Saturday, April 2, 2011

Suppressing dissent in Singapore: the case of Francis Seow

An illuminating video interview with Francis Seow: here (or here).

Quoting Wikipedia (here):

Francis Seow's new appointment as the President of the Singapore Law Society in 1986 led to a falling out with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew after Seow became embroiled in the politics surrounding the role of the Law Society. He had envisaged a restoration of the role of the Law Society to, inter alia, comment on legislation that the government was then churning out without any meaningful parliamentary debate, a role which Prime Minister Lee took especial exception to.

Lee caused special legislation to be passed depriving the Law Society, inter alia, of any powers to comment on any legislation unless the government specifically asks the Law Society for its comments.

Seow ran for the Parliament of Singapore as part of the Workers' Party team that contested the Eunos Group Representation Constituency in the 1988 Singapore general election. His team managed to secure 49.11% of valid votes, "losing marginally" to the PAP stronghold.

Just before the election, he was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act for 72 days, accused of having received funds from the United States and advice for the purpose of promoting democracy in Singapore. According to his account, he was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation and intense cold air-conditioning. During the elections, he was criticised as being an American stooge.

Later, while awaiting trial for alleged tax evasion, he left the country and was convicted in absentia. These events are alleged by many to have been politically motivated, and part of a pattern of lawsuits and criminal proceedings against dissenters in Singapore.

In his exile he has spoken at events organized by Singapore student societies at universities outside Singapore.

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