More outrage over LKY award in Australia

Hostile welcome for Lee
Craig Skehan
The Sydney Morning Herald
28 Mar 07

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (right) was conferred a Doctor of Law by Chancellor Allan Hawke (left)Protesters and a fiery exchange with reporters marred a ceremony honouring Singapore’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, at the Australian University in Canberra today.

The university stirred up controversy by bestowing an honorary law doctorate on Mr Lee, who governed the tiny city state for decades with an iron hand, delivering prosperity but restricting civil liberties.

Mr Lee led Singapore to independence and served as its first prime minister, being regularly re-elected until 1990.

About 150 protesters chanted anti-Lee slogans and waved placards that described him as a “dictator”.

A group of law students said they had also briefed a senior barrister to mount a court challenge against the awarding of the doctorate on the ground that the ANU’s own procedures weren’t followed.

During the ceremony inside ANU’s University House, Mr Lee was praised for bringing financial success and stability to Singapore.

However, many seats in the auditorium were vacant because of a boycott by some university staff.

Wearing an academic cap and red gown, Mr Lee, 83, delivered a speech in which he declared that Australia and Singapore shared a common strategic outlook.

Later, Mr Lee had a hostile encounter with waiting reporters.

“If I allowed you to run my country, we would spiral down to rock bottom,” a defiant Mr Lee told the journalists.

Many years ago Mr Lee once warned Australians that they were risk of becoming “white trash” in Asia.

Questioned about this today he said he had made the comment at different time in Australia’s history.

“Now you have changed,” he said pointing to Australia’s former discriminatory immigration policies which were still in place in the 1960s.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer this week acknowledged there had been international concern about human rights issues in Singapore but he praised Mr Lee as a “great regional leader”.

“The fact is in the overall sense, Singapore has been a spectacular success,” Mr Downer said.

Students protest ANU award to Lee Kuan YewSingapore leader hits out at Australia

The Age
28 Mar 07

Australians may no longer be the white trash of Asia, but their style of governance would run Singapore into the ground, the city-state’s outspoken former prime minister said on Wednesday.

Lee Kuan Yew made the remark after receiving an honorary doctorate of law from Australian National University (ANU), partly for his friendship to Australia.

About 50 students held up banners with wording like “no doctorates for dictators” and chanted slogans outside the venue at the ANU’s Canberra campus where Mr Lee received the award.

The 83-year-old, Singapore’s first prime minister and now a minister mentor in its government, said he was no stranger to hostile receptions.

Having praised Australia’s “exceptional growth” of the past 15 years during his acceptance speech, Mr Lee later told reporters that Australian-style governance would not work in the city-state.

“It’s not going to change me and I’m not going to change you,” he said of Australian criticism of his autocratic style.

“We’re going to prosper, you’re going to prosper.

“But if I allowed you to run my country it will spiral downwards and hit rock bottom,” he said.

Asked about a remark he made in the 1980s that Australians were destined to become the “poor white trash of Asia”, Mr Lee said it was apt for that era.

“There are some words sometime said in the heat of an argument which perhaps at that time was warranted.”

The award citation said ANU conferred the doctorate on the grounds of Mr Lee’s service to developing Singapore, international statesmanship and friendship to Australia.

Mr Lee led Singapore for more than 30 years until 1990 under a regime which placed prosperity and racial harmony ahead of human rights and Western-style democracy.

He has since served as a senior adviser to his successors.

ANU arts-law student Ben Lyons said it was deeply offensive that the university was giving a doctorate of law to someone who used the justice system to repress dissent.

“There are a lot of students as well as academics who are quite angry about both the fact that we’re giving Lee Kuan Yew a doctorate and the way it was conducted,” Mr Lyons said.

“It seems to have been done with a great deal of secrecy.”

He thought the honour had been conferred for ANU’s financial benefit through strengthened ties with the National University of Singapore.

Some law students argue the award may be invalid because it was not discussed by the honorary degree committee before approval by the ANU Council.

Defending the move, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said: “Ultimately, whatever process you follow, it’s a decision of the council anyway.”

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier in the week that while there had been international concern about human rights issues in Singapore, Mr Lee was a “great regional leader”.

“The fact is in the overall sense, Singapore has been a spectacular success,” Mr Downer said.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown on Wednesday said ANU had crassly used its degree system to honour an undeserving figure.

“(Mr Lee’s someone) who’s not a democrat, who’s a traitor to democratic ideals and who has eliminated opposition effectively, including having people jailed and held in jail without sentence,” Senator Brown told reporters.

“He eliminated opposition as effectively as he eliminated chewing gum.”

Pictures from: More photos there.Singaporean rights activist criticises ANU over honour

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
28 Mar 07

A leading Singaporean civil rights activist says the Australian National University’s decision to honour former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is baffling. Dr Chee Soon Juan is the secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party.

He has been imprisoned several times for speaking in public without a license and alleges mistreatment while in custody, including food poisoning.

Dr Chee has criticised Mr Lee’s civil rights record many times and is surprised by today’s awards ceremony.

“It’s just very baffling, given the track record of Singapore,” he said.

Dr Chee says the legal honour for Mr Lee is inappropriate, given the erosion of civil rights under his government.

“Lee has used laws very cleverly to make sure that democratic activities, political activities are kept to a bare minimum,” he said.

He says the award for the visitor is sending the wrong message.

“I think it’s a big slap, I think Australia is sending this signal that, look come here, we want your dollars, we really don’t care how society functions for you,” he said.

Mr Lee has defended himself, saying that Singapore topped reports by the World Economic Forum.

“Rule of law, transparency, integrity of the system, efficiency of the civil service, confidence of the courts both domestically and internationally, it’s at the top,” he said.

But Dr Chee disagrees.

“There is no rule of law in Singapore,” he said.

“The Government of Singapore uses laws to run the country the way that it sees fit.”

Mr Lee is currently the Singaporean Minister Mentor to his son’s Government.

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