U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Singapore
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Singapore, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1d18.html [accessed 13 February 2016]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SINGAPORESingapore, a city-state of 3.6 million people, is a parliamentary republic in which politics is dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP), which has held power since Singapore gained autonomy from the United Kingdom in 1959. Following January 2 parliamentary elections, the PAP holds 81 of the Parliament's 83elected seats. Goh Chok Tong completed his seventh year as Prime Minister. Lee Kuan Yew, who served as Prime Minister from independence in 1965 until 1990, remains active politically, holding the title of Senior Minister. The majority of the population is ethnic Chinese (77 percent), with Malays and Indians constituting substantial minorities. The judiciary is efficient and constitutionally independent. However, there is a perception it reflects the views of the executive in politically sensitive cases. The Government maintains active internal security and military forces to counter perceived threats to the nation's security. It has frequently used security legislation to control a broad range of activity. The Internal Security Department (ISD) is responsible for enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA), including its provisions for detention without trial. Singapore has an open free market economic system. The construction and financial services industries and manufacturing of computer-related components are key sectors of the economy, which has achieved remarkably steady growth since independence. Gross domestic product rose approximately 7.5 percent in 1997, and the annual per capita gross domestic product is approximately $26,000. Wealth is distributed relatively equally in what is essentially a full-employment economy. Although there were problems in some areas, the Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. The Government stepped up its intimidation of the opposition in 1997, an election year. After the election, PAP leaders filed a number of potentially ruinous defamation suits against opposition parties and their leaders. The ruling party's continued use of the judicial system for political purposes highlights concerns about the independence of the judiciary in cases that affected members of the opposition, or that had political implications. The Government has wide powers to detain people arbitrarily and subsequently restrict their travel, freedom of speech, and right to associate freely, and to handicap political opposition. There was no evidence of a change in the Government's willingness to exercise these powers when it deemed that necessary in pursuit of its policy goals. The Government restricts freedom of speech and of the press and intimidates journalists into practicing self-censorship. The authorities have the technical capability to intrude on people's privacy and may do so in some politically sensitive cases. There is some legal discrimination against women, which affects only a small percentage of the population. The Government has moved actively to counter societal discrimination against women and minorities. While freedom of religion is generally respected, Jehovah's Witnesses have been banned since 1972 and the Unification Church since 1982.