22 Jun 2020
22 June 2020
Ms Lisa Davis
The Sydney Morning Herald
Dear Ms Davis
Your article “Coronavirus will sway Singapore's already unfair election, report says” (18 Jun) repeats well-worn criticisms, citing a report by the Jakarta-based ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
Singapore has held 14 general elections since 1959, each robustly contested by many parties. It has never failed to hold elections every four or five years; never imposed emergency rule or suspended its Constitution; never failed to conduct clean and fair elections. No other ASEAN country can claim a similar record.
The APHR report suggests that elections be delayed until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The current Parliament must be dissolved by January 2021. The latest elections can be held is April 2021. There is no certainty the pandemic will end before then. Delaying elections till the last possible moment would risk not having a legislature to pass the next annual Budget, due in February 2021. Meanwhile, Singaporeans’ lives and livelihoods would be at stake.
Several countries have held elections during the COVID-19 outbreak, including South Korea. In the US now, there are many media commentaries expressing the opposite concern, that the November Presidential elections may be put off using COVID-19 as the reason, suspending democratic processes. That would be an extraordinary step given that the US has never postponed a presidential election, not even amidst its Civil War or the two World Wars.
Singapore has announced election rules amidst the pandemic as a matter of prudence and fairness. These rules apply equally to all parties. Neither your article nor the APHR report offers any evidence that they favour any party.
Singaporeans and foreign investors alike recognise our system has produced stable and effective Government for over than 60 years. Ultimately, the decision of who should lead Singapore, and how they are elected, is for Singaporeans to decide.
KWOK FOOK SENG
Singapore High Commission in Canberra