The Reverend James Minchin, an author and Anglican
priest, has been barred from entering Singapore. He was turned back
at Changi Airport when he arrived on a visit from
Melbourne. No reason was given.
He was held at the airport on Wednesday evening for nearly 24 hours, and subsequently escorted by the police to the plane for his flight back to Melbourne the following night.
Father Minchin was recently interviewed
on the SDP's talkshow, Let's Talk, when he discussed his book No Man Is
An Island - A Study of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, which was published in 1987.
He has been a regular visitor to
Singapore and a long-time observer of its social and political
developments. As he describes in his Let's Talk
interview, he started visiting Singapore in the 1960s and even served for a time as Pastor of St George's Church, Minden Road.
Given that Fr Minchin has never faced
any problems entering Singapore, this recent prohibition may well be
attributed to his interview on Let's Talk. If so, this
move on the part of the Government is petty and small-minded. Does the
PAP want to punish Fr Minchin
for appearing on the SDP programme.
No doubt, the charge will be laid that by
appearing on the show, Fr Minchin, who is an Australian citizen, is
"interfering" in Singapore's politics.
But in this interdependent and interconnected age, does it achieve anything for the PAP
Government to stop non-Singaporeans from commenting on Singaporean issues?
Is the Government so thin-skinned that it
seeks revenge on individuals who express their honest opinions on
Singapore? Does not the Government regularly invite non-Singaporeans to speak
at public events which are then reported by the media?
If we aspire to be a global city, let us be confident in our own ability to think for ourselves and
discern what is good and bad for our country - regardless of whether
they are expressed by Singaporeans or non-Singaporeans.
In the past, the Government has barred
other visitors from Singapore. Most recently, Mr Robert
Amsterdam, SDP's international lawyer, was turned back at the airport when he tried to
visit Dr Chee Soon Juan. Mr Amsterdam had published a White Paperon
Singapore in which he highlighted the lack of the rule of law in
Singapore and detailed the legal actions taken against the SDP
The Home Affairs Ministry must come clear on its decision to bar Fr Minchin from entering Singapore.