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The SDP was officially accepted as an Observer in the Liberal International last week at its annual Congress which was held in Cairo, Egypt.
Together with the SDP, Burma’s National League for Democracy headed by Mdm Aung San Suu Kyi and Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party led by prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva were also accepted into LI.
Earlier in May this year, the organisation’s Bureau (LI’s governing body) had approved the Singapore Democrats’ application in Vancouver, Canada.
The other Asian members of LI are the Democratic Progressive Party (Taiwan), the Gerakan Party (Malaysia), and the Liberal Party (Philippines).
Represented by Assistant Secretary-General Mr John Tan and Ms Jaslyn Go, the acceptance of the SDP was unanimous. Mr Tan gave an impassioned presentation on the repression in Singapore.
He also chaired a session on New Technology, Development and Education where the subject of the use of the Internet to spread democratic values was the focus.
Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim was invited to give the opening address. Ms Go caught up with the Malaysian Opposition Leader.
“Yes, we have a lot to learn from each other,” Mr Anwar told Ms Go, “I am in contact with some of the youth from your party.” He was referring to the Young Democrats who had visited Malaysia earlier this year. (See here)
The SDP representatives also invited the LI to hold its Congress in Singapore, an idea which was warmly received by its leaders, including president Hans van Baalen.
Ms Go focused on expanding the Singapore Democrats’ international network. She said, “I believe we have shown our new friends the real Singapore and not the false facade that has been portrayed by the PAP.”
But it was not all work and no play for the delegates. Mr Tan and Ms Go managed to catch some sightseeing outside of the conference. They visited the Pyramids of Giza and took a cruise down the Nile.
The PAP was itself a member of another international organisation, the Socialist International. In 1976, it was called to answer for its crackdown on the opposition and the media.
The late president Devan Nair and former PAP stalwart attended the conference in London and chided the SI for its “absurd allegations of ill-treatment, torture and inhuman conditions in our prisons and detention centres.” The party then quickly resigned to save itself the ignominy of being sacked.
Nair was to later recant. “I am obliged to eat a good number of the words I uttered in London in 1976,” he wrote in his foreword in To Catch A Tartar by Mr Francis Seow. He admitted that he was “all too gullible” when he accepted the Government’s words at face value.