Singapore curbs political donations, demonstrations


SINGAPORE, AFP

Singapore authorities Wednesday announced new restrictions on political donations and warned that rallies cannot be staged without permission at a park designated as a haven for free speech.

The developments raised fears that opposition activities could be further curtailed, and came amid speculation that parliamentary elections may be held within the year, well ahead of the August 2002 deadline.

A government press statement said the Political Donations Act (PDA) passed by parliament will come into operation on Thursday.

“The PDA seeks to prevent foreign groups from interfering in our domestic politics through donations to political associations, and candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary elections,” the statement said.

There has been no publicized instance of major foreign backing for a political party but a number of Singapore dissidents are based overseas. The act also bans political groups and their candidates from “accepting donations from persons or bodies that are not permissible donors, and restricts the receipt of anonymous donations.”

Permissible donors were defined as individual citizens at least 21 years of age, and Singapore-controlled companies that carry on business wholly or mainly in Singapore.

The act also imposes reporting requirements for donors who, in any single year, make multiple donations with a total value of 10,000 Singapore dollars (US$5,750) or more to a political association.

Critics said the rules on domestic donations could further inhibit alternative political activity outside the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has dominated Singapore since the ‘50s.

In another development, police warned that official approval will be needed to stage rallies at Speakers’ Corner, a government-designated forum for free speech in a park off the banking district. It was established in September and supposedly modelled after London’s famed Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

The police imposed the guideline following an investigation into a rare rally by a handful of activists held on international human rights day last Dec. 10 to demand greater political freedom.

In a statement sent to AFP, the police warned against the corner being used “as a venue to stage a demonstration or march without a permit, or otherwise to engage in a disorderly behavior.”

“It is one thing to have a group of people gather to hear a person or persons speak, but quite another when people come for a specific cause and in the process they chant slogans, display placards and show gesticulations such as clenching of fists,” the statement said.