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Ms Chee Siok Chin recently attended the Forum on Democracy in China and Asia (FDCA) in Brussels, Belgium from 16-18 May 07 which was attended by participants from over 25 countries.
Ms Chee chaired a session on Challenges of Asian Democratization and the Role of the EU. The speakers were made up of four European Members of Parliament and the President of the World League for Freedom and Democracy.
In her opening remarks, Ms Chee spoke briefly about the threat the PAP Government poses to democracy in Asia and beyond. Singapore often boasts of its affluence and its achievements in the realm of economic growth.
However, the ones who benefit from this so-called success are the PAP ministers and the super-rich. The working class in Singapore continue to remain impoverished and the middle-class are increasingly squeezed.
Some ill-informed politicians from countries such as Cambodia, China, and Russia look to Singapore as a model. A Hong Kong legislator expressed his concern that leaders in communist China are looking to emulate Lee Kuan Yew’s style of repression.
At the forum, a Swedish MP recounted his experience when he was invited to speak at a forum in Singapore two years ago. The event at which he spoke was a private one and yet the Singapore police had tried to infiltrate it.
The chief of Asia-Pacific Desk of Reporters Without Borders, Mr. Vincent Brossel, also commented on the sophisticated but no less oppressive tactic adopted by the Singapore Government to suppress freedoms of speech and expression through libel suits.
Following the FDCA, Ms Chee flew to Delhi, India to attend the Asia meeting of the Community of Democracies NGO Process (CD-NGP).
The Community of Democracies (CD) is an organization of democratic states committed to strengthening democracy and its practices worldwide. It holds ministerial meeting biennially and invites civil society organizations to these meetings.
Singapore is not accepted as a member of the CD and was only invited as an observer in the last ministerial conference in Chile in 2005. It has been recommended that Singapore be not invited to the meeting in 2007 to be held in November in Bamako, Mali.
This is because the PAP Government has not made any “progress since then in redressing either the serious unfairness in its elections or the serious restrictions on basic rights of speech and assembly.”
In contrast, Dr Chee Soon Juan sits on the prestigious International Steering Committee of the CD-NGP. The ban of Dr Chee’s travel overseas by the PAP was highlighted at the Delhi meeting.
The participants comprising of democracy advocates from 16 countries also expressed their concern for the deteriorating human rights situation in Singapore.
India’s Minister of State for External Affairs spoke at the event and said that democracy cannot guarantee (economic) growth, but it ensures a responsive, responsible and transparent government that is accountable to the people.
The SDP will continue to speak up at international conferences to highlight the repression going on in Singapore and to garner international support for the growing democracy campaign here.