"The way forward, for Singapore would be to allow greater freedom of expression"
- George Soros.
Singapore doesn't have freedom of expression?! What is he talking about. Singaporeans are free to say anything they want- even criticise the govt. If you don't believe that, just go to your bedroom or toilet, criticise the govt all you want for a few hours and wait.........you will see that nothing will happen to you ...nothing! Some of you will get smart and say that nothing happened because you criticise the govt in private. I tell you now that nothing will happen to you when you criticise the govt in public. Don't believe?! Take the example of Chee Soon Juan. He criticised the PAP govt and nothing happened to him. .......yes nothing. He has no job, no money and no dignity ...see he has nothing. .... "nothing" has happened to him! Also, nothing has happened to JBJ.
A liberal speaks his mind
Billionaire Soros calls for open societies that are tolerant of differing views
Thursday • January 12, 2006
Within the plush comfort of the Raffles City convention centre, billionaire George Soros held court yesterday to an audience of 1,600 academics, government officials, businessmen and undergrads, enthralling them with his beliefs and vision for a global open society — and declaring that Singapore had yet to score in his book of liberal politics.
Having made his wealth by the time he hit 50, Mr Soros is now into encouraging transitional and emerging nations to become "open societies" — open not only in the sense of freedom of commerce, but more importantly, tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behaviour.
His Open Society Institute, which he founded 25 years ago, is a network of philanthropic organisations that is active in more than 50 countries — from Africa, Central America, Asia and South America. Mr Soros emerged as a liberal thinker as he engaged a distinguished panel that included Mr Kishore Mabhubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Professor Tommy Koh, chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies.
Interestingly, the United States, unquestionably the world's freest nation, earned the ire of Mr Soros, especially the Bush administration's war on terror following the 911 attacks.
"How can we escape from the trap that the terrorists have set us," he asked. "Only by recognising that the war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds ... Crime requires police work, not military action."
Admitting his admiration for America, where he worked many years as Singapore ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Kishore Mabhubani believed that as the US grew in power, it felt less of a need to get to know the rest of the world, and in the process, was becoming more and more closed as a society.
Agreeing to some extent, Mr Soros maintained that the US was a functionally open democracy, but "yes, we have lost our way", he said, pointing to the time in 2004 when the Bush administration, in his view, made a colossal blunder in launching the invasion of Iraq.
Though he donated close to $40 million in an effort to defeat US President George Bush during the 2004 elections, he views the US as a viable democracy. "We can criticise our government, we can change our government and in due course, we will correct the wrong."
With Mr Soros's drive to bring about change in China, where he admitted failure, and Myanmar, where efforts continue, the focus inevitably fell on Singapore. Panel member Benjamin Lee, a third-year National University of Singapore student, asked Mr Soros how he rated Singapore as an open global society.
Mr Soros was blunt.
"Obviously, Singapore does not qualify as open society," he said. But Singapore is prosperous and prosperity and an open society tend to go hand in hand, he said.
"I detect a desire of greater openness," he said, adding that he had great respect for the achievements of Singapore's energetic leadership.
"But I hope they will be brave enough to take the next step in the development of an open society."
One way forward, he felt, would be to allow greater freedom of expression. The use of libel suits and financial penalties can be a tremendous hindrance to such expression, said Mr Soros.
Responding, Prof Koh, stressing that he was not a member of the ruling People's Action Party, said that "open" and "closed" societies are two ends of a spectrum. "While the US appears to be moving from a more open to a less open society, Singapore is moving in the other direction — from close to open."
Singapore ought to be encouraged, and it will in due course, make progress towards becoming a more open society, he added.
In response to Mr Soros's remarks, a Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts spokesman told Today: "If we were not an open society, George Soros would hardly be able to make the comment at an open forum in Singapore, and be reported in the Singapore media."