|James Minchin on "Let's Talk" video in 2012 series|
Not all foreigners are treated equal. You can cuss like a Frenchman ("Chinese f**cking animals" - Olivier Desbarres), bite the hand that feeds you ("I will NOT pay a SINGLE CENT to NUS if I am expelled and what can they do to me?" - Alvin Tan), but never, never, critique the judiciary.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has barred Australian clergyman James Blundell Minchin from entering Singapore as he allegedly "abused the social visit pass privileges previously extended to him while he was in Singapore by interfering in our domestic politics and mixing religion with politics". His cardinal sin, we are told, was commenting at a Function 8 forum in August 2011, where he supposedly "alleged that the rule of law was bypassed and corrupted in Singapore, and questioned the independence and integrity of the judiciary". For his troubles Minchin was locked up for 24 hours at a Changi Airport holding room.
Dr. Christopher Lingle was less fortunate. After he wrote a response to a previously published editorial comment that appeared in the International Herald Tribune, where he was alleged to infer that some regimes in East Asia are able to thwart criticism by relying on a compliant judiciary, he was sentenced him to jail in absentia and his property in Singapore was seized. High Court Judge Goh Joon Seng said in his ruling that the October 7, 1994 opinion article's reference to "intolerant regimes" and a "compliant judiciary" could only refer to Singapore, and therefore "scandalized the Singapore judiciary."
In March 1996, Lee Kuan Yew's lawyer urged the High Court of Singapore to order Lingle to pay substantially more than $300,000 in damages for libelling the Senior Minister. Dr. Lingle comments: "I am not surprised by the Singapore judge's ruling. I guess the courts didn't see the irony in the judgment against me. As far as I can see it, the judgement vindicates me and supports the criticism that Singapore's rulers use a compliant judiciary to bankrupt their critics .. whether they are the political opposition or news media or foreign nationals."
Minchin wrote in the introduction of his book, "No Man Is An Island: A study of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew":
In a mid-1984 issue of Singapore's Sunday's Times, Dr Yeo Ning Hong recalled his first meeting with the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet ministers: it filled him with an "immense sense of awe".
Even a foreigner like myself can testify that Lee Kuan Yew, whom I interviewed briefly in 1976, comes across as no ordinary human being. To be on the receiving end of his anger must be quite terrifying. Even when he is talking calmly, there are hints that the volcano remains active underground.