Transparency International acknowledges problem with Singapore

At a session on corruption during the Liberal International (LI) Congress held last week in Budapest, Hungary, Transparency International (TI) acknowledged that there were weaknesses in its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which ranked Singapore highly.

SDP secretary general Chee Soon Juan who attended the conference pointed out to TI executive director Mr Miklos Marschall the misleadingly high ranking of Singapore in the CPI. Dr Chee said that the results of TI survey were used by the Singapore government to defend its authoritarian and non-transparent style.

He pointed out that when he established the Open Singapore Centre (OSC) with opposition leader Mr J B Jeyaretnam, the Singapore government turned down the OSC’s application for public funding to “promote openness, transparency and accountability in Singapore.” The prime minister, through his secretary, replied that there was no need for the OSC and referred to the CPI survey done by the TI to support its stand.

“Ironically, the government promptly introduce the Political Donations Act and prohibited organisations such as the OSC to receive funding by international foundations,” Dr Chee said, adding that such activites took place all over the world.

Mr Marschall, who was one of the speakers at the seminar, acknowledged Dr Chee’s point and explained that the CPI surveyed only foreign business executives who may not have intimate knowledge of local political processes. “Your point is well-taken and I will bring the matter up with my colleagues,” he promised.

South African receives Freedom Prize

At another session, the LI awarded its Freedom Prize 2002 to Dame Helen Suzman for the role she played in helping to bring freedom to South Africa during the apartheid years. Now retired, Dame Suzman was one of the few members of parliament during the apartheid years to speak up against the atrocities of the white government.

She repeatedly badgered the government to improve prison conditions for prisoners like Nelson Mandela whom she loved. “He is a great man,” she added. For her efforts, she was constantly insulted and threatened from her fellow whites who could not understand her efforts to speak out for freedom and democracy.

Referring to the abuse she received, she said, “Of course, I want to be loved,” but added that she would not compromise on her principles by keeping quiet when there was no justice and democracy in her country.