How Singapore Crushes Dissent


by Chris Lydgate


Published by Scribe Publications


(Buy the book at powells.com)


"For almost half a century Jeyaretnam stood for universal values of decency, fairness, and transparency against the so-called 'Asian values' of hierarchical order, submissiveness, and censorship imposed by Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP machine."

-Geoffrey Robertson QC


From the haughty smoked-glass office towers of its financial district to the spotless order of its crowded streets, the city-state of Singapore represents an unprecedented feat of physical, social, and political engineering, orchestrated over five decades by Lee Kuan Yew and the ruling People's Action Party. But Singapore's prosperity has been purchased at a steep price: the erosion of human rights, the rise of the "nanny state," and the creation of a political system in which individual freedoms are subordinated to the greater good - as defined by the government.


Lee's Law is a case study of the perils of dissent in Singapore, as it traces the arc of the country's most prominent opposition politician, JB Jeyaretnam. The book follows Jeyaretnam's stellar career as an ambitious young lawyer, prosecutor, and judge, and shows how he became disenchanted with the system that promoted him. It recounts his stunning political breakthrough at Anson in 1981, and chronicles the devastating consequences of his questioning - let alone, opposing - Lee Kuan Yew and his government. After resisting for decades, Jeyaretnam was crushed by defamation suits, then bankrupted and expelled from parliament, and denied the right to practice law. His story provides a chilling insight into Singapore's politics, and raises disturbing questions about its unique brand of 'Asian democracy.' It is also a poignant story of a courageous individual who never swerved from his ideals - no matter what the cost.


Review excerpts:

"A splendid account... Lydgate does an excellent job of exposing the dangers that restrictive libel laws...pose to democratic freedoms... It would be nice to think that Singaporeans could read this foreigner's account of their history, and make up their own minds. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, the government will do that for them."

--Christopher Kremmer, The Sydney Morning Herald


"Lydgate demonstrates that the misuse of democratic power can be as brutal and suppressive as a dictatorship."

--Patrick Cullen, Newcastle Herald


"Through using the actions of JB Jeyaretnam as an example, Lydgate examines the costs-- at least on the surface-- to what appears a squeaky-clean society. It is not a flattering picture he gives."

--Christopher Bantick, The Sunday Tasmanian


"The soft totalitarianism which is Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore-- autocracy with a democratic shell, dissenters crushed but untortured-- is shown in this absorbing and educative account by a journalist who worked on the island republic. It details the systematic persecution of opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam, who had the temerity not only to stand against Mr Lee's political machine but actually get elected. A sad case study of the price of an otherwise astounding success story."

--Tony Baker, The Adelaide Advertiser

"This book rocked and I will never be the same."

--joanna b. martinez


Offsite reviews:

Willamette Week


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"A splendid account"
-The Sydney Morning Herald

The Melbourne Age

"Absorbing and educative"
-The Adelaide Advertiser


"This book rocked and I will never be the same. "
-joanna b. martinez