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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Correcting a Lee-Ward List

page 18

Correcting a Lee-Ward List

An international campaign has been mounted to exclude the People's Action Party of Singapore from the organisation of Social Democratic Parties, The Socialist International.

Besides the PAP, current members of this Socialist International include the West German Social Democratic Party, the Israeli Labour Party, the Australian Labor Party and our very own New Zealand Labour Party.

A large number of individuals and organisations throughout the world, such as the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, have pledged their support for the expulsion.

The New Zealand Labour Party has only so far sought from the Secretariate of The Socialist International News of what is going on.

At the annual conference of the New Zealand Labour Party (in two weeks time) a remit will be discussed the calls for New Zealand support for the explusion of the PAP The following is the case against Lee Kuan Yew's government.

Harry Lee

Harry Lee

The Peoples' Action Party (P.A.P.), under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, came to power in Singapore in 1959. Since then Singapore has become a one-party state with the P.A.P. holding all seats in Parliament.

Under Premier Lee, the government has carried out increasingly ruthless suppression of human rights. It uses a whole armoury of repressive legislation to institute measures in blatant violation of democratic socialist principles.

Suppression of Trade Unions

To attract foreign investment, the P.A.P. has effectively crushed an independent trade union movement with a formidable array of anti-labour legislation. Examples of such include:
(a)The Contract of Employment Act 1968
(b)The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 1968

These laws prohibit unions from including in collective agreements such basic questions as: promotion, transfer, termination of service by way of redundancy, dismissal or reinstatements of a worker assignment or allocation of duties by employer.

Fringe benefits (including overtime pay, bonuses, redundancy payments, retirement benefits, maternity and sick leave) have been drastically reduced and working hours increased. They curtail the right to industrial action and give management sole power over hiring and firing.

Furthermore, the government-appointed Registrar of Trade Unions can refuse to register a trade union without giving any reason.

These laws were described by the Times (London 5/8/68) as 'a bold package of labour legislation that should be the delight of a foreign investor.'

Not unconnected with the anti-labour measures is the suppression of all political opposition to Lee's regime, especailly those who champion the cause and receive the widespread support, of Singapore workers.

The Internal Security Act 1960 gives the widest power of detention without trial. There are about a hundred political prisoners in Singapore, some of whom have been detained for over a decade. Among those still in detention and subject to solitary confinement and other forms of mental and physical torture are:

Dr. Lim Hock Siew a founder member of the P.A P. and a leader of the opposition Barisan Sosialis which split from the P.A.P. in 1961.

Detained 1963

Said Zahari formerly editor of Utusan Melayu, a Malay daily; President of the National Press Club of Malaya and President of the Malay Journalist Association of Singapore.

Detained 1963

Ho Piew a trade unionist and Secretary of the Seamen's Union in Singapore.

Detained 1963

Lee Tee Tong trade unionist and Legislative Assemblyman.

Detained 1963

T.T. Rajah a lawyer who consistently defended political detainees in the past.

Detained 1974 (released Dec. 1975)

Today there are about 100 political detainees in Singapore held under the Internal Security Act. These people conducted their political activities within the constitutional framework and even the official grounds for thier detention, namely, their opposition to the terms of merger of Singapore with Malaysia, were rendered invalid when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in August 1965 less than 2 years after the merger.

Yet they have been denied due process of law and no charges have been brought against them in the courts after these long years.

As a condition for release, the Lee Kuan Yew regime demands that the detainees publicly renounce their political beliefs and eulogise the regime.

As these men have refused to comply they have been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement and "interrogation" at special centres in an attempt to break them. Most political detainees are treated in this way.

Conditions in Detention

Conditions in detention are comparable in their brutality to those in fascist regimes such as South Africa.

Visits are restricted to close relatives - friends and fiances are not allowed, conversation between detainees and visitors is conducted via telephones across a glass barrier and monitored by the authorities. If conditions of life in detention or ill-treatment are mentioned the telephone is immediately cut off and visits suspended. Interviews with lawyers are rarely granted, and when granted are closely supervised.

Neither is there any legal protection from torture of any kind. In 1966, the Singapore Constitutional Commission, headed by the Chief Justice, recommended a constitutional safeguard against torture and inhuman treatment.

True to form this was rejected outright by the PAP regime. Indeed Lee Kuan Yew himself admitted to tortures practised by his regime at the meeting of the Commonwealth Press Union in 1974.

The Case of Lee Tee Tong

The case of Lee Tee Tong, detained soon after his election to the Singapore Legislative Assembly in September 1963, illustrates clearly that the PAP regime has long discarded any pretensions of abiding by the norms of parliamentary democracy.

Iny July 1967, whilst in detention, Lee was deprived of his citizenship, classified as 'banishee' and thereafter detained with criminals in Queenstown prison.

Unlike other political detainees who are allowed weekly visits, Lee Tee Tong is allowed only one visit in 5 weeks. Except for biscuits, no food is allowed to be sent in by visitors.

During weekdays he is locked up in his cell from 3 00pm, whilst during weekends and other public holidays he is confined to his cell from 12 noon to 8 am the following day. This, it should be noted, is the routine when he is not in solitary confinement.

His health has deteriorated badly as no doctors are known to have attended to him these years. As for dental care, the prison provides only for extraction without facilities for fillings or dentures. As a result he has lost all his teeth. Despite suffering such brutal treatment. Lee Tee Tong refuses to recant in barter for his freedom.

Suppression of Student Movement

A close scrutiny is kept on all educational institutions Students cannot enter institutions of higher learning without a Suitability Certificate (a provision of the Internal Security Act). A certificate is issued only after clearance with the Special Branch that the applicant is politically acceptable.

In December 1974, attempts by students to focus attention on social issues were faced with hasty suppression in the form of conviction on fabricated charges of Tan Wah Piow, President of University of Singapore Students Union (USSU), and the deportation of five Malaysian students on the USSU executive.

The latest move to suppress the student movement is the enactment in November 1975 of the University of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1975 to dissolve USSU and reconstitute a new 'Union' whose constitution, membership, functions and other matters will be under the control of the government.

Exposure and Isolation of the Pap Regime

The PAP in the past branded its opponents as "Communists" or proxies for external forces. Of late as opposition mounts from wider sections of the population, the regime now warns of "non-Communist subversion" which includes the New Left, the Student Christian Movement and the CIA

Accusations of "non-Communist subversion" have been levelled mainly against the University of Singapore Students' Union (USSU) following student protests over large scale redundancies and declining living standars of the workers. Not surprisingly USSU has recently been dissolved under the University of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1975.

Over the past few years as Lee Kuan Yew's sophiscated public relations machinery has come unstuck and his mask slipped somehwat, his European social democratic colleagues are beginning to see the true picture of his repressive regime. In recent months the Central Committee of the Dutch Labour Party has decided, in view of the gross violations of fundamental human rights in Singapore, to contest the PAP's membership of the Socialist International.