Asian Perspective on the EFB

Lincoln Tan: Freedoms in the balance – 10 Dec 2007 – Opinion, Editorial and reader comments from New Zealand and around the World – nzherald

Lincoln Tan puts an asian perspective on the Electoral Finance Bill and what a perspective it is!

He talks about his living in fear for speaking out in Singapore.

[quote]There is an element of fear in Singapore politics, and when growing up, I was constantly reminded of how not supporting Lee Kuan Yew and his Peoples Action Party was not only a bad thing, it could also be potentially dangerous. Political discussions were often done in hushed tones, and most definitely not in public.

What has any of this got to do with New Zealand? Well, with the contentious Electoral Finance Bill, everything. Because this is the slippery slope our democracy could be headed for.

The current freedom we enjoy in New Zealand has allowed me to express myself in ways that I could only dream about if I was still living in Singapore. Like organising the anti-racism march in Christchurch calling for stronger legislation on race-hate crimes.

Or getting invited to press interviews with leaders of all the political parties before the last elections, and being able to tell Winston Peters to his face what I thought of his remark that the racial mix on Queen St was not the right colour for New Zealand.

Organising the march in 2004 was straightforward but should the Electoral Finance Bill become law, organising the same rally next year would border on the impossible.

Not only would we have had to register as a third party, but we would also be required to file declarations about who our supporters and donors were and keep an account of expenses, making sure it did not exceed $120,000.

The topic of Asians and immigration is always grist for juicy debate in election year, a time when Asians are used for political football by some parties.

I shudder at the thought that rebuttals to any attacks will have to be restrained because, under the new law, they could be seen as encouraging people to vote or not vote for a type of party or a type of candidate.

Politicians aside, I cannot see how anyone else can say with a straight face that the Electoral Finance Bill is not a threat to democracy and freedom of speech.

The big difference between Singapore and New Zealand is this: Singaporeans are prepared to accept their brand of democracy, along with the clamping down of political activism, in exchange for security, stability and the economic gains that come with it. Are New Zealanders willing to sacrifice their freedom just to support a political party desperate to stay in power?[/quote]

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