Singapore rejects “repressive state” tag by rights watchdog


Singapore on Friday rejected allegations by a US-based human rights group that it is a “politically repressive state”.

“Singapore is a democratic state with a clean and transparent government, whose public officials are held responsible against the highest standards of probity and integrity,” the Ministry of Law said in a statement to AFP.

The ministry cited the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report which rated Singapore as “first out of 133 countries for public trust of politicians and transparency of government policymaking”.

Human Rights Watch in its annual report released Thursday slammed Singapore for jailing critics of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and hitting them with financially devastating libel suits.

The New York-based group also criticised the mandatory imposition of the death penalty for certain crimes, legislation that permit caning as well as laws that ban street protests and allow detention without trial.

“Singapore remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson in a press statement Thursday.

HRW’s global report had a chapter on Singapore, a wealthy city-state known for political stability, a low crime rate and a conducive environment for global businesses to operate, but also criticised for its little tolerance against dissent.

“Individuals who want to criticise or challenge the ruling party’s hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits and even prison,” Robertson said.

The Law Ministry rejected the allegations, and accused HRW of recycling propaganda put out by opposition politician Chee Soon Juan and other government critics.

Chee is a long-time critic of the PAP who has been jailed several times in his struggle against the government.

“Human Rights Watch’s approach seems to be that they can issue these pronouncements and we should follow them,” the Ministry of Law said.

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