Questions of Singapore’s human rights violations raised in British Parliament

February 8, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Liberal International (30 Jan 07)
7 Feb 07

Mr Michael Moore, Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Foreign Secretary, had tabled Parliamentary Questions regarding Singapore’s restrictions of freedom of speech and expression in the British Parliament.

He received the below responses from Ms Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Mr Moore is due to meet the high commissioner of Singapore in London and he will ensure a demand for easing policy for freedom of expression will be discussed amongst others during that meeting.

Michael Moore:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the right to freedom of speech and expression in Singapore.

Margaret Beckett:
Sngapore’s constitution provides for freedom of speech, assembly and association for Singaporean citizens. However, it also allows Singapore’s Parliament to impose by law such restrictions as it sees fit to protect national security, friendly relations with other countries, public order and morality, the protection of parliamentary privilege and laws concerning contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence.

The Public Entertainment and Meetings Act requires a permit for public speech or entertainment, although its rules have been relaxed to allow some indoor speaking events to be exempted. By law, police permission is required for public assemblies of five or more persons. Most associations, societies, clubs, religious groups and other organisations with more than 10 members are required to register with the Government under the Societies Act and the Government can deny registration to groups that it believes are likely to have been formed for unlawful purposes.

Defamation cases can be brought and have been used by the Singapore Government. The Films Act forbids political advertising using films or videos and also prohibits films deemed to have political goals. Political and religious websites must be registered and may be subject to restrictions e.g. during elections. The Sedition Act has been used to prosecute racist comments made online. New laws to criminalise comments deemed to be harmful to racial and religious harmony are currently being discussed.

Michael Moore:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Government of Singapore on the application of freedom of speech, association and assembly in Singapore.

Margaret Beckett:
The Singapore Government is well aware of our views, and that of our EU partners, on these issues. Most recently we raised our concerns to the Singaporean Government, through our high commission in Singapore, regarding access for accredited non-governmental organisations to the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Annual Meetings held in Singapore in September 2006.

Michael Moore:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the detention of Dr Chee Soon Juan and other Singapore Democratic Party members by the Government of Singapore.

Margaret Beckett:
Dr Chee Soon Juan was detained on 23 November 2006 for five weeks for non-payment of a fine he received for speaking in public without a permit, a requirement under Singapore law. Dr Chee was released early on 16 December 2006. Two other members of the Singapore Democratic Party were detained at the same time and given shorter jail terms for non-payment of smaller fines. They have also been released.

Michael Moore:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the use of the death penalty in Singapore; and what representations she has made to the Government of Singapore on the use of the death penalty.

Margaret Beckett:

The UK is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. We believe that the abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of human rights under Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Singapore Government continues to use the death penalty, though the number of executions in recent years has been much lower than in the past. There is little public opposition in Singapore to use of the death penalty.

The Singapore Government is well aware of our views. Our high commissioner in Singapore raised the issue most recently in December 2006 with the Singapore Deputy Prime Minster, who is also Minister for Law