Singapore lambasts Amnesty over
Singapore: Oct 18, 1997. Hong Kong Standard
Related: Singapore issues counter-attack against Amnesty
SINGAPORE denounced an Amnesty International report, October 17, which said it was concerned that leaders of the wealthy island state were using defamation suits to silence the opposition.
A Law Ministry statement called the report by the London-based human rights group totally unfounded, dishonest and disingenuous.
It said the Amnesty report followed much the same lines as one by the International Commission of Jurists on a suit brought by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong against Joshua Jeyaretnam, leader of the Workers' Party (WP).
``In fact they have engaged in a co-ordinated, partisan propaganda campaign to pressure the Singapore government,'' the statement said.
Mr Goh, his predecessor, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and nine other members of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) accused Mr Jeyaretnam of defaming them at a rally before January elections.
They said he defamed them by saying a WP colleague ``has just placed before me two reports he has made to the police'' against Mr Goh and other leaders.
Mr Goh was awarded S$20,000 (US$13,000), just one tenth of what he demanded, and has filed an appeal. There will be damages hearings in the other cases.
Amnesty said Mr Jeyaretnam's words were innocuous and would not have excited comment in a society respectful of international standards for freedom of expression.
``Amnesty International questions why Jeyaretnam's case was ever brought to court,'' the group said earlier this week.
``The organisation believes that Singapore's leaders are in fact resorting to defamation suits as a politically motivated tactic to silence critical views and curb opposition activity.''
The Law Ministry said the criticism was totally unfounded.
``The reputation and integrity of Singapore's leaders have always been, and continue to be, vital to Singapore's success,'' it said.
``The government is recognised internationally as being honest. Billions are invested in Singapore by MNCs (multi-national corporations) on the faith of the character and integrity of the Singapore leadership,'' the statement said.
It said Singapore politicians who did not sue when defamed quickly lost the confidence of the electorate and leaders had no intention of silencing critics.
``This is absurd. There is no international standard which says that freedom of expression is freedom to destroy another's reputation,'' it said. - Reuters
Published in the Hong Kong Standard. Oct 18, 1997