Thursday, June 12, 2008

Singapore: Democracy or Dictatorship?

Modern Singapore

Mid 20th Century Singapore as the British left it

Singapore as it was Mid 20th Century (lower picture) - already a developed economy, the greatest port of South Asia by 1900, dominating the sea routes to India and Australiasia, one of the crown jewels in the British Empire until the mid 20th Century. Founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of the East India Company, it was by the 1900’s being used by some 50 shipping lines. Situated at the foot of the Malay peninsula, it was the outlet to the world for the thriving Malayan rubber and tin industries.The bulk of its population was made up of Chinese immigrants, a few of whom had amassed great fortunes, many men had come to work temporarily, leaving their families behind.

The British Empire was expanding in Malaya chiefly for economic reasons. The growth of the motor-car industry in the 1900’s meant a rapidly rising demand for Malaya’s main commercial crop, rubber - the world’s largest supplier. British planters carved new rubber estates out of the jungle. Manning the estates was an agreeable, profitable activity for the planters, and to work the plantations, a vast labour force of Chinese and Indians was imported. (The Malayans on the whole preferred to work their own land rather than enter paid employment.)
Malaya (as it was known then) and Singapore became a hodge-podge of peoples: Hindu gongs and Chinese fire crackers sounded, and the smells of Indian curry and Chinese roast pork mingled.
Information from -

"Singapore also became a regional center for the distribution of European manufactured goods. After World War I, when the British established a naval base on the island, Singapore became a key element of the British Commonwealth of Nations military defense east of India, thus adding the naval support industry to the island's economy."

"In the period immediately after World War II, Singapore faced enormous problems, including labor and social unrest, a decaying, war-ravaged infrastructure, inadequate housing and community facilities, a slow economic growth rate, low wages, and high unemployment made worse by a rapidly expanding population. As late as 1959, the unemployment rate was estimated at 13.5 percent. The struggle for survival in the postwar period deeply affected the economic decision making of Singapore's first generation leaders."

In a forum on the American PBS network Lee Kuan Yew said that after the British Empire broke up after WWII all the countries went their own way in regards to shipping, so Singapore's once busy port was suffering (whether this was due to competition from other countries or a generally depressed market after WWII or both is another issue) and something had to be done to make Singapore a stronger economy again, that is all good but the issue of civil rights and real Democracy are important as well, what of Lee's road kill, his opponents since 1959, how well did their lives turn out? Lee Kuan Yew wants Singapore to be like western Europe's finest liberal countries from a cultural perspective, you cannot have a flourishing culture like those countries when you have political repression and injustice, it stiffles the whole mood of artistic expression and beauty.

Lee Kuan Yew came to power in 1959 using the Representative Parliamentary Democratic system the British had slowly agreed to put in place before Lee became a politician, and after another Singapore political party leader, Lim Yew Hock with Lee at his side, had negotiated independence for Singapore. Lim Chin Siong (see other article on this site about him) was a very popular leader that Lee originally courted but eventually jailed for questionable leftist charges and ruined Lim's career, most likely to get the serious competition for power out of the way, which has been Lee's way of operating since the beginning. Singapore would have become a more humanitarian society with real democracy if Lim Chin Siong had become its leader back then. Lim Chin Siong was a strong Singapore Nationalist, he was the George Washington of Singapore fighting against British rule.

Lee and his top ministers then set Singapore on a path to a stronger economy, including inviting foreign corporations in to set up manufacturing of technology and embarking on a massive social housing program that allowed Singaporeans to own government built housing at affordable prices. Lee also began oppressing any serious opposition, including jailing and bankrupting them, thereby denying other Singaporeans the same democratic rights that originally led to Lee's power to represent Singaporeans in the Parliament.

Lee and his government argue that they have managed the economy well since 1959, that Singaporeans are better educated and have better jobs now. Those past years during the cold war communist years made it easier for Singapore to compete, to be America's branch plant economy. Now with China, India and many other south east Asian countries competing it is more difficult for Singapore to compete.

Whether the PAP's strategy of attracting bio technology, pharmacitical and financial industries will be enough to keep the Singapore economy strong remains to be seen, some critics such a Gopalan Nair argue these ideas have already failed. Information on Wikipedia seems to contradict Gopalan Nair and shows that Singapore's economy still had strong growth in 2007 with government projections for more growth in coming years:

Critics of the government complain that many Singaporeans are falling behind now, that poverty is increasing (elderly scrounging through garbage and sleeping on sidewalks) while the government has become greedier for themselves. They are not setting a good example, their multi-million dollar salaries are far greater than other countries politicians are paid, especially relative to the gross domestic product that they are managing as compared with countries like the USA, Britain, Germany, Japan etc. Being in government is different than running a private company, government is always there and ultimately they own everything, if a company goes bankrupt their holdings go back to the government, therefore there is less risk and pressure to be a government member than a private executive, that is why there has traditionally been greater compensation for private executives.

Lee's People's Action Party has remained in power for half a century, and for all practical purposes killing Singapore's Democracy. Recently increasing minister's pay to millions of dollars per year, further distancing PAP members of parliament from most Singaporeans and making entering a level playing field impossible for Singaporeans wanting to enter into politics in opposition to the ruling party. Well paid sycophantic judges enforce the PAP's monopoly on power with the assistance of a compliant police and military. The original form of British Democracy is now degraded to an empty shell with no substance.

We should honour Dr. Chee Soon Juan Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and his sister Chee Siok Chin for sacrificing their lives to the cause of true democracy.

We should also honour the brave actions of Lawyer Gopalan Nair the arrested Singaporean and American lawyer who is the author of:

These men and women and many other Singaporeans past and present are to be congratulated for their efforts towards a more just and democratic society in Singapore.

Lee Kwan Yew has made the absurd accusation that Dr. Chee Soon Juan is "near psychotic". Any rational person can see and read on the internet that Dr. Chee is a very sane and decent person that has sacrificed his life by going up against the tyrant and despot Lee Kwan Yew. Perhaps Mr. Lee should be known as the Mental Minister since he is now claiming to be a qualified psychologist. If anyone is psychotic it is Mr. Lee who is so mentally deranged that he desperately clings to power, inventing a new title for himself 'mentor minister' so that Singapore's mafia boss never really steps aside.

Lee Kwan Yew made the statement that if he and his government considered someone a real threat they would have bankrupted them long ago. This is the statement of a tyrant who openly admits that he will bankrupt any serious opposition to his reign of oppression, as he has done many times. He then continues to hold fake and rigged elections so as to pretend to be a legitimate ruler with support from the people.

The early democracy that was granted to Singapore, (as its real founder Sir Stamford Raffle's homeland country, Great Britain, decided to give Singapore autonomy) was used by Lee Kwan Yew to come to power but he decided that he never wanted to lose that power and thereby put in place methods to make Singapore democracy a fraud.

For real democracy to happen in Singapore the People's Action Party/Government must not own or control any of the Singapore press and must make sure that all constituencies have a full slate of candidates from the opposition parties during an election and have independent United Nations observers at all election booths and ballot counting stations.

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