Sweden says S’pore needs to improve on democracy

Cecilia Wigstr? (Member of Parliament, Sweden) has asked me what measures I am prepared to take to make the Singapore government respect the rights of Dr Chee Soon Juan and other Singaporeans to exercise their political rights.

There are limits and deficiencies in the political system of Singapore,
especially when it comes to the democratic rules of the game, legal
punishment as well as freedom of the press and speech. The election system
and rules for political activity limit the possibilities for the
opposition to attain influence. The libel laws are strict and high damage
costs can be meted out. This is a mechanism that leads media and
opposition to adopt a careful stance.

At the same time in recent years a trend towards a freer debate climate
and a more open society has been noted. Singapore also has policies to
counter discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and gender.

Sweden supports a process of increased democratization and respect for
human rights. This takes place through the official bilateral dialogue
where the issue of human rights has a central place. The support given by
Swedish civil society organizations with an interest in democracy in
Singapore also has a large value.

Stockholm, 20th of September 2004

Laila Freivalds
Minister of Foreign Affairs

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