Hold the convention in .........
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Friday 15 September 2006
Singapore reconsiders ban
on activists attending
Singapore says it may admit some of the 27 civil rights activists it has barred from an IMF-World Bank meeting, a move the World Bank says is an insufficient response.
Singapore originally blocked the activists from attending the September meetings on the grounds they posed a threat to security and public order.
In an apparent attempt to placate the monetary chiefs, who along with the European Union have criticised the city-state's tight security, Singapore said it was willing to reconsider the ban on the activists.
"The IMF/WB have asked the government to allow in the 27 activists," the Singapore 2006 Organising Committee said in a statement.
"The government has responded that if these activists travel to Singapore, we will assess at the point of entry whether they pose a security or safety risk.
"If we judge the risk to be acceptable for that particular activist, we are prepared to allow him or her in. However, we cannot guarantee that all 27 activists will be admitted to Singapore."
The statement was issued shortly after World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
A World Bank official said the statement was not a sufficient response to give the individuals in question the assurance that they would be granted access.
"We have accredited these individuals based on clearance by their respective governments and we believe they should
be able to participate in our meetings," he said.
Mr Wolfowitz said earlier that he hoped the ban on the activists was not a case of censorship, adding that it might be in breach of a 2003 agreement with the city-state.
But the Singapore 2006 committee said the memorandum of understanding signed between IMF/WB and the Singapore government "obliges Singapore to take all necessary measures for the safe passage of all persons in and out of Singapore".
Earlier, Singapore police said they had detained three Singaporeans who were planning to distribute flyers criticising the IMF and World Bank and had seized their computers.
Police spokesman Mohamed Razif said they were investigating the men under legislation stating that anyone possessing materials which contain "any incitement to violence or counselling disobedience to the law" would be jailed for up to three years or fined, or both.
On Wednesday, Singapore deported two Filipino activists who had been planning to join anti-IMF protests.
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Wednesday 13 September 2006
by defamation case
One of Singapore's best known pro-democracy activists says he will not be deterred in his fight for better accountability and transparency in Singapore, despite losing a defamation case brought against him by the government.
Our South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports, Doctor Chee Soon Juan says he will pressure the IMF/World Bank meeting in Singapore to support reform.
In an article in his Singapore Democratic Party's March newsletter, Dr Chee criticised the lack of transparency and accountability in Singapore, referring to a financial scandal at a major national charity.
The case was pursued by Dr Chee's political rival, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Dr Chee says the loss will not stop him. "Not at all. I mean they've done it before -- this is the third time I've been sued and I've already been made bankrupt," he said.
Dr Chee he says he will proceed with a protest this weekend coinciding with the IMF/World Bank meeting in Singapore, to lobby the forum's leaders to pressure Singapore to become more transparent.
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Thursday 14 September 2006
Singapore PM launches
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew are suing the Far Eastern Economic Review for defamation.
The Singapore daily the Straits Times reports, the two allege they were defamed in an article which featured an interview with opposition politician Chee Soon Juan.
The article, entitled "Singapore's 'Martyr'", describes the opposition figure's battle against the ruling People's Action Party and its leaders.
It also touched on Singapore officials' success in libel suits against critics.
It was published in the magazine's July edition.
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Monday 15 March 2004
Singapore to partly
lift gum ban
Singapore is preparing to partially lift its famous ban on chewing gum -- in order to comply with a free trade agreement with the United States.
But only gum aimed at helping smokers to quit will be allowed when the new rules come into effect on Thursday.
The government will allow the sale of Nicorette, a nicotine gum, because the agreement with the US says "therapeutic" brands should be allowed.
Singapore banned chewing gum in 1992 because of a litter problem.
The pristine city-state did not like gum sticking to its pavements, but the rules have been relaxed as part of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which came into effect at the start of this year.
The gum became a sticking point in the trade talks when Philip Crane, a US congressman from Illinois, called for Singapore to lift the ban on all gum. Mr Crane represents Chicago, the home of chewing gum giant Wrigley.
But Singapore has not removed its strict ban completely, agreeing only to allow sales of "therapeutic" gum in pharmacies, and only to those with a prescription.
Pfizer, the company that makes the Nicorette, plans to send senior executives to Singapore to officially launch the gum.
Singapore's ban on chewing gum has often been cited by critics as an example of the city-state's overly strict laws.
The penalty for smuggling gum into the country is one year in jail, and a 10,000 Singapore dollar ($5,500) fine.
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Thursday 15 January 2004
SINGAPORE (Reuters) -- Singapore leads the world in executions, putting to death more people than Saudi Arabia, China and Sierra Leone on a per capita basis, rights group Amnesty International has said.
Executions were "shockingly high" and "shrouded in secrecy" in Singapore, Amnesty said, calling on the government to abolish the death penalty by issuing a moratorium on all executions and commuting all death sentences to prison terms.
About 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, giving the wealthy city-state of4,000,000 people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population, Amnesty said.
Singapore's drug laws are among the world's harshest. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin faces mandatory execution by hanging.
But drug addiction was still a problem, Amnesty said, adding that there was "no convincing evidence" high execution rates had curbed drug use in Singapore.
It cited Singapore Central Narcotics Bureau statistics showing 3,393 people arrested for drug offences in 2002 and the number of new drug abusers up 16 percent from 2001. Use of methamphetamines, or "ice," also showed a significant increase.
"We are also calling on the authorities to end the secrecy about the use of the death penalty and encourage public debate," the human rights group said in an 18-page report titled "Singapore: The Death Penalty -- A hidden toll of Executions."
Between 1994 and 1999, an average of 13.57 executions were carried out per one million of the population, three times higher than the next country on the list, Saudi Arabia, it said.
The Prisons Department said 400 executions since 1991 was a "fair estimation."
Bid to loosen city
The public generally supports Singapore's tough laws -- including the death penalty, bans on pornography and curbs on political dissent -- as part of a social contract that in return has delivered years of economic prosperity.
But calls are growing for greater freedoms.
Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, likely to take power [from his dad] this year, said this month he would continue to loosen Singapore's stiffer social controls though he said he was constrained by the conservative majority in the island's polyglot community of ethnic Chinese, Malays and Indians.
So far, the steps to loosen up have been small. Last year, the government ended a 13-year ban on chewing gum but only for medical use. Bungee-jumping and bar-top dancing were recently allowed and laws criminalizing oral sex are under review.
Singapore does not normally publish statistics about death sentences or give the number of prisoners sentenced to die, but Amnesty painted a grim picture of death row, based on accounts from relatives of those who spent time there.
"Cells are sparse, furnished only with a toilet and a mat but no bedding. Inmates are allowed the use of a bucket for washing. It is believed they are not allowed to go outside for fresh air or exercise," it said.
Amnesty added that Singapore was going against a global trend towards abolishing the death penalty, noting that three countries a year in the past decade have ended their execution laws, including Angola, Mauritius, Canada and Cyprus.
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