Chee Soon Juan replies to Tunku Aziz

May 29, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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If Tunku Abdul Aziz is concerned about the integrity of Transparency International-Malaysia, (TIM’s) then he must be careful who he gives his awards to (ST, 29 May 08).

TIM’s website says that it depends on, among other things transparency, accountability, democracy, and respect for human rights to “guide its work.”


And then it gives the award to Mr Lee Kuan Yew who has imprisoned opposition leaders without trial, closed down newspapers and amalgamated them under SPH, introduced unfair election rules, and continues to disallow speaking in public areas and peaceful protests.

Mr Lee, when confronted with these facts, do not refute them. Rather he skirts around the issue and says that without him and his style of governance Singapore would not have $300 billion in its reserves, that the court would not have modern facilities, and I would not be living in an HDB flat.

The presumptuousness and disingenuousness aside, it is clear that Mr Lee doesn’t deny that he is no practitioner of democracy.

Reporters Without Borders rank Singapore around 140th out of about 167 countries in world press freedom. Washington-based Freedom House rates Singapore’s press as “not free” and states in its annual report that “Singapore citizens cannot democratically change their government.”

When I broached this matter with Tunku Aziz in a conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil, he qualified that that he didn’t not give the award to Mr Lee for his human rights record. This contradicts what is stated in TIM’s website.

How one can be given an award for transparency and accountability while ignoring his human rights record, which includes crushing a free press, is incomprehensible.

When I approached Dr Peter Eigen of the Berlin-based Transparency International also at the same conference of the World Movement for Democracy, Dr Eigen said that, “We had nothing to do with that (referring to Mr Lee’s award). It was our Malaysia chapter that gave the award. We had nothing to do with it.”

When I pointed out that the TI in Berlin had endorsed it, Dr Eigen replied: “Everyone knows that Lee is no democrat. Talk to Tunku Abdul Aziz about that. He leads the chapter in Malaysia. They are autonomous as far as setting their own agenda.”

The point that I had raised in court on this subject was that the process of vetting the nominee is not made clear. The TIM website, despite its name, does not make the award process transparent. How much Tunku Aziz admires Mr Lee is not quite the point.

The episode confirms my view that it is sad that Mr Lee will cite an award whose process is not transparent and carries little weight in the eyes of the international community.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party