News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The People's Action Party shows that it remains one of the world's most successful political machines - The “men in white”—the colour of the PAP's campaign uniforms, signifying integrity—have won all ten elections since Singapore's independence from Britain (via a brief, unhappy marriage to Malaysia) in the 1960s. The party, led for decades by Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and now by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, raised the city-state to first-world income levels. In each election it has convinced Singaporeans it would be foolish to risk this prosperity by voting it out.
...Critics of Singapore's government point to its tight restrictions on political protest and its repeated use of defamation suits against the opposition and journalists. In the run-up to the election the PAP sued the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, arguing that one of its campaign leaflets had impugned the ruling party's honesty—the one thing that is guaranteed to inflame its ire. The party's leader, Chee Soon Juan, has already been bankrupted by a PAP lawsuit. Several of his colleagues, named in the new lawsuit, quickly apologised and agreed to pay damages.
...Desmond Lim, a defeated candidate of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, concedes that the fragmented opposition would do better if it united. Mr Lee senior, still in the cabinet as “minister mentor”, aged 82, is harsher, saying recently that Singapore needed “a world-class opposition, not this riffraff”. What is clear is that the PAP does not just win by squashing its opponents. Its tenth successive victory shows that it remains a most formidable political machine.
...The reasons for the PAP's success are manifold, but the main one, as it never fails to remind voters, is that it has always kept its promise of efficient and clean government. Singapore's economy continues to grow at tigerish rates—9% in the year to March.
In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos : Parry, who wrote for The Independent and now works for The Times of London, made a number of forays into Indonesia from Japan. Through Parry's eyes we are taken into the murderous jungles of Borneo, where Dayak tribesmen were seeking to drive out the Madurese by ethnic cleansing, into Jakarta's universities during the drive to oust Suharto, and into the turmoil of East Timor, seeking its independence from Indonesia. Parry makes the point early on: "This is a book about violence, and about being afraid.
Parry also is fascinated by what he found in Indonesia. As he states, "Although I prided myself on deploring violence, if it should - tragically - break out, I wanted to witness it for myself." Indeed, deeper in the book (and deeper into Indonesia's heart of darkness), he notes: "In Borneo, I saw heads severed from their bodies and men eating flesh. In Jakarta, I saw burned corpses in the street, and shots were fired around and toward me."
President Chen's long trip to nowhere If relations are cool, that means a quick refueling job in some place like Anchorage, the president required to remain on board. So Washington's offer of Alaska was correctly interpreted in Taipei as a deliberate snub and was rejected.
The whole trip was an acrobatic performance. If he meant to piss Washington off, he should have made a stopover in Iran or North Korea," said Antonio Chiang, former deputy secretary general of Taiwan's National Security Council. "Chen has tried very hard, but he didn't do Taiwan's diplomacy any good."
...At a press conference in Costa Rica, Chen defended himself by arguing, "I'm not doing this for fun. I would rather take less time, but I need to be concerned with Taiwan's dignity." Neglecting urges to stop the steady decline in US-Taiwan bilateral ties, Chen chose to make a surprise visit to Libya followed by Indonesia on his return journey rather than transit in Alaska. A proposed stop in Lebanon, however, was not approved. Interpreting the scenario's development, Michael Green, former senior director at the National Security Council for Asian Affairs and now senior adviser at the CSIS, said: "I think the senior people in Washington were nervous after President Chen's remarks on abolishing the National Unification Council and were being extra cautious for fear that President Chen might surprise them again on US soil."

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