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Singapore is a one-inch-wide city-state on an island at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.

As a financial hub and popular tourist destination, Singapore is a thriving modern economy, and maintains generally good relations with the rest of the world, despite its repressive regime and questionable human rights record.


[edit] Government

Singapore is effectively a one-party Democracy, ruled by the People's Action Party (PAP), which has a fairly annoying tendency of disliking free speech. But the PAP, despite not being fans of Communism, happily maintains a strictly disciplined party-affiliated youth league and Singapore maintains friendly diplomatic relations with North Korea.[citation needed][1] (Irony.) The PAP also seems to dislike the Internet.[2] However, they have taken a dramatic step towards free speech by telling protesters that they can protest in some designated park that almost no one goes to, as long as they don't talk about ethnicity or religion.[3] There have been no major politicians in Singapore of non-Chinese ethnicity since the city-state became independent in 1965. They also like executing and censoring people, and hate drugs. Oh, and they also believe in family values "Asian Values."[4] They do ban certain Jack Chick publications, which is a plus.[5]

Critics have long accused the ruling PAP elite of gerrymandering to maintain a significant parliamentary majority. The Elections Department fixes electoral boundaries and is part of the executive branch which reports to the (always PAP) Prime Minister. This has raised its ugly head yet again in advance of the Parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2015. [6]

It would be safe to assume that a large percentage of the PAP are also part-time informants for the Internal Security Department (ISD). So visitors would be wise not to talk about Singapore politics while in Singapore.

For decades after its independence, Singapore was governed by Lee Kuan Yew, though his son Lee Hsien LoongWikipedia's W.svg (who served in Singapore's armed forces while his daddy was in charge and miraculously became a general at thirty-two — purely on merit, of course) now runs the country. Goh Chok TongWikipedia's W.svg ruled the city briefly in between, though Lee Kuan Yew is on record as stating that this was only so that claims of nepotism could be denied with a straight face when his son ascended to office.

The city operates an investment firm called Temasek HoldingsWikipedia's W.svg, which manages a portfolio of over 200 billion dollars — larger than JP Morgan Chase and approximately equal to the entire GDP of Singapore. By an astronomical coincidence, Temasek's CEO is Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Lee has stated publicly that his feelings are greatly hurt by the suggestion that nepotism was involved, and he and his father have both been notoriously litigious toward political critics over the years.[7]

With a salary of 1.7 million USD per year, reduced from an initial 2.9 million per year under mounting public outrage, Lee Hsien Loong is the highest-paid head of government in the world by a substantial margin.[8]

Following in his father's footsteps, Lee Hsien Loong is a teetotaler and nonsmoker, and so he will likely be around to administer the PAP's notorious brand of government for quite some time to come.

[edit] Economy

Banking is a major part of the Singapore economy. Though on some level, Singapore may appear to have little corruption, the banking industry has historically been closely tied with laundering ill-gotten gains from neighboring counties in Southeast Asia.[9][10] This can appear particularly ironic to those in the know when Singapore annually suffers from very bad air pollution caused by forest fires in neighboring Indonesia, some of which are associated with illegal land clearing.

[edit] Laws and punishments

The most expensive relief you'll ever experience

Thanks to the use of caning as a common punishment, Singapore has the crime problem beaten (it can be a real pain in the arse). Singapore's execution rates per capita is also among the highest in the world with the death penalty being mandatory for murder and drug- and gun-trafficking offences.

In Singapore's justice system, a single judge decides all questions of both law and fact at a trial. An appeals process exists, but is largely irrelevant since criticizing the objectivity of the trial court (or any other Singaporean court) in any way will, by law (called scandalising the court) result in your appeal being dismissed out of hand and additional criminal charges filed against you.

A notable case of scandalizing the court was that of Alan Shadrake, a British resident of Malaysia. He was arrested on charges of "criminal defamation" the day after his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock (ISBN 1742663737) was published in 2010.[11] The book was a critique of Singapore's death penalty. The Singapore government claimed that the book "cast doubt on the impartiality and independence of the judiciary", and so Shadrake was also charged with scandalising the court.[12][13]

Singapore is also known for its curious obsession with cleanliness. Mundane actions such as littering, spitting, jaywalking, chewing gum, and even forgetting to flush the toilet are illegal. Usually, the punishment for such actions is a heavy fine, which is why many locals call Singapore a "fine city." While many consider these laws to be harsh, at least the city is very environmentally clean, giving Singapore its reputation as the "world's cleanest city."

Similar to the situation in Malaysia, some laws in Singapore are faith-specific. For example, Muslims, but only Muslims, can legally practice polygamy.

Homosexual activity remains criminalized under Section 377A of Singapore's penal code. The government claims that they have bowed to public pressure and will no longer enforce this prohibition but seem quite uninterested in bowing to public pressure by taking it off the books.

Whilst the ruling Lee family has long been fond of suing political opponents for defamation (how dare they get elected?), 2014 saw this trend exacerbated when the sitting Prime Minister sued an ordinary citizen, the young social activist Roy NgerngWikipedia's W.svg. Guess who won? Clearly annoyed that unemployed Roy managed to gather enough funds through crowd-funding to pay his legal fees, PM Lee then made sure that the damages hearing would be heard at the High Court which meant the minimum award sum would be $200,000.[14] Judgement was handed down in December 2015 and Ngerng was ordered to pay S$150,000 in damages to PM Lee with comments from the judge that "The comparatively low standing of the defendant warranted a substantial reduction". That's the way it runs in Singapore folks.[15]

Lee Kuan Yew's death in 2015 was promptly commemorated by the arrest of a teenage blogger.[16]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. No visa is required for Singapore citizens traveling to North Korea and vice-versa!
  2. "PAP moves to counter criticism of party, Govt in cyberspace"
  6. 10 things I learnt about the politics of gerrymandering in S’pore from reading The Straits Times
  9. Human Rights Watch World Report 2011
  10. Layout candid recorded videos to corruption in Sarawak Directorate Taib Imam
  11. British death penalty author freed on bail in Singapore by Vaudine England (20 July 2010) BBC News.
  12. Interview with Alan Shadrake: "No visible efforts made to catch kingpins" (Sunday, October 24, 2010) The Death Penalty in Singapore
  13. Jailed in Singapore for writing a book they didn't like: Alan Shadrake's book about the country's brutal judicial regime landed him with a six-week prison sentence there. What was the experience like? by Patrick Barkham (Wednesday 27 July 2011 16.00 EDT) The Guardian.
  14. Singapore PM takes to the stand for hours in blogger defamation case
  15. Blogger Roy Ngerng ordered to pay PM Lee S$150,000 in damages
  16. Teenage blogger who called Lee Kuan Yew a 'horrible person' is arrested by Singapore police by Lucy Clarke-Billings (Monday 30 March 2015) The Independent
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