A Singaporean debate has emerged over the most public and global of platforms – on the pages of the New York Times. This came after activist and journalistic Kirsten Han had written an op-ed there making comparisons between Trump and some prominent government policies in Singapore, notably over capital punishment, civil liberties and Singapore’s very heavy-handed anti-drug policy. This triggered a response from Singapore’s ambassador to the United States, who retorted that he “cannot recognise” the country that Han describes.
Such debates are nothing new to Singaporeans, and indeed the question of civil liberties, capital punishment and drugs have featured recently in Singapore news. Nonetheless, such debates have reached the western media in the past, going back to a famous article published in the 90s. On Han’s point about civil liberties, however, the rebuke from a diplomat in an official capacity will do little to assuage the perception that Singapore is intolerant of dissent.