Thursday, December 01, 2005

Scrapbook: Dead Man Walking

It could be a poster for "Legend of Sleepy Hollow II."

Or it could be irresponsible editing from The Age, which juxtaposed the image with today's letter from Joseph Koh (Singapore's High Commissioner in Australia) defending the decision to execute Nguyen. Blurring the issue into a vendetta against the Lee dynasty doesn't help either Nguyen or bilateral relations. Most Singaporeans I've asked think Lee Hsien Loong is fit for his job, notwithstanding that he's there on birth rather than merit per se. Bred to rule, I suppose.

The only thing new in Koh's letter was his response to allegations that Singapore connives with Burmese drug lords. He doesn't provide many specifics, which one would expect given the evidence linking the Singapore Government Investment Corp. and Lo Hsing Han, detailed in the article I linked in my last post and in this report from the Free Burma Coalition. Extract follows -

At a news conference in February (1997), Robert Gelbard, then Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said "Drug traffickers have become the leading investors in Burma's new market economy and leading lights in Burma's new political order. Since 1988, over half of (investment) from Singapore has been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han." Singapore has never responded to the US criticism.

To be fair, the fund tying the SGIC and Lo was liquidated in 1997, and I haven't found anything about subsequent Singaporean public investment in dubious Burmese concerns, though a recent US State Department report suggests that the country remains an international money laundering hub (alongside Japan, the UK, the US...).


John Lee said...

My faith in the mainstream media takes another nail in its coffin - this AFP report gets the tense of Koh's letter wrong (he was referring to past, not present, Singaporean investment in Myanmar)

The Void Deck said...

The Burma allegation was just an inapprorpiate and opportunistic argument inserted by CSJ in the death penalty debate in Spore. Instead of challenging the Spore govt on its persistance to retain the death penalty in general and not granting clemency to Nguyen in specific, he just had to bring up something that distracts from the whole effort. Wrong topic for the wrong forum. Classic clueless CSJ.

John Lee said...

It wasn't directly on-topic, but neither was it completely irrelevant, given that Nguyen was trafficking heroin. It was a shade opportunistic in that the Myanmar fund was terminated almost a decade ago and there doesn't seem to be any subsequent evidence linking the Singapore govt with Burmese drug money, as discussed in the post.

I don't think it's fair to single out Singapore for criticims over its general approach to the Yangon regime, all the ASEAN countries have had the same policy till very recently.

I'm interested to know what the general feeling is in Singapore about Chee Soon Juan and the SDP more generally. I know that the ST and its letter-writers got stuck into him and there've been many attacks on him in Aus online forums (e.g. The Age). The Aus media spin was that they carried CSJ's views because the Singapore media wouldn't.

The Void Deck said...

Hi John

Honestly, there are some people in Spore who back Chee partly because they see him as the sole politician who dares defy the ruling party and partly because they like his party's politics - issues and style. Fair enough. They can choose to support who they want.

Others (perhaps many others), including us, view him as politically out of touch with the very people whom he claims he wants to represent, among other faults.

He has not provided convincing proposals on how to do better than the MIW in terms of providing jobs, education, health policies etc. Besides, he is not the only one who defies the MIW as he likes people to believe. He is being picked on by the MIW mainly because he lets himself get cornered politically so as to show he is being persecuted. Members of the other opposition parties, however, have escaped lawsuits (so far) apparently because they are clever enough to criticise the petty MIW without sounding defamatory.

We could go on but here are some similar views from others.

Singapore Watch

Wannabe Lawyer

John Lee said...

who would you then identify as the viable Singaporean opposition?
Would you say that (e.g.) Jeyaretnam's fate stemmed from a failure to play the system properly?

To me, the iconic image of Singapore politics is Jeyaratnam peddling his books at City Hall MRT station, reduced to penury by defamation suits. Generally I don't like analogies between Singapore and dynastic China, but I make an exception for this mentality of hounding political opponents to destruction (and using the machinery of state to do it).

Btw do PAP members really still wear white, or is that just a metaphor?

The Void Deck said...

The easier one first. The PAP actually wear all white (except for belt and shoes I think) for public and official events AFAIK.

I can't speak for the rest of The Void Deck but I believe that JBJ was one of the best Spore had in terms of challenging the MIW. He is the one man army, without soliciting foreign help (unlike CSJ and SDP), who is taking on the MIW. He is still around despite the crippling lawsuits. Others dissidents could not take the heat and have gone overseas to bitch while the old guy is still around swinging his fists, albeit at a much slower pace right now.

The MIW paradoxically created and destroyed him politically at the same time. Their insistence to contain him, at times horrendously unfairly like the defamation lawsuit hurled at him in 1997 because of comments he made in a rally, only galvanised popular support for him, regardless if he was clueless about Spore's economics.

The rules that were applied to JBJ were probably harsher than those applied to other opposition politicians, partly becaue JBJ was seen as a bigger threat to the dominance of the MIW then. So in a way, he did not play the game the way the MIW wanted him to and was thus taken out of play.

In some ways CSJ and JBJ are similar - one man army sticking around in Spore to take on the MIW. In other ways, they are not - JBJ is more articulate and civilised, even gentlemanly, in his perceived rhetoric and tactics.