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Forum on death penalty and the rule of law

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  • mellaniehewlitt
    http://www.singaporedemocrat.org/news_display.php?id=703 Forum on death penalty and the rule of law 31 March 2005 The Open Singapore Centre will hold a public
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2005

      Forum on death penalty and the rule of law
      31 March 2005

      The Open Singapore Centre will hold a public forum entitled
      The Death Penalty and the Rule of Law in Singapore
      on 16 April 2005 (Saturday) at 2:00 pm
      at Hotel Asia, 37 Scotts Road, Singapore 228229

      A Malaysian by the name of Vignes Mourthi was convicted of drug
      possession and hanged on 26 September 2003. Several questions were
      raised regarding the conviction. For example, a handwritten note of a
      conversation between Mourthi and an undercover police officer that
      was tendered in court as evidence bore no date and was not produced
      at the preliminary inquiry stage. This raised the possibility that
      the note could have been written at a later time by the police to
      secure a conviction. Not only was the note allowed as evidence, the
      trial judge had apparently relied on it heavily to convict Mourthi.
      When the defence counsel asked whether the system is such that an
      innocent person could be hanged, the Chief Justice said: "Yes."

      Mourthi had also asked the Chief Justice to let him know of the
      grounds of decision for the dismissal his appeal. The Chief Justice
      told the condemned prisoner that he "can read it in due course." But
      Mourthi never got to read the reasons for the dismissal because he
      was executed before they were written.

      These issues about our legal system become even more pronounced when
      one considers that Singapore has hanged more than 400 persons since
      1991, the majority for drug possession. This is the highest number of
      executions per capita in the world!

      This forum will also bring up the case of Shanmugam s/o Murugesu,
      another man who has also been condemned to die under our legal system
      for possession of cannabis. He is expected to be hanged towards the
      end of April 2005.

      Amnesty International has pointed out that the people who are caught
      and hanged are the poor in society who are often preyed upon by
      druglords. While Singapore arrests these smalltime peddlers, drug
      barons continue to operate untouched. One such druglord is Lo Hsing-
      han, a Burmese heroin producer whom an Australian TV station has said
      to have business interests in Singapore. In fact the US State
      Department has said that "over half [of the investments in Burma]
      from Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo
      Hsing-han." Author and expert on drug trafficking in Burma, Bruce
      Hawke has also written that "The entry [of money from drug
      trafficking] to the legitimate global system is not Burma but

      On another matter, remisier Boon Suan Ban, has been remanded at the
      Institute of Mental Health (IMH) at President's pleasure for
      harassing the Chief Justice. Again many questions arise from this
      matter. For example, does the District Court have the power to order
      the detention of persons at a mental institute? What was the evidence
      that was used to send Boon to IMH? What rights does the detainee Boon
      have? What does this say about the rule of law in Singapore?

      These and other questions will be tackled by a panel of speakers at
      the forum:

      1. J. B. Jeyaretnam, Chairman, Open Singapore Centre
      2. M. Ravi, Lawyer
      3. S. Samydorai, Executive Director, Think Centre
      4. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General, Singapore Democratic Party

      The Open Singapore Centre is presently in discussion with Amnesty
      International to send a speaker to the forum.

      It is long overdue that the issue of the death penalty and the rule
      of law in Singapore be debated and the Government held accountable
      for its actions. Make it a point to attend the forum on April 16. All
      are welcome. Bring your family and friends.

      --- In Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com, Sg_Review-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

      Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt
      Singapore Review
      22 March 2005

      On the back of the latest ruling by Singapore's highly compliant
      judiciary regarding the Chee Soon Juan case, we release several
      reports (and a PDF file) which shows the dismal state of human rights
      in an authoritarian state.

      Do visit the link below which is a report from the Lawyers Committee
      For Human Rights which highlights the double standards and twisted
      logic employed by Singapore's bogus courts in defamation cases.


      Singapore's Authoritarian Capitalism
      by Dr. Christopher Lingle

      Dr. Lingle began research for this book during his fellowship at the
      National University of Singapore. Lingle's Singapore visit came to an
      abrupt halt after he wrote a response to a previously published
      editorial comment that appeared in the International Herald Tribune.
      In his article, Lingle inferred that some regimes in East Asia are
      able to thwart criticism by relying on a compliant judiciary. Within
      two weeks he had been interrogated repeatedly by police detectives -
      which prompted him to resign his position, flee the country and seek
      refuge in the USA with nothing more than his overnight bag and
      notebook computer. The Singapore government seized his property in
      Singapore and sentenced him to jail in absentia.

      In March, 1996 Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's lawyer urged the High Court of
      Singapore to order Lingle to pay substantially more than $300,000 in
      damages for libelling the Senior Minister. Justice S. Rajendran
      handed down a $70,000 judgment against Lingle.

      Dr. Lingle comments: "I am not surprised by the Singapore judge's
      ruling. I guess the courts didn't see the irony in the judgment
      against me. As far as I can see it, the judgement vindicates me and
      supports the criticism that Singapore's rulers use a compliant
      judiciary to bankrupt their critics .. whether they are the political
      opposition or news media or foreign nationals."

      Dr. Lingle has held university professorships all over the globe
      including the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

      In his book, Dr. Lingle identifies Singapore's "authoritarian
      capitalism" as combining a selective degree of economic freedom and
      private property rights with strong-armed control over political
      life. According to him, political loyalty is the ultimate determinant
      of success rather than the efficient utilization of resources, and
      sycophantic business relations replace the growth-inducing actions of
      true entrepreneurs. Singapore's Authoritarian Capitalism questions
      the long-term survival of the People's Action Party (PAP) and its
      capacity to sustain Singapore's "miracle" growth record due to
      internal contradictions arising from the imposed institutional


      From: Sg_Review-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:50 am
      Subject: The Propaganda Way.


      The Propaganda Way
      Christopher Lingle
      From Foreign Affairs, May/June 1995

      Summary: Far from essential to economic growth, as Kishore Mahbubani
      of Singapore's foreign ministry has argued, Asian values are an
      illusion created to foster obedience.

      Christopher Lingle, an economist, served as a Senior Fellow in the
      European Studies Program at the National University of Singapore.

      A great deal has been made of the World Bank's announcement that the
      high rates of economic growth in the East Asian miracle economies
      stem from getting the fundamentals right. While that observation
      emphasized astute macroeconomics, various commentators have asserted
      that these fundamentals relate to unique Asian values. Kishore
      Mahbubani ("The Pacific Way," January/February 1995) implies that a
      fusion of Western and Asian cultures defines what he terms
      the "Pacific way."

      Despite this presumed fusion, Mahbubani's essay points almost
      exclusively to the beneficial consequences of these Asian values.
      Beyond satisfying the self?serving political considerations of
      apologists for ruling regimes, this one?sided approach reflects an
      important trait arising out of Asian customs. The values said to
      promote prosperity stifle self?critical introspection. Wondering
      aloud about the cultural and political order is too often treated as
      an unacceptable sign of weakness in leaders. In others, it is an
      unacceptable heresy.

      Commentary not unconditionally full of praise for the Asian political
      status quo provokes a strong response from the powers that be.
      Authoritarian East Asian regimes take a variety of steps against
      ordinary citizens, academics, journalists, opposition politicians,
      and even outsiders. The treatment might involve a mild rebuke,
      citation for criminal defamation or libel, and perhaps detention
      without trial.

      In light of severe restrictions on freedom of speech, citizens have
      few opportunities to communicate with leaders. Similarly, for critics
      to air their views is difficult. The rules governing civic discourse
      in East Asia limit discussions of the Pacific way to its promoters
      and foreign critics. Communication between rulers and ruled tends to
      be a one?way, top?down procedure. And rather than the glue that holds
      Asian societies together, Asian values may be an illusion concealing
      the iron grip of petty despots.

      Meanwhile the failures and problems in Europe and other parts of the
      West are discussed ad nauseam in a remarkably free atmosphere. Little
      in Mahbubani's observations about Western culture is novel or
      insightful. By joining the chorus of Western self?criticism, he and
      other outsiders might imagine that Western institutions involve only
      a self?destructive cycle. However, civic discourse and communication
      in the West involve a free?for?all of individual opinions expressed
      as a matter of constitutional right and cultural conviction.

      A paternalist approach to political rule often gives way to
      authoritarianism, leading many Asian regimes strongly to resent
      direct criticism. However, while Asian cultures generally rely on an
      indirect method of dealing with problems, their approach does not
      work with thin?skinned government officials. Dialogue with Asian
      regimes has strict limits, and resentment is not limited to outside
      critics. Criticism from the citizens of Myanmar, China, Indonesia,
      Malaysia, or Singapore is no more welcome. Despite remarkable
      advances under some Asian regimes, the rigid intolerance of these
      authoritarian capitalist states bears a troubling similarity to

      Singapore's rulers have provided a recent example of intolerance. In
      a celebrated case, I was tried in the High Court of Singapore for my
      remarks in the International Herald Tribune.(1) I was responding to
      Mahbubani's views in the same newspaper, which were similar to his
      Foreign Affairs article. He suggested that European leaders follow
      the success stories of East Asia. I responded that certain repressive
      tactics may have made the model unacceptable for Europe.

      Specifically, I said that some East Asian governments relied on
      a "compliant judiciary to bankrupt opposition politicians." While I
      did not identify a particular country, in attempting to link my
      remarks to his country, Singapore's prosecutor may have confessed the
      guilt of his regime. He admitted that members of the ruling People's
      Action Party of Singapore and its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, had
      an established track record of suing opposition politicians for
      defamation. He insisted that "there is no such other country" where
      this has happened and identified 11 major political opposition
      figures whom legal actions, initiated by members of the ruling party,
      had financially ruined. I was found guilty of statements contemptuous
      of the Singaporean judiciary. The court assessed stiff fines and all
      court costs to the defendants, and the editor, publisher, printer,
      and distributor of the Herald Tribune were convicted for publicizing
      my words.

      Meanwhile, the Western media openly air the views of Singaporean
      officials, who demand a right of unedited reply from publications
      that circulate in Singapore. For example, when it abbreviated a wordy
      statement from the Singaporean government, The Economist found its
      circulation severely curtailed.

      Mahbubani relies on a dubious cause?and?effect connection between the
      material success of Asian economies and the authoritarian repression
      that may have accompanied that success. His arguments insist that
      restraints on individual freedom are necessary for economic progress.
      Meanwhile the West, having lost its moral compass due to an
      irrepressible fixation on individual rights, suffers low economic
      performance. This viewpoint implies the unimaginative assumption that
      material gratification is the only or most worthy goal of humankind.
      In any event, his arguments overlook how the economic life cycle
      partly explains the weak growth in the West. That the United States
      and Europe compare unfavorably with the vibrancy of nascent East
      Asian economies is unsurprising. Eventually the tiger economies too
      shall be tamed.

      Contrary to Mahbubani's claims that Asian values contribute to
      political stability and deter open aggression, East Asia has just as
      many unsettled border disputes, outrages against humanity, and
      conflicting geopolitical claims as Europe. Perceptions to the
      contrary are an outgrowth of the muted press of East Asia and the
      openness of the media in most parts of Europe.

      While the carnage in Chechnya is televised across the globe, there
      was little coverage of the Dili massacre in Indonesia and no on?site
      reporting of human rights outrages in Myanmar. In 1994, the lack of
      concerted action on or criticism of immense, smoke?spreading forest
      fires in Indonesia reflected another Asian value. So as not to
      embarrass the Indonesian authorities, neighboring governments were
      disinclined to offer aid or criticize the handling of the fires.
      Saving face was more important than saving lives or protecting the

      In contrasting the exclusion of East and Central European nations
      from the institutions of Western Europe versus the inclusiveness of
      Asian economic relations, Mahbubani is comparing apples and oranges.
      While establishing free trade between all countries of Europe is
      desirable, the EU involves a different set of commitments than, for
      example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The European
      Union requires acceptance of shared values, political commitments,
      and pressure from other members. If fires in the Black Forest were
      causing regional pollution, France would certainly have assisted
      Germany or insisted on German action. Moreover, in purely economic
      matters, members of the EU allow trade with Eastern and Central
      Europe with few more restrictions than asean members impose on
      Vietnam or Myanmar.

      At present, promoters and antagonists of an Asian model are engaged
      in a dialogue of the deaf. While much about Asian values should be
      emulated, much should be challenged. An appropriate method of
      communication between East and West needs to be discovered, and
      outlining the differences is a first step.

      In collectivist Asian regimes, those wielding political power set
      rules that the polity must unquestioningly accept. Individualist
      Western regimes attempt to apply reason to resolve private and social
      interests. Consequently, cultures based on individualism tend to have
      an outspoken citizenry, while collectivist cultures rely on reserved

      While the great Western political contribution is democracy, the
      great contribution of the East is bureaucracy. Whereas liberalism and
      individual freedom found fertile ground in the West, Asian
      institutions grew along conservative and collectivist lines. So the
      West evolved liberal capitalism, and Asia has tilted toward
      authoritarian capitalism. That the Philippines, South Korea,
      Thailand, and Taiwan are moving toward multiparty politics is
      encouraging. However, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,
      and Vietnam practice authoritarian capitalism that keeps ruling
      parties in power by preserving economic growth. The cynical
      suggestion that exclusively Asian values explain economic success and
      politically opportunistic assertions that individual freedom and
      pluralistic democracy are alien concepts deflect liberalizing
      institutions that might weaken the authoritarian rulers' grip on
      power. Those rulers benefit from praising respect for authority as a
      component of Confucianism or other so?called Asian values.

      These individualist and collectivist tendencies also affect business
      activity. Individualist cultures encourage and reward innovation by
      free?spirited entrepreneurs who are as likely to challenge the
      political status quo as to upset market arrangements. Most Asian
      economies, however, have either attempted autarky or have relied upon
      imitation, requiring access to open markets of more advanced
      economies. But the considerable success of many so?called miracle
      economies may not last. Unless they produce homegrown entrepreneurs
      and technological change, the technological gap will widen as
      innovators seek greater political and economic freedom outside the

      East Asian authoritarian capitalist regimes cannot last forever.
      Individual choice will sweep aside archaic institutions. Despots,
      autocrats, and their dynastic heirs are mortal, and modernization
      stemming from economic prosperity will undermine their authority.

      Global economic progress depends on free trade. Similarly, cultural
      progress requires an open competition among political and cultural
      institutions. Asian authoritarian regimes are attempting to impose
      cultural protectionism to isolate their communities from infectious
      liberalizing Western influences. By restricting information, cultural
      protectionism deals a double blow to emerging economies. Just as
      trade protection inhibits economic growth, so cultural protection
      inhibits cultural progress. But cultural protectionism will also
      retard the formation of an information?based economy and curtail
      economic growth. Unless rulers of Asian regimes take note of this
      process, the notion of the much?heralded Pacific century may be a
      stillborn myth.

      (1) "Smoke over Parts of Asia Obscures Some Profound Concerns,"
      International Herald Tribune, Oct. 7, 1994.



      March 12, 2003

      All hail SingTel Optus chief, a modest profit

      Eric Ellis, Singapore

      ONE swallow does not a summer make. But Singapore Inc seems
      determined to turn that old axiom on its head with regard to one of
      its favourite sons - SingTel Optus chief executive Lee Hsien Yang.

      Lee - the 42-year-old youngest son of Singapore's political
      strongman, Lee Kuan Yew - is enjoying a purple patch of positive
      publicity since SingTel's Australian operation, Optus, turned a
      modest $22 million profit in the December 2002 quarter.

      Unsurprisingly, much of that publicity has been generated by
      Singapore's government-controlled media, the same government that
      owns 67 per cent of SingTel Optus.

      While the prospect of continued Optus profits has been well received
      by analysts, it is a moot point whether the modest December quarter
      figure yet justifies the $14 billion-plus purchase price SingTel paid
      for Optus two years ago.

      The acquisition has been a major negative for SingTel shares, which
      have slumped by about 60 per cent since the deal.

      And, while Singapore's compliant journalists might like the Optus
      contribution, the market is less impressed. SingTel Optus shares have
      flatlined since the profit announcement last month.

      But that seems to be a mere detail amid the lavish praise heaped upon
      Lee, long regarded as his father's less favoured son behind Singapore
      Deputy Prime Minister and political heir-apparent Lee Hsien Loong.

      Singapore's English business daily, The Business Times,
      gushed: "SingTel chief proves critics wrong as telco surprises with
      strong showing.
      "After years of barbs and criticism over his foreign forays, SingTel
      president and chief executive Lee Hsien Yang brought home the bacon."

      Not to be denied, Optus chief executive Chris Anderson also got in on
      the act.
      "The best thing that's ever happened to Optus - and I've been there
      six years - is SingTel's ownership," he told The Business Times.

      Mr Anderson paid tribute to Mr Lee's leadership. "We see a lot of
      Hsien Yang, who gives quite inspirational direction," he said. "He is
      a very considerable regional business leader."

      Attracting less attention, and praise, are the bankers who have been
      called in to review financing of SingTel Optus's struggling $3.5
      billion undersea data cable play, C2C - one reason why SingTel's
      share price is proving stubbornly unresponsive.

      C2C's dramas formed part of the same information avalanche that
      included the Optus profit, but received rather more modest attention
      in the BT. News that bankers were called in over a $US650 million
      secured financing facility when C2C missed a revenue target rated
      just one paragraph.

      Analysts believe C2C, 60 per cent owned by SingTel, faces higher
      interest costs after missing the targets. The company has said it has
      generated about $US800 million in sales for C2C - well below the
      $US2 billion SingTel and partners have invested in the 17,000km
      submarine cable linking East Asia with India and Europe which has
      faltered as bandwidth demand has failed to take off.
      --- End forwarded message ---
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