Singapore ban on foreign speakers may affect EU ties

13 Apr 07

European Union lawmakers banned from speaking at a public forum in Singapore warned Friday they intended to take up the issue in the European Parliament.

A statement by the EU assembly’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, whose members were banned from speaking at the public forum, warned that the “unprecedented situation. throws into question democratic co-operation with Singapore. ”

A spokesman for the group told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa the incident raised questions about Singapore’s commitment to human rights and democracy.

As such, the liberal group would “consider withholding approval” of a new EU-Singapore cooperation agreement being negotiated by the two sides, the spokesman said.

The European Parliament must ratify all EU pacts with foreign countries. The EU assembly has held up several EU agreements in past years because of human rights concerns.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats has 105 parliamentarians in the 785-member EU parliament.

The spokesman said liberal group members had gone to the meeting in Singapore to talk about EU-Asia relations and questions related to democracy.

The meeting’s focus was not on ministerial pay raises as indicated by the government, he said.

Seven European lawmakers, including liberal group leader Graham Watson, as well as Asian parliamentarians had been scheduled to address the event organized by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

But the government insisted that “Singapore’s politics are reserved for Singaporeans,” and visitors should not interfere in domestic politics.

It is illegal in the restrictive city-state to organize a public forum with foreign speakers without a permit. It is also an offence for foreigners to speak at such a forum without professional visit passes.

Danish politician threatened with arrest in Singapore
Gregers Moller
ScandAsia, Denmark
13 Apr 07

A Danish politician, Anders Samuelson visiting Singapore has been told that if he speaks at a meeting promoting democracy in Singapore he will be arrested. The same goes for seven other members of the EU parliament who are visiting Indonesia and Singapore this week.

Anders Samuelsen has complained about the restriction placed on him through a press release issued in Danish in Denmark. If this will land him in trouble in Singapore remains to be seen.

“It is indeed proof that the fight for democracy in Singapore is still on, when you can prohibit someone to speak at a public meeting,” Samuelsen is quoted by the his party’s press release.

Samuelsen and the seven EU parliamentarians are members of the liberal group in the EU parliament (ALDE). The meeting is with the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD).

“I am shocked. This is state control of the worst kind and ought to be a black spot on the democratic conscience of the government. I have along with the other participants objected to the foreign committee of the Singaporean parliament, but the decision stands. Also the EU ambassadors have had no luck in trying to influence the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore,” Samuelsen says.

Still Samuelsen and his colleagues have decided to stay in the meeting.

“We have decided to participate anyway, but we have been issued a clear message that we will be arrested if we say something. It is absurd but then again it comes as no surprise when you consider the government of Singapore,” he adds.

According to the press release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore issue on Tuesday a statement saying that Singaporean politics were for Singaporeans only to debate and that foreigners who involve themselves in domestic Singaporean affairs are not welcome in Singapore.

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