Friday, March 23, 2007

ANU awards honorary doctorate to Singapore's Lee - what were they thinking?

The media waves were exercised on this subject yesterday. I wish to add my alarm to that already expressed by ANU academics et al.

Lee Kuan Yew's human rights record is a disgrace. Wrapping his polity in a garb of 'asian democracy' - underpinned by 'asian values' of hierarchical order, submissiveness, and state censorship - Lee crushed dissent and eroded human rights.

In his Introduction to Lee's Law by Chris Lydgate, Geoffrey Robertson writes:

"I once acted for some women playwrights whom Lee's government detained without trial for two years on the charge of "singing progressive songs and performing plays which exaggerated the plight of the poor and the inadequacies of the existing system." The existing system in Singapore could not tolerate honest critics who wanted to make it operate more equitably, not because they were espousing Western liberalism at odds with "Asian values" but because they were advocating rights which should belong to everyone, everywhere...The PAP intimidated whole electorates by the threat to demolish their public services if they returned a Workers' Party candidate. This was an apt reminder that democracy is a necessary but not sufficient guarantee of human rights: that can only be achieved by laws which entrench free speech, due process, and fair trial by an independent and impartial judiciary."

I am at a loss to understand the rationale for this glorification of repression, except as a sop to Singapore’s political elite to bolster ANU’s profile in Singapore. This is not a good look for such a fine university.

The ANU executive should be ashamed of this decision. Express your view of this travesty to the ANU executive.

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