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Singapore’s human rights subject to international peer review

From Yawning Bread

The Singapore government clings to the outdated doctrine of absolute national sovereignty. Under this principle, states have absolute freedom to decide their own internal affairs and foreign parties have no right to interfere. Casting themselves as holders of the electoral mandate to speak and act for Singapore, our government strongly rejects attempts by outside parties to take an interest in Singapore’s domestic affairs, challenging critics to a fight.

You see this principle at work when the government punishes foreign media for commenting critically on them. Punishment takes the form of defamation suits and restrictions on circulation. Under the radar, there’s also control in the form of licencing for foreign journalists trying to do interviews in Singapore.

More recently, gazetting of non-government organisations (NGOs) as “political associations” has been in the news. Once so gazetted, NGOs cannot receive help and funding from foreign parties.

Every year at the United Nations, when a General Assembly resolution on the abolition of the death penalty is debated, Singapore leads opposition to the resolution (and is regularly defeated by the majority of UN members). If you look at the arguments made by Singapore, you see a familiar refrain: National sovereignty means no foreign party, not even the UN, can tell the Singapore government what is right or wrong. If the Singapore government wants to go as far as to commit genocide, even that is an act of national sovereignty, and no one outside Singapore has any right to criticise.

The fact is, only authoritarian states cling to this definition of national sovereignty. The world as a whole has been moving away from this atavistic notion for close to a hundred years.

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