Tuesday, March 23, 2010

US ambassador rows back from Singapore democracy comments

Last month, David Adelman, the nominee to be the next US ambassador to Singapore, appeared to have a rush of blood to the head during his Senate confirmation hearing.

"Make no mistake, currently Singapore is not a multiparty democracy, and I intend, if confirmed, to use public diplomacy to work towards greater press freedoms, greater freedom of assembly and ultimately more political space for opposition parties in Singapore to strengthen Singapore into a multiparty democracy," he said, using the kind of oppositional tone the US rarely employs when talking about its key strategic and commercial ally in Southeast Asia.

Given the Singapore government's distaste for foreigners who "interfere in domestic politics" and the strong US-Singapore relationship, some, including myself and regular commenter "Derek Davies", doubted whether Adelman would stick to his guns once he was in situ.

Sure enough, weeks before his arrival in the Lion City, Adelman appears to have begun rowing back from his comments.

When asked by Singapore's Straits Times what his response was to the suggestion that the US should not interfere in Singaporean politics, he said:

"'There's no question. I want to make it very clear that those issues are for Singaporeans to decide for themselves."

I do wonder, though, how much the Straits Times is spinning this comment, while giving less emphasis to his next point, that "it's longstanding US policy to promote democracy and there's nothing extraordinary about that statement."

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