with trade in US policy for the region.

In addition to its impact on the way that neo-liberal reform agenda has progressed in Asia, the ‘war on terror’ has been no less significant for the trajectories of political regimes. In the war on terrorism, the US has found itself requiring the co-operation of assorted authoritarian regimes. Reminiscent of the Cold War period, the US-sponsored ‘fight for freedom’ meant that political democracy could wait while the ‘war on terrorism’ was fought. Indeed, this has already seen a strengthening of anti-democratic forces in the region.
Not only did authoritarian regimes in Malaysia and Singapore become strategic sites in opposing terrorism, but the exercise of official powers of detention and surveillance expanded considerably in the region (and beyond).

In the case of Indonesia, the Megawati government was widely criticised for not moving as decisively against suspected terrorists as authorities in Singapore and Malaysia where ISA’s were quickly exercised. Having repealed the much-abused equivalent legislation the Anti-Subversion Law after Soeharto’s demise, Indonesia’s authorities were now under pressure to enhance powers for the military and security forces that had been discredited since the fall of Soeharto (Acharya 2002: 200). A number of governments, including China’s implemented repressive laws and decrees said to be aimed at terrorism, but which expanded the state’s capacity to repress
domestic dissent through a strengthening of domestic security agencies (see BBC, 2003).

Singapore: Strengthening the trade-security nexus

A close examination of the Singapore case further bears out the point about a more acute nexus between trade and security in the context of the ‘war on terror’. The city-state had not been entirely shielded from the heightened neo-liberal pressures on developmental state economies following the advent of the Asian crisis. The Singapore government also became a strong supporter of FTAs in this period, taking the view that ASEAN and APEC had failed and there was a need to push ahead, even if only bilaterally, towards further trade liberalisation. Indeed, since 1998, there has been unprecedented critical attention on Singapore’s government-linked-companies (GLCs) – which dominate the commanding heights of the domestic economy – by assorted interests in the financial sector, other elements of international capital and ideological champions of free markets,
including within IFIs and the international media. Calls for various forms of privatisation and liberalisation to reduce the power of GLCs and usher in a more level playing field for private –especially international – capital gathered noticeable momentum from 2001 when Singapore experienced its worst economic recession since Independence. The ensuing FTA negotiations between Singapore and the US embodied some of this contention over GLCs.

The US viewed Singapore as an economic hub for many of its interests in the region. However, it also saw the value in using an FTA agreement with Singapore to set down some principles of domestic economic governance for subsequent agreements with other countries. Consequently, negotiations towards the USSFTA – first projected in late 20000 – dragged on for two years and were not concluded until late 2002 and formally approved early the next year. This was in no small part because FTA negotiations brought a significant degree of scrutiny to bear on the GLCs and the institutional mechanisms through which their interests have been protected and advanced. The Singapore government’s steadfast refusal to give ground on its right to impose capital controls in the event of an economic crisis was also a stumbling block.

Although there were matters on which the Singaporeans were forced to shift ground in the course of the USSFTA, it was clear that the dynamics of the deliberations altered after 11 September 2001. From this point on, the willingness in Washington and Canberra to conclude deals intensified and took just a few months to be concluded. It became the first such accord by the U.S. with any Asian country.

Historically, Singapore has been a strong US defence and security ally throughout the Cold War and beyond – including at times when others in the region were becoming more wary about too close an alliance. When US forces were withdrawn in the early 1990s from the Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base in the Philippines, for example, the Singapore government offered US forces access to military facilities in the city-state.

More recently, Singapore developed the largest dock in the region, designed specifically to accommodate and support US aircraft carriers. However, in the wake of 11 September, the actions of Singapore’s authorities quickly impressed the US that – in a region described as ‘the frontline in the war on terror’ – for the unqualified preparedness to root out suspected terrorists from within and to support the US in international fora on security issues.

The Singaporeans arrested 15 suspected terrorists in December 2001, averting an alleged plot to bomb embassies and commercial interests of the US and other Western countries. This was at a time when the US was having difficulty getting other governments in the region to fully co-operate in combating terrorism. Subsequently, the Singapore government took measures to curb the capacity for money laundering and financial transactions facilitative of terrorism. It also arrested a further 21 suspected terrorists in August 2002.

In October 2003, a Framework Agreement for the Promotion of Strategic Cooperation Partnership in Defense and Security was jointly announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Goh. This would expand bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, joint military exercises and training, policy dialogues and defence technology (Acharya 2004: 4).

The closeness of Singapore’s co-operation with the US in the fight on terror was further reflected in the opening in the city-state of a legal attaché office of the F.B.I. Moreover, the Singapore government provided strong support for the passage of United Nations Resolution 1441 and, eventually, the invasion of Iraq. Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar explained: ‘We must take a strong stand posed by weapons of mass destruction particularly after 9/11 because the danger of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, terrorist organizations or extremist groups is not a hypothetical risk’ (quoted in Lee 2003), adding that while no one liked war, the facts clearly showed ‘that it is Iraq, not the US and not the UN, not the international community, which is in the dock’ (quoted in Lee 2003).

As a member of the ‘coalition of the willing’, Singapore made available transport and equipment support in Iraq as well as police and health care workers to assist with reconstruction. It also allowed US aircraft to fly over Singapore air space and to use Singapore’s military bases during the war. Thus, leading up to and beyond the signing of the USSFTA in early 2003, the alignment between the respective governments on security matters went from strength to strength.

Crucially, the security context meant that the major sticking point in negotiations towards USSFTA – the Singapore government’s insistence on the right to impose capital controls in the event of a crisis – was one that the US was prepared to concede new ground on. The US Treasury had consistently taken a hard line on the need for provisions to ‘ensure that US investors have the right to transfer funds into and out of the host country using a market rate of exchange’ (quoted in US Chamber of Commerce 2003).

However, after 11 September the Americans settled for an agreement under which both countries guaranteed investors free transfer into and out of both countries, but which also gave Singapore the right to restrict capital flows via the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Emphasis on the security dimension of US-Singapore relations was a feature of the lobbying in the US by business interests associated with investment and trade between the two countries as well as by assorted political groups who also sought to expedite The US had previously not accepted any exceptions to the free flow of capital in its investment chapters of FTAs or in Bilateral Investment Treaties.

The agreement doesn’t prevent a country from imposing controls, but it does require compensation for US investors where restrictions that ‘substantially impede transfers’ incur damages. This provision is based on the framework used in the US-Chile FTA

USSFTA’s conclusion after 11 September. Singapore is host to over 1,300 US companies which account for more than half the city-state’s exports to the US. In March 2002, the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Business Coalition was formed to muster the requisite political support for the deal. It was chaired by executives representing Boeing, ExxonMobil and United Parcel Services (UPS) and enjoyed institutional endorsement and support from the US-ASEAN Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The steering committee of the Business Coalition also included representatives from other powerful corporations such as General Electric, Federal Express, APL and Lockheed-Martin.

Another lobby group emerged in October 2002, the Singapore Congressional Caucus, which was to work closely with the Business Coalition. This was the Singapore Caucus, a joint initiative of US House of Representatives Republican Curt Weldon and US Congress member, Democrat Solomon Ortiz. Both were senior members of the House armed services committee. The Caucus, boasting over 50 members, advocated stronger ties with Singapore for security and economic reasons. Singapore Foreign Minister, S. Jayakumar, wasted no time in encouraging the new group, writing to Weldon and Ortiz reinforcing the security focus of the Caucus and championing a strong US presence in Asia: ‘We recognise that such a presence is vital to the preservation of
regional security and stability’, wrote Jayakumar, adding that Singapore was ‘firmly committed to cooperating with the United states in the global war on terrorism’ (quoted in Hadar 2002).

Jayakumar’s colleague, second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lee Yock Suan, was beating a similar drum in late October 2002 when he told an audience at the Asia Society in Texas that ‘the real significance of the USSFTA goes beyond economic benefits’ (Lee 2002), contending that in view of strategic trends concerning terrorism in Southeast Asia, ‘concluding the USSFTA sends an important signal that the US intends to remain a dominant player in East Asia’ (Lee 2002).

ExxonMobil, which built one of Asia’s largest refineries in Asia in the city-state, is among the largest investors in Singapore. Apart from Singapore Airlines being a significant customer of Boeing commercial aircraft, the Singapore Air Force also buys fighter jets from Boeing’s defence arm. The UPS interest in the USSFTA was slightly different, seeking to contain the ability of the Singapore postal service to cross-subsidise express-mail competing with it.

Just the month before, Singapore became the first port in Asia to participate in the Container Security Initiative, allowing U.S. inspectors to check U.S.-bound cargo for possible explosives (Acharya 2004: 3).

Political support for the USSFTA within the US included that of the right-wing Heritage Foundation (Lee 2002), which had long been effusive in praise of the Singapore government. It also turned a blind eye to the various impediments to free market practices in Singapore to consistently rank it among the ‘most free’ of the world’s market economies. Capital’s freedom from organised, collective challenges to its power – a feature of the authoritarian regime in Singapore – apparently more than compensates for the incursions of the developmental state on free market principles.

The link between the USSFTA’s speedy conclusion after 11 September and rapid and uncontroversial passage through the Congress was not a matter of dispute. When asked whether the expeditious conclusion amounted to a reward for Singapore’s support for the US war in Iraq, Congress Republican Representative Pete Sessions responded: ‘Singapore supported us not only on the day of the terrorist attacks, but has since been very involved in our war on terror’. He added: ‘Countries which are our friends are those who will continue to reap the rewards of a closer relationship’ (quoted in Lienin 2003). President Bush, whose visit to Singapore in October 2003 was only the second (after his father’s in 1992) to the city-state by a US President, maintained that ‘the cooperation in the war on terror has been excellent with Singapore’ (quoted in Fernandez 2003).

The security-conscious mood in the US during the negotiations of the USSFTA meant that attempts by the Singapore government’s human rights critics to influence debate were ineffectual. Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general, Chee Soon Juan’s efforts in particular to raise such issues aroused little interest among US politicians (Chee 2003a). The considerable resources and networks of the Business Coalition and other supporters of a rapid conclusion to the agreement also helped ensure such questions were marginalised.

The capacity of existing authoritarian regimes to exploit the new geopolitical context for their consolidation is evident in Singapore.
Among other things, the war on terror has helped legitimise the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) which enables indefinite detention without trial and which has in the past been used to silence the government’s political adversaries, although in recent years this techniques has given way to the use of defamation and libel suits through the courts (Seow 2004 forthcoming).

(In the case of Chia Thye Poh, he spent 22 years and six months in prison and another nine-and-half years under various forms of incarceration without ever having been taken to court. Prior to the 2001 arrests, though, no Singaporean had been jailed under the ISA since 1989.)

Some opposition groups in Singapore had, prior to 11 September, sought to make the repeal of the ISA a major public issue. Now the government was to demonstrate how swiftly it was able to tackle terrorism to deflect calls for reform or repeal of the ISA.

No less significantly, the emergence of the terrorist threat resonates powerfully with the long-fostered official notion of the city-state as exceptionally vulnerable to sudden and unexpected adverse forces. This spectre has been deployed over recent decades to rationalise highly concentrated elite power. Its first manifestation was the ideology of ‘survivalism’ expounded by Lee Kuan Yew and colleagues in the immediate aftermath of separation from the Federation of Malaysia in the mid-1960s (Chan 1971). Subsequently, the need to be constantly alert to pre-empt and/or address unforeseen threats has become a pervasive and more generalised aspect of official ideology.

Meanwhile, security concerns were used to justify amendments in November 2003 to the Computer Misuse Act which empower authorities to take pre-emptive action against ‘cyberterrorism’ through computer hacking.

The amendment, carrying sentences of up to three years’ jail and a maximum fine of S$10,000, gives authorities extensive powers to scan the Internet and make arrests in anticipation of possible security threats. The likeness to the ISA prompted criticisms from opposition groups, with the SDP’s Chee describing the law as ‘another disguised attempt by the ruling party to control the use of the Internet by Singaporeans and to curtail the spread of discussion and dissent in Singapore’s cyberspace’ (Chee 2003b).

The immediate background to this accusation by Chee included a directive in January 2002 by the Singapore Broadcasting Authority to a group calling itself ‘Voice of the Singapore Muslim Community’ to register as a political organisation to continue its seven-month old web site, The site contained a press release by Zulfikar Muhamad Shariff criticising the Singapore government’s alignment with the US and for having ‘trivialised the concerns of the Muslim community for too long’ (Zulfikar 2002). He also called for the detainees under the ISA to be brought to trial (Associated Press 2002). Zulfikar subsequently found himself under police investigations for postings on

(Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, Ho Peng Kee, explained that: ‘Instead of a backpack of explosives, a terrorist can create just as much devastation by sending a carefully engineered packet of data into computer systems which control the network of essential services, for example power stations’ (quoted in Reuters 2003). )

the web site relating to the appointment of Ho Ching to Temasek, the banning of Muslim headscarves in schools and the performance of the minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs (Tan 2003: 244-6). With the spectre of charges for criminal defamation – carrying the prospect of up to two years’ jail – Zulfikar fled Singapore to reside in Australia, claiming he had no confidence in the independence of Singapore’s courts (Rodan 2004: 104). Arguably it was Zulfikar’s challenge to the PAP’s policies and preparedness to question the system of governance rather than his threat to the peace and security of Singapore that accounted for the authorities’ actions against him.

The preparedness of the Singapore government to use the new security context as a rationale for limiting dissent, at times, even embarrassed US officials. US Ambassador to Singapore, Franklin Lavin, explained, for example, that the removal of peaceful protesters from outside the US Embassy in early 2003 who were demonstrating against US policy in Iraq, was unnecessary: ‘I don’t see why a group of people who want to stand in front of my Embassy and tell me they don’t agree with a policy of my country should not be able to do so. The right of peaceful expression of opinion is an important element of a successful society’ (Lavin 2003). However, such sentiments were overshadowed by strong endorsements from the US government of the regime’s effectiveness in co-operating in the war on terror.

To be sure, support for the U.S.-led war on terror is not without its problems for the Singapore government. Its relations with domestic Muslim constituencies and with Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries have necessitated care in how the support for U.S. foreign policy is expressed. Prime Minister Goh thus took the opportunity during the visit to Singapore of U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in June 2004 to make the point that, in relation to global terrorism: ‘The US is essential to the solution but is also part of the problem’ (quoted in 2004). Goh argued that ‘the discomfort mainstream Muslims feel around the world with America’s Middle East policies limits their ability to fight the ideological battles’ (quoted in 2004). Yet Rumsfeld’s appeal to Asian countries to ‘work together’ in the war on terror also presents an opportunity for governments in the region
to demonstrate their utility and commitment to U.S. foreign policy. If Prime Minister Goh’s expectation that the war on terror will last at least as many decades as the Cold War (Low 2004), then this may represent a considerable opportunity for leaders of authoritarian regimes to exploit.