Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Singapore bars foreign lawmakers from public forum

LOCALS ONLY The city- state said that foreigners should not abuse their privilege by interfering in local politics, which is reserved for Singaporeans

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore has rejected an application for several members of the European Parliament to speak at an opposition party forum in the tightly run city-state, the party said yesterday.

The government warned foreigners not to meddle in its domestic affairs after the lawmakers were invited to address the meeting called in protest at controversial pay rises for top officials.

Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), said that six European MPs, plus a Cambodian and Filipino lawmaker, would not be able to address the forum last night.

"They're not going to speak," said Chee, one of a few in Singapore to have spoken out against the People's Action Party (PAP) which has ruled since 1959.

He said the event would go ahead without the foreign speakers.

"It is with great dismay that the Singapore Democrats have learnt that the police and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have rejected our applications for Asian and European Members of Parliament to speak at a public forum this evening," said a notice on the party's Web site.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said the SDP had applied to police for a license to hold the public forum and had asked the ICA for professional visit passes "for several foreigners" invited to speak at the event.

"The police and ICA respectively have rejected the SDP's applications for a permit to conduct this public forum and for professional visit passes for the foreign speakers on the grounds of public interest," the ministry said in a statement.

"Singapore's politics are reserved for Singaporeans. As visitors to our country, foreigners should not abuse their privilege by interfering in our domestic politics," the statement read.

Lavinia Waterhouse, the European Commission's press officer in Singapore, said the commission had not been officially informed that the parliamentarians cannot speak.

"We are trying to get clarification from the Singapore government," she said.

The delegation arrived on Thursday night on "an alliance-building trip" and was to return to Europe last night, she said.

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