'Buzz' of Democracy Needed; City-State Lacks Spirit of Capitalism, Activist Says

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

'Buzz' of Democracy Needed; City-State Lacks Spirit of Capitalism, Activist Says


Byline: I-wei J. Chang, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

An opposition leader from Singapore said Western-style democracy and civil liberties could be the "buzz" that creates a vibrant society in the strictly regulated nation in Southeast Asia.

"[Former Prime Minister] Lee Kuan Yew said Hong Kong has the 'buzz' that Singapore lacks," said Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democracy Party (SDP).

"What we don't need is for the government to continue to tell us what to do to become more efficient. Get out of the way. Let the people develop the potential to develop."

Mr. Chee, a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, made the remarks during a discussion at the Washington think tank New America Foundation on Tuesday.

Many Singaporeans have left the city-state, despite the country's high standards of living, efficiency and cleanliness, because its society has too many regulations, Mr. Chee said.

Singapore is the richest nation in Southeast Asia. It places many rules and restrictions on its citizens - such as bans on littering and chewing gum - and slaps them with heavy fines if public laws are disobeyed.

Mr. Chee said he thinks Singapore lacks an "entrepreneurial spirit" because more than 80 percent of its people live cozily in huge government-run housing projects and just follow orders from the government.

Singapore's government, a parliamentary republic, has to move toward greater democratization and grant basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, assembly and press, he said. …

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'Buzz' of Democracy Needed; City-State Lacks Spirit of Capitalism, Activist Says
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