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Reuters: Singapore restricts debate on ministers’ pay

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Singapore has banned seven foreigners, including three members of the European Parliament, from speaking at an opposition party debate on Friday on a big pay hike for ministers and civil servants.

The government said this week that ministers and senior civil servants would enjoy a 60 percent pay increase, giving them an average salary of S$1.9 million ($1.25 million).

The prime minister’s pay is set to jump to S$3.1 million — five times what the president of the United States earns.

The announcement has drawn widespread criticism from ordinary Singaporeans given the country’s widening income gap and the fact the city-state’s ministers were already among the highest-paid in the world.

The police told the Singapore Democratic Party it could not hold a public forum on Friday to discuss the increases, and the immigration authority rejected applications for professional visit passes for the seven foreigners the SDP invited to speak.

“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 Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement issued on its Web site late on Thursday.

“Foreigners who abuse the privileges that Singapore accords to guests and visitors, and meddle in Singapore’s domestic politics, are not welcome here,” the Ministry said.

The barred speakers include European parliament members Graham Watson of the United Kingdom, Anders Samuelsen of Denmark, and Lydie Polfer of Luxembourg, a former deputy prime minister of that country.

Under Singapore’s Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, public speaking is generally prohibited unless it has been licensed by the government.

Singaporeans who wish to speak indoors do not need to be licensed, but forums featuring foreign speakers require a permit, the ministry said.

Chee Siok Chin, sister of party leader Chee Soon Juan and a senior party member herself, said the SDP would go ahead with the forum with local speakers.

“You have this autocratic government coming down and showing utter disrespect for our international peers. I’m ashamed,” she said on Friday.

She said the seven foreigners barred from speaking at the forum are currently in Singapore.

According to the SDP Web site, Chee Soon Juan plans to speak at the forum and rebut remarks made by Lee Kuan Yew, modern Singapore’s first prime minister, about the ministers’ pay hike.

Lee said earlier this week that Singapore should pay ministers competitive wages because the city-state needs an “extraordinary government with extraordinary government officers”.

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April 13, 2007 - Posted by | Sillypore Stuff

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