The democratic world needs to pay more attention to the growing attraction of autocrats and dictators to regimes like those in Singapore.
This was the message conveyed by SDP’s representative Ms Chee Siok Chin at a European Parliamentary Democracy Caucus hearing in Brussels, Belgium on 5 Mar 08.
A group of six democracy and human rights activists from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Egypt, Venezuela, Singapore and Zimbabwe were invited to make oral presentations to the Parliamentarians on the topic “Defending Civil Society: Establishing the Rights of NGOs.”
Ms Chee spoke about the threat of the so-called “Singapore Way” to democracies in Asia and beyond.
She cited leaders who wanted to follow Singapore’s model such as Mr Nong Duc Manh of Vietnam, former Thai prime minister Thaksin, and Hun Sen of Cambodia amongst others.
She also pointed how ex-president Vladimir Putin is perpetuating his power in Russia, following in the footsteps of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who is now Minister Mentor, a position created for him.
After her talk, Ms Chee was invited to make a similar presentation at the World Movement for Democracy’s biennial conference to be held in Kyiv, Ukraine in April this year.
Ms Chee was also warmly received by European MP and Leader of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), Mr Graham Watson.
Mr Watson was banned from speaking at a public forum together with six other European and Asian MPs when they visited Singapore in Apr 07 at the invitation of the SDP.
The PAP Government had then threatened the parliamentarians with arrests should they speak, triggering a diplomatic firestorm which resulted in the European Presidency, European Commission and the European Council lodging a formal protest with the foreign ministry here.
Also meeting between the visitors and the group of PAP MPs, including deputy speaker Ms Indranee Rajah, ended abruptly when they two sides exchanged their views on the state of democracy in Singapore. (See here)
During her visit, Ms Chee also met Dr Paul Lim who was one of those accused of being part of the “Marxist conspiracy” in the 1987 ISD detentions.
At that time, Dr Lim was doing his doctoral thesis in Belgium. He now works for a think-tank in Europe.
Despite the falsehood of what was said of him some 20 years ago Dr Lim doesn’t seem to hold any bitterness towards the PAP government. He has reconciled with himself that Singapore is no more his home and is quite happy living in Belgium.
Ms Chee is due back in Brussels in April to participate in the ALDE-CALD (Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats) meeting. The SDP is the current chair of CALD.