Dec 19, 2009
Political criticism not a crime here
THE Insight article, 'Not for sale' (Dec 11), included an excerpt from British author John Kampfner's book, Freedom For Sale. Mr Kampfner asserts, in the context of Singapore, that 'any politician or journalist who says anything controversial about those in power is open to arrest and the subsequent charge of defamation. If they run out of money, they are declared bankrupt and may be sent to jail'.
This is quite inaccurate. Engaging in robust criticism per se is not and has never been a crime or libellous in Singapore.
Mr Kampfner has made a fundamental factual error which probably coloured his views. There can be, and there is, vigorous debate on public policies. But if allegations of personal misconduct are made, then those who make such allegations have to prove the truth of their statements. Those against whom such allegations are made will sue and take the stand to be cross- examined publicly, if they believe they have been wrongfully defamed. That way, the truth can be established publicly.
Singapore has a hard-earned reputation for clean government. It holds itself to the highest standards of probity and integrity. The latest World Economic Competitiveness Report rated Singapore first out of 131 countries for 'public trust of politicians' and 'transparency of government policymaking'.
Chong Wan Yieng (Ms)
Press Secretary to Minister for Law