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Authorities 'ruling by fear, erodin

 Saturday  November 29  1997


Authorities 'ruling by fear, eroding rights' 

REUTERS in Sydney 
Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the present Government have been
accused of ruling through fear and destroying human rights and democracy.

The opposition Workers' Party said Singapore's economic miracle was the
result of its location and not the Government's "iron-fisted" rule, which
had seen defamation and internal security laws stifle criticism.

"The system in Singapore today, and for the past 40 years, is a system
that thrives on the fear in its citizens," Workers' Party politician
Joshua Jeyaretnam said.

Mr Jeyaretnam said the Government had hobbled trade unions, the press and
Parliament through tough anti-strike laws, internal security laws which
allow detention without trial for up to two years and defamation laws.

"The system thrives because there is no one brave enough to stand up -
that is the system we have in Singapore today and it is effectively
controlled by one person [Mr Lee]," Mr Jeyaretnam told a conference on
Singapore's human rights and democracy at Sydney's University of

Many of Singapore's best-known opposition figures have faced legal action
at some time by the Government or by prominent members of the ruling
People's Action Party.

Opposition politicians and some Western countries have criticised the
party's use of the courts against opponents.

But the ruling party says its actions are essential to maintain good
order and to defend its integrity, and that opposition politicians invite
legal action by irresponsible actions.

The Government has said Singapore politicians who did not sue when
defamed lost the confidence of the electorate, adding that leaders had no
intention of silencing critics.