Jan 15, 2017, here’s my take…
The 2016 (HRW) report heavily criticized ‘the lack of freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, the dismal state of LGBT rights, the excessive overreach of its criminal justice system, and dreadful labor laws that leave migrant workers and laborers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse’.
The following is not intended to take away Phil Robertson’s lunch. It behooves me here however to throw in my 2 bits on the above-captioned claims:
1. The lack of freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression: the above juxtaposition of the text with the candlelight-spangled meme of a sea of shimmering petitioners in candlelight vigil at Hong Lim Park, flat out belies the above-captioned assertion per se — ironic indeed, isn’t it? As regards muzzling of critical expression, just take a gander at Roy Ng’s blogs or others’, Amos Yee’s no less. Contrary to HRW’s assertion, nothing has stopped detractors/critics of the authority from holding forth. But if they choose to extravagate, i.e., flouting established rules of ‘calumny’ or ‘harmony’, they do so at their own peril in their highly regulated society.
2. The excessive overreach of its criminal justice system: HRW’s disposition against the death penalty is well-known. For the authority in Singapore, it’s an easy call — build more clinks and let a greater number of its populace be poisoned or maintain the status quo of deadly deterrence. Charity begins at home: HRW should be equally exercised about abolishing capital punishment in the country (USA) from which it hails.
3. Dreadful labor laws that leave migrant workers and laborers prone to exploitation and abuse: in a larger sense, migrant workers and laborers will always be exploited for their cheap labor and their less-than-ideal working conditions. So relatively speaking, just how dreadful are the migrant labor laws in Singapore? For every negative charge by HRW, there is a positive one to be found — http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/90-foreign-workers-satisfied-working-spore-survey
Singapore, incidentally, is not listed among the 10 world’s worst in that department per a 2015 HuffPost article — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharan-burrow/top-ten-worst-countries-f_b_7553364.html
By the way, the hypocrisy of HRW’s soft-pedaling on America’s own massive illegal exploitation of the underground migrant workforce speaks for itself. (As Emerson would say: what you do speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say!)
4. Last, not least, the dismal state of LGBT rights: on this, there is consensus here on my part but not so much about the dismalness of official attitude or treatment towards such members per se — the official policy is sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell, leave them be. My beef with TPTB on this is, their lack of political guts to acknowledge the obvious and the inevitable: the world with the exception of theocracies is coming to terms with homosexuality, that it should not be criminalized. It is well noting that Singapore though long being a cosmopolitan city, remains by and large a conservative society. Between 50 to 60 per cent of her denizens polled do not view homosexuality as being ‘normal’. The critical mass just isn’t there yet for the authority to have the guts and gumption to take the plunge to repeal the passé anti-gay criminal code. But that change will come in my lifetime (within the next 2 decades) I trust, and will do my part to chivvy TPTB to do the inevitable.
In brief, notwithstanding the ululations of HRW, I’ll give the little red dot a grade of C+ to a B- for the above. I believe TPTB will take that any day.