The Ministry of Home Affairs has again been untruthful. In its press release reported by its colleague the Straits Times, the MHA’s statement said: “Singapore’s politics are reserved for Singaporeans. As visitors to our country, foreigners should not abuse their privilege by interfering in our domestic politics.”
The speakers were only going to speak about their countries’ experiences with democracy and how their parliament, the European Parliament, could help in the global push for democracy. The application to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (see below) shows clearly that none of the speakers were going to speak about issues that could be considered “interfering in our domestic politics.”
The SDP was made to go down to the ICA (to apply for permits for the Members of the European Parliament, MEPs, to speak) for no less than three times and another two times to the police (for a separate permit for the forum). This is not to mention the several telephone calls from both bodies that kept asking for more information.
In fact, the ICA did not want to deal with the SDP via the Internet, obviously conscious of the fact that it did not want to leave behind anything in writing.
In addition, the MHA would refer to the speakers only as “foreigners” taking great pains to avoid saying that they were MEPs. In lock-step fashion, the Straits Times followed suit and incredibly failed to inform its readers that the delegation comprised of European Parliamentarians.
On a separate note, the SDP is given to understand that an intense exchange took place between the ALDE-CALD delegation and the team led by Deputy Speaker Indranee Rajah when the two parties met on the afternoon of 13 Apr 07 at Parliament House.
The Singapore Government also showed its contempt for the MEPs by repeating its threat to arrest the visitors if they spoke at the forum. This happened when ambassadors from the European Commission, Germany, and the Czech Republic visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ambassadors represented the “troika” of the European Union (Presidency, Commission, and Council).
Such was the shabby treatment of the guests. The episode underlines the insecurity of the PAP Government, a trait that all undemocratic regimes demonstrate.
No confident and self-assured government would behave like the PAP. Even a totalitarian regime like the one in Cuba does not ban such forums.
MEP Mr Ignasi Guardans said during the press conference last Friday that he had spoken at a similar public forum in Cuba. And this was 10 years ago!
“I know the comparison might be surprising,” said Mr Guardans, “I had the opportunity to talk more or less a similar event to today’s event when I was a member of the Spanish Parliament in Cuba, Havana, to share in front of NGOs and people like the public where to share and discuss the situation of democracy and the rights there. I’m astonished to see what could be done in Cuba cannot be done in Singapore 10 years later!”
How on earth are we ever going to be a vibrant and globalised nation?
SDP application submitted to the ICA
9 April 2007
Attn: Mrs Lui, ICA
Re: Application for foreign speakers at public forum; synopsis of speeches
Fiona Hall will describe the use of democracy to campaign on environmental and labour and weigh in on whether free trade and democracy are essential for each other. Is it essential that democracy develops with globalisation and, if so, how can this take place? What role does Europe play in this and through what channels can this take place?
Ignasi Cambo Guardans will give an overview on how democracy and human rights have helped to shape international law. Mr Guardans will explain the need for governments to adhere to the rule of law and international standards.
Eugenijus Gentvilas will describe Lithuania’s experience in democratization and how democracy has helped his country.
Lydie Polfer. As deputy prime minister of Luxembourg, Ms Polfer will give an account of the importance of democracy in her country as well as in Europe. She will also speak on how democratic Asian societies can help to establish long-term progress and stability in the region. The speakers will also discuss how the European Union will place emphasis on human rights as its foreign policy and how the ALDE can weigh in on such policy formulation.
Anders Samuelsen will speak on the role social democrats play in promoting the idea of a common European labour market. He will also address the subject of how globalisation needs to take into consideration working conditions of workers as well as how Europe can a bigger role to advance democracy in international relations.
Graham Watson will talk about the development of democracy in Europe and how democracy and human rights have become a universal value as captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He will also explain the role the ALDE plays in Europe and around the world in promoting democracy as well as on how Singapore can benefit from closer political relations with Europe.