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June 9, 2000 VOL. 29 NO. 22 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Letters
Singapore Views: "The censorial sentiment is so pervasive that it is crippling. It prevents citizens from raising questions, voicing opinions and acting on matters that affect their polity."
from James Gomez's new book [May 12]

Academic liberals like James Gomez presume Singapore's people have no mind of their own in discerning a government which bests suits their needs: the average citizen is meek, afraid to speak his or her mind, especially over politics and democracy ["Mental Block," BOOKS, May 12].

In truth, Singaporeans, especially the younger generation to which I belong, are individuals full of ideals and ideas and not afraid to express them. Not all of our government's actions are to be defended, particularly its intolerance of opposition, but to allow firebrand democracy in a multiracial society is to court disaster. People have to be held accountable for their words and actions and government control ensures that. After all, economic prosperity and social stability are fair trade-offs for the rampant shootings that come with the "right to bear arms" in romanticized democracies. As for the supposed dichotomy between "Singapore's market sophistication and political authoritarianism," it is in part resolved by political controls resulting in good economic governance and preventing the corruption and cronyism prevalent in other Southeast Asian nations.

Singapore is a young nation and will take time to grow into a democracy. The British took three centuries. The signs are already encouraging, with a "speaker's corner" soon to allow for opinions to be aired. But more important is the need for a matured population educated enough to temper enthusiasm with realism and criticism with sensibility.
Chow Ken Lunn
Singapore


Seoul On Pre-Summit Moves

Regarding "An Axis Gyrating Out of Control" [INTELLIGENCE, June 2], I would like to clarify some parts that, we believe, will mislead your readers. First, the allegation in your article that there is disagreement between Seoul and Washington on the issues of North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons is groundless. The two governments have maintained close consultations on how to deal with those issues and share a common position on the manner in which the inter-Korean summit should be conducted. The U.S. government has expressed full confidence in the Korean government in this regard.

The article also said that "Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was reportedly so furious over what she perceived as a slight" over the fact that our foreign minister had been dispatched to Beijing to give a briefing on the June inter-Korean summit that she refused to meet Vice Minister Ban Ki Moon. The fact is that the foreign minister's trip to Beijing had been arranged long before the agreement on the summit was concluded and the vice minister was dispatched to Washington after the announcement in view of the importance of Korea-U.S. relations. The vice minister did indeed meet with Secretary Albright in her office on May 1 for 45 minutes, with senior U.S. administration officials attending.

I deeply regret that this article was based on inaccurate information which will mislead your readers about the current status of close coordination between the Republic of Korea and the United States, even though we are, at the same time, working to better our relationship with China.
Oh Hong Keun
Minister and Government Spokesman
Government Information Agency
Seoul


We regret the error on the Ban-Albright meeting -- Editors.

Correction

Company No. 17 in the table "IBRA's Top Debtors" [BUSINESS, June 2] was misnamed. The correct name is Rajawali Group.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

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Cutting Edge: Bill Gates in cute fluffy ducky shock

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Cyberscrapers: Hong Kong's IT companies are clustering all over the city. Is the $1.7-billion Cyber-Port really needed?

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Question of pace in Singapore

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